Dogs’ best friends: Jason Meany, who teaches
science at Christian Brothers Academy, with his dog Ginny, were among
the hundreds of participants who raised more than $6,000 in the April
19 Six-Legged 5K race. Matt Werder Photo
Whereas once these animals kept up their half of the
great bargain with their two-legged counterparts—herding cattle and
horses, rescuing sailors and aiding hunters in exchange for food and
shelter—most dogs today are pretty much living on the dole, waiting for
their owners to bail them out with puppy chow and a walk on a leash
whenever their needs demand.
So it was especially gratifying to see
so many dogs come out on April 19 to finally do something for their
fellow canines in need. Since the Central New York Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the county’s largest animal shelter
at 5878 E. Molloy Road, announced that it may have to close its doors
for lack of funds, the shelter has been deluged with offers of help.
According to SPCA executive director
Paul Morgan, in the past three weeks local humans have been
extraordinarily generous. “The public has been just great. About
$150,000 has come in since we started our plea about two weeks ago. And
the dog food and cat food that has been donated—it’s just through the
Morgan was brought to Onondaga Lake Park
by his 9-year-old rescued German shepherd named Special. He and the
rest of his family came to volunteer for the first “Six-Legged 5K
Walk/Run,” sponsored and hosted by Fleet Feet Sports. They had the
opportunity to watch 150 dogs take their owners for a walk or run along
the lake to raise funds for the 117-year-old agency.
A whole raft of fund-raisers are to follow in the coming months, including a musical extravaganza known as “Woofstock” to be held on Sunday, May 31, at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor.
Six bands will perform beginning with Turnip Stampede at 1 p.m.,
followed by Merit, Dead Rose, Los Blancos, Under the Gun, 3 Inch Fury
and The Reissues. Admission is a mere $5 donation to the SPCA.
But this six-legged event marked the
first time the canines themselves have joined together to help raise
funds to keep their fellow four leggeds in puppy chow. The parade of
Weimaraners, huskies, Saint Bernards, labradoodles, greyhounds,
chocolate labs and other dogs combined to raise more than $6,000 in
just a couple of hours. While the donation to participate was $20, the
average donation exceeded $30 per person, said Matt Werder of Fleet
Feet and the organizer of the race.
Duffy, a 2-year-old labradoodle, brought
her owner, Terry Lindsey of DeWitt, and finished the 3.1-mile jaunt in
spite of a car accident that necessitated surgery on her right hind leg
15 months ago. Lindsey teaches fourth grade at Stonehedge Elementary
School in Camillus, where her students are putting together their own
fund-raising event to support the SPCA.
Athena, a 4-year-old chocolate lab,
brought along matrimonial lawyer Rebecca Crance, an experienced runner
who is training for her second marathon in the fall. Crance’s husband,
Calvin Amyott, a recently unemployed ironworker who described himself
as “definitely not a runner,” was escorted to the event by the couple’s
other best friend, a 5-year-old Doberman named Katie.
The current canine crisis was born of
the recession, which has forced more families to give up their pets,
while others have trimmed their charitable contributions, including
donations to animal shelters. Morgan joined the SPCA as a cruelty
inspector; now the agency’s executive director, he is responsible for
budgeting and operations. In addition to the shelter, the SPCA conducts
educational programs on animal care for community groups, encourages
rescue and adoptions of abandoned cats and dogs, and helps make spaying
and neutering affordable. The agency also euthanizes dogs who are
aggressive or deathly ill.
Morgan’s agency receives $70,000
annually from Onondaga County, and for the rest of its budget relies on
private donations. Fees charged for adopting or euthanizing a pet do
not cover the costs of either ending a pet’s life or helping it to
begin a new one. In the first quarter of 2008, the SPCA received
$176,000 in private donations, compared to $53,000 so far this year.
At the same time, said Morgan, there has
been an increase of as much as 30 percent in the number of animals
being dropped off. The problem appears to be widespread. Maria Fibiger,
who works with Wanderers Rest, said her Canastota facility has been
swamped with animals since the economic downturn began last summer.
“It really increased since November,”
noted Fibinger. “We are having more people turn in animals because of
the economy. They can’t properly care for their animals. Either they
have lost their jobs, or they are moving to a smaller house because
they’ve lost their home. It’s especially hard for people with the
larger breeds to find a place to rent that will take the pet.
“Donations here are flat, and we have
had an increase in requests for assistance. We had one black lab
dropped off recently who was with a family for six years. He’d been
loved and well cared for and in a healthy family environment. In the
past we were used to more people coming in for food toward the end of
the month. We were used to dealing with single parents, the elderly,
people on fixed incomes. Now it’s everyone. I’ve been with shelters for
the past 30 years, and I’ve never seen people so distraught.”
To help the SPCA, call 454-4479 or visit www.cnyspca.org. Wanderers Rest can be reached at 697-2796.