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SPCA offers second chances

An emotional roller coaster

Frustration is just one of the obstacles faced by employees of the CNY SPCA when attempting to carry out the shelter's mission, which, according to Puffer, is "to provide the best care possible to the thousands of animals per year that are homeless, abandoned, unwanted or abused." The shelter has been in existence since 1891 and at its current location on East Molloy Road in Mattydale since 1952. It shelters about 70 dogs of all sizes and 150 cats -- a full house.

"We're pretty much always at capacity," Puffer said. "If we have an ongoing cruelty investigation, sometimes we're over capacity."

The shelter keeps the subjects of cruelty investigations while police and Puffer are conducting the inquiry. Once the case is resolved, depending on the disposition of the court, the animals are usually freed up and adopted out.

While adoption is the ultimate goal for all shelter employees, it's a bittersweet occasion.

"It's an emotional roller coaster here every day," Puffer said. "The caretakers in the kennels -- they care for these animals each day as if they were their own. When animals are adopted, they have to say goodbye. It's hard."

That's one of the reasons the CNY SPCA's adoption policies are so stringent.

"People say our adoption policies are too strict," Puffer said. "I don't think so. We want them to go to the right home the first time. We don't want to see them keep coming back."

But the hardest part of her job, Puffer said, isn't the cruelty investigation, nor is it taking back animals whose adoptive owners have returned them. It's putting down animals who are sick or dying.

"It's the hardest decision any pet owner can make," said Puffer, who is also the shelter's euthanasia tech. "It's also the most unselfish. You have to get past your personal reasons why you can't give up and let them go when they're suffering. You have to let them die with dignity. That's the hardest part of the job. I hate it, but it has to be done."

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