Mattydale shelter struggling to make ends meet; community response overwhelming
For over 115 years, the Central New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has provided food and shelter to area strays, adopted out pets to local resident and investigated allegations of animal cruelty. Its mission: to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
But now, if donations continue to decline, the CNY SPCA will be forced to abandon that mission.
“Since January and February, all the way through March 2009, because of the economy and because of the lack of donations that have been coming in, the SPCA has been struggling,” said Executive Director Paul Morgan. “We are a nonprofit organization. All the donations that we do receive come from the public, the generosity of the public.”
Morgan said the current economic situation has hit the shelter hard.
“The biggest struggle right now that I can see is the economy,” he said. “It’s really tough, and I’m sure everybody’s affected by it. That’s a sad thing. It’s not just us — it’s different organizations out there.”
Because of the economic downturn, the shelter is making far less money than it spends.
“We have about $50,000 in the bank, cash-wise, that we have access to,” Morgan said. “Since the market has been going down, we’ve probably lost over $100,000. We’ve gone through about $121,000 in January, February and March, and total revenue for that time is about $53,000. Total expenditures are about $150,000.”
The SPCA has several streams of revenue, Morgan said, that cover its monthly expenditures of about $40,000 to $50,000. The organization contracts with several towns to house animals collected by the dog control officer. Towns pay the shelter to provide the animals with food and lodging until the owner is located; if the owner does not come forward or does not take the animal, it is adopted out.
The shelter also has a $70,000 annual contract with the county for cruelty investigations. That money also pays for education programs for the public, as well as low-cost spaying and neutering programs for those who qualify.
Finally, the organization has two bequests that help subsidize operations. For one, the board can use it however they like; for the other, they cannot touch the principal and can only use the interest money.
Unfortunately, because of the downturn in the stock market and some high-risk investments that didn’t pay off, those bequests are losing money.
But the biggest chunk of the agency’s funding comes from donations from the public, and donations have dropped about 70 percent since this time last year. As a result, the shelter has had to cut costs.
“In order to save money, we’ve cut product, and it’s very difficult to do that when you’re dealing with living, breathing things,” Morgan said. “These animals need vaccinations and stuff like that, which is expensive. That’s where our biggest expense will be.”
In fact, Morgan said about 65 to 70 percent of the shelter’s budget goes toward animal care, while the rest covers administrative costs, including office salaries and supplies.
The shelter has also cut employees, laying off some and reducing others from full-time to part-time.
Surprisingly, adoptions are up, but it’s not enough to offset the cost of running the shelter.
“More people are coming in and adopting, but the fees aren’t high enough for us to get by,” Morgan said. “But after giving all of these animals the vaccinations they need, after spaying and neutering, after the normal day-to-day care we provide, we barely break even.”
Morgan said the SPCA has considered raising fees, but they are reluctant to do so. Right now, the shelter charges $140 for dogs and $90 for cats; that fee covers spaying or neutering and the animal’s first veterinary visit.
As such, the best way to keep the shelter going, Morgan said, is to generate more donations.
“We’re being straightforward and honest about our situation,” he said. “We want to make people aware of what’s going on. We’re very hopeful our situation will change so that we can stay open.”
Fortunately, it appears this community won’t let the shelter go under.
“We’ve had a lot of people calling, e-mailing, concerned,” Morgan said. “The response has been great. It’s been beyond belief.”
And the shelter will continue with fundraising efforts.
Additionally, the shelter has secured capital improvement funds to construct a veterinary center on-site. At that site, the agency hopes to have volunteer vets come in to do spaying and neutering to help offset some of its costs.
“There are a lot of benefits to doing that,” Morgan said. “It’s one of the things we’re trying to do to help ourselves.”
Everything the agency is doing, Morgan said, is to fulfill that mission of speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.
“Our ultimate goal here is to concentrate on the animals,” Morgan said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.