SPCA Serving Erie County is more than animal adoptions

SPCA RadioThon is all day Thursday!

Mike Baggerman
December 11, 2019 - 11:00 pm

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WBEN) - The SPCA Serving Erie County has been helping animals get adopted by individuals and families for decades.

DONATE: The SPCA RadioThon "On the Air"

But they also do so much more.


Rescue officers are on call 24/7 for any situation that may arise ranging from injuries to wild animals to dog fighting.

Bill Heine, the SPCA's Senior Investigator for the last eight years, said that the SPCA has six full-time investigators that assist in animal rescues and animal cruelty cases.

"We go out for them all," Heine said. "We're not going out and arresting people. We're going out and educating people on how you have to care for the animals when it's outdoors and in the elements."

They work in partnership with local police agencies and the Erie County District Attorneys office to press charges against anyone who is involved in animal cruelty cases.

One of the most troubling cases that SPCA investigators deal with are dog-fighting rings in the region. Heine said they're no stranger to seeing dogs that have been savagely injured, though there have been several instances of people who have been prosecuted after their involvement in dog fighting rings.

"Dog fighting is pretty prevalent in the Western New York area," Heine said. "They're very underground. Over the last several years, we have learned a lot of how they're operating. But as we learn how they're operating, they learn how we go about things and they change. It's a big cat-and-mouse game. They're very good at staying under the radar."

Some of the dog fighting rings are in abandoned homes, industrial buildings, attics, and garages in the City of Buffalo. Heine also said the rings can be found in rural parts of Erie County.

"Anywhere," he said.

Not all stories are heartbreaking as a police officer. Heine told WBEN that officers rescued an injured duck in a pond in Lancaster last year. He said several officers tried for a while to catch the duck.

"One day, I believe we took six of us and a kayak," he said. "We put one officer in the kayak and pushed that thing over to one end and we were able to finally rescue it after a couple weeks. We love doing those types of calls."

To report animal cruelty to the SPCA Serving Erie County, contact 875-7360 X 214. Heine said you can also call 911 to report cruelty as it's happening.


SPCA Chief Veterinarian Officer Helene Chevalier is no stranger to the process of the spaying and neutering animals. She said they perform dozens of surgeries each day on animals of all types.

"We act more like a private practice but for animals who are not owned or who cannot get the care," she said. "Sometimes we get animals who get hit by a car on the road so they need emergency care. We can provide that."

There are two veterinarians and multiple more full-time and part-time veterinarian technicians and assistants that help with animals who are in the shelter.

"Typically in the morning we'll do, pending the surgery, 25 surgeries on average," she said. "We do a lot more spay and neuters now. The nature of the animals who come to see us are sick animals and older animals. We treat a lot more than what we used to."

Then in the afternoon, their focus is on emergency surgeries and for check-ups on animals who are ready for adoption.

While Chevalier primarily deals with shelter animals, the SPCA also has its Lipsey Clinic which provides low-cost wellness examinations, vaccines, and basic preventatives for owned animals. The Lipsey Clinic has even more veterinarians, technicians, and assistants to add to the mix.

The work by veterinarians and cruelty officers can sometimes intertwine. Chevalier said there have been cases of animals who have been rescued after a cruelty case.

"I will help the agent either on a live animal or deceased animal to identify the cause of death and if there was suffering," Chevalier said. "It gives a voice to the animal...It might sound cliche but the animals are not going to speak for themselves. Often too, sadly, if there's animal cruelty, there's a link to domestic violence or child abuse and other cruelty within the family."

Chevalier also highlighted the hard work that their staff has done, the partnership with area veterinarians, and the internship opportunities for future veterinarians. Listen to more of that conversation below.


The SPCA Serving Erie County has a program known as "Paws for Love" that brings dogs and cats to more than 100 local nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. It also helps with Buffalo's Family Justice Center, courts, group homes, hospice locations, children's facilities, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, and at area colleges.

"This program is a therapy program," Gina Latucca said. "Animals are out visiting people...Since the early 90s, this program has expanded not just to nursing homes and hospitals...but now we've got our animals going to libraries to work with children, going to school systems to work with down-syndrome children on literacy program, colleges on exam weeks to lower stress for college students."

Latucca emphasized program's impact for domestic violence victims by highlighting the ability for animals to de-stress any victims involved in those situations.

"It gives the children and often the adults something different to focus on," she said. "We work with court systems. Animals will be present in certain courts in the community when children are testifying and adults are testifying."

The annual SPCA RadioThon runs from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday.

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