Jeanne Sager | Democrat
YES, IT'S THE same dog. The dog SPCA Vice President Manon Fortier (background) called “nothing but bones with a fur coat,” whose picture on the front page of the Democrat last week created an outcry in Sullivan County, is on the mend. The pup, who weighed just 4 pounds when she was rescued, is up to 8 pounds and gaining. No word yet on who left her to die in Liberty, but the SPCA and police are still taking tips as well as potential homes.
Renewal of Spirits As SPCA Turns 100
By Jeanne Sager
ROCK HILL November 16, 2007 It turns out, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Once scandal-plagued, the Sullivan County SPCA has something to truly celebrate this November as it turns 100 years old.
Adoptions are steady 375 so far this year.
Volunteerism is up with folks walking in off the street as recently as this week to pledge their support.
Filled to capacity with 42 cats and 35 dogs, the non-profit shelter rounded the century mark this month with a clear mission.
“We can’t help everybody, but we help as many as possible,” said Vice President Manon Fortier.
The Monticello resident is one of a crew of relatively new volunteers who have thrown themselves into an organization founded in Monticello in 1907.
At the time, it was strictly a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (thus the letters SPCA), modeled on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), chartered by the New York State Legislature in 1866.
Records show a board of six directors, most identified only by initials or nicknames and a surname.
Dr. A. Machan was a veterinary surgeon in the area, and today’s SPCA officials can only assume he was charged with the care of animals his Monticello office likely one of the few places in the county that could accommodate overnight stays for abused creatures.
Other directors included a C. Osborn, H.C. Wetzel, John J. Burns, Jno. P. Roosa and A. M. Scriber, all residents of Monticello which the original charter listed as home to the corporation as well.
The group earned approval from James A. Betts, justice of the Supreme Court, Third Judicial District, on Nov. 2, 1907, prompting a “Woof and Wine” birthday party on the first Saturday in November this year at Vino in Monticello.
For Kelley McNeil, a Lake Huntington resident who began her volunteer work with the shelter more than a year ago, the celebration proved how far the SPCA has come.
McNeil and husband Matt, the executive director of marketing at the Bethel Woods, knew they wanted to get involved with an animal shelter when they moved to Sullivan County for his new job.
They visited three in the area and settled on the SPCA.
“We felt the need was the most,” she admitted.
It was a place that was down but not out.
The people were friendly, the shelter full of animals.
Evidently, Kelley McNeil said, something had to be working.
Animals, after all, are the heart of a shelter.
A visit to the SPCA today reveals a squat structure the land was sold to the SPCA for $100 in 1969 by Jennie Vincow of Brooklyn, but the cinder-block and cement structure was built with little sense of design.
Ask Shelter Manager Kathy Risch how to maximize the property’s potential, and she’s frank.
“Tear it down and build a new one!” she said with a grin.
The shelter is, in a word, small.
There’s just one floor with a few small rooms and a kennel that’s limited to 26 runs.
Management has made obvious changes for folks who haven’t visited the SPCA in the past year or two.
The smell is different still distinct, but more disinfectant, less urine and feces.
The view from the front door is cluttered, but organized.
Kennels are piled in the hall in neat stacks.
The adoptable cat room adjacent to the front desk open and inviting the cats in their separate cages rub on their doors, purring for your attention.
Traffic flow through the crowded rooms for cats still in quarantine is cut off, and dogs waiting for the OK for visitors are shut behind a door.
A visit to the runs is raucous, each of 26 dogs barking at full throttle, begging for a new home.
Labrador mixes and pit bulls scamper and jump at their doors, their metal bowls flipping in the air and coming back down on the cement floor, the clang adding to the din.
Signs on each cage door tear at heartstrings “wants to be only dog,” “loves his bath,” “very sweet.”
They’re different dogs from those at the shelter a year ago, but their eyes are the same, pleading.
That’s why Fortier took so long to volunteer at the shelter.
A county resident for more than 25 years, she’d drop food off or send in a check when she saw the story of a particularly heinous cruelty case.
“But I was afraid at first to come to the shelter because I thought they’d all come home with me,” she said with a laugh.
What convinced her?
She learned animals do find homes the placement rate has improved since the SPCA joined forces with the North Shore Animal League more than a year ago. Once a month, the league sends its adopt-a-pet van to Rock Hill to load up with would-be pets.
They head to Pet Smart in Middletown for a day, then come back to Rock Hill.
It’s increased exposure for the animals, but also for the shelter, Fortier said.
McNeil said there’s something to be said for the efforts the SPCA has made toward being a no-kill shelter.
Although animals who are terminally ill or considered a “menace to society” are put to sleep, the majority of the dogs and cats dropped off in Rock Hill get sent to real homes.
“Animals here aren’t put to sleep because of time or space constraints,” she said. “If this shelter weren’t here, the 375 animals [adopted this year] wouldn’t have homes, they might not even be alive.
“It works, and the animals do go home,” she said.
That’s why there are more volunteers, McNeil surmised.
“When they come in and see it’s running well, they say, ‘Oh, maybe I will get involved,’” she explained.
That’s what hooked the McNeils.
That and the need.
There’s a core of maybe a half dozen volunteers who show up on a regular basis, another small group who handle the administrative tasks.
The rest of the day-to-day work is handled by employees, three full-timers and six part-timers. The non-profit pays for their services out of its small bank account.
The Woof and Wine brought new people to the SPCA, and new people bring new ideas.
That’s what folks like McNeil, Fortier and other dedicated members are hoping for.
A new fund-raising committee was formed Tuesday night, and they’ve been charged with funding the same mission the SPCA was chartered with in 1907 “the prevention of cruelty to animals and the enforcement of all laws which are now or will hereafter be enacted for the protection of animals.”
Volunteers are being accepted as well they need only call the shelter at 796-3120, stop by the office on Rock Hill Drive or attend a membership meeting in the basement of the TD Bank North in Monticello on the third Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m.
Information is available on the Web at www.sullivanspca.com.
And there’s still a chance to celebrate 100 with the SPCA.
Adoptions are at 375 for 2007, but they have a goal of 400 by the year’s end.