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Susquehanna SPCA Opens New $5 Million Facility

The Susquehanna SPCA opened a new $5 million facility over the weekend. 

The new campus on State Highway 28 in Cooperstown, New York is just north of its predecessor – a former motorcycle repair shop that staff say was prone to flooding and poor ventilation. After a nearly three-year fundraising campaign, donors and volunteers flocked to see the finished product on Saturday: more than 10,000-square-feet of community cat rooms, outdoor “catios,” state-of-the-art dog pens, and more.

Susquehanna SPCA
Credit Jesse King / WAMC
The new HVAC system in the attic helps control the environment in much of the facility.

After roughly 30 years at the old site, Executive Director Stacie Haynes says the shelter had plenty of time to learn what it wanted in the rebuild. Near the top of that list: a new HVAC system that now resides in the shelter’s attic, carefully filtering the air and controlling the environment for each room. 

“Cats can’t smell dogs, dogs can’t smell cats," Haynes explains. "If a cat comes in with an upper respiratory [infection], which is not unusual, it’s not gonna spread.”

Haynes says all of the improvements were done with the pets’ safety and comfort in mind. Shelter life can be a stressful and overwhelming experience – especially for the more reserved ones. According to Haynes, the HVAC system not only keeps dogs from smelling the cats down the hall, but sometimes even the dog two stalls over. Furthermore, many of the rooms are at least partially soundproofed, providing a much quieter environment than one might think.

Volunteer David Pearlman says the site also allows privacy for intakes – people looking to surrender an animal can use a separate side entrance. And in the back, the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office can safely drop off strays and other recovered animals in a special isolation room, while the shelter works out their history and where to put them.

Pearlman says additions like these are particularly helpful to staff. Personally, he couldn’t be happier about the change in location.

“I had volunteered for a couple of years [at the old site], and then I took about seven or eight months off because I was having some back issues, which I’ve mitigated – not solved, but mitigated," he adds. "And here, we can walk the dogs more on the grounds. There, it was really Route 28. And I was concerned with my back, that a dog could pull away.”

Credit Jesse King / WAMC
Kitten Michaela got a lot of attention Saturday afternoon before taking some time to hide away.

While staff and pets have more room to stretch their legs, that doesn’t necessarily mean the population will grow. Haynes says Susquehanna SPCA is prepared to house about 20 dogs and 30 cats at a time – a decrease in capacity from its old facility – in order to optimize care for each animal.

“You know, there’s a fine line between being a responsible animal shelter and a hoarder. And so we have to keep in mind the resources we have to care for our animals, and so this building is going to do just that, allow us to stay within our capacity for care," she notes. "And there’s actually research to prove if you have less animals to choose from, the more likely they are to get adopted. Over time, we’re going to be able to help more animals.” 

The Susquehanna SPCA estimates the new facility could house at least 20,000 animals over the next 30 years. At the grand opening Saturday, Haynes credited luck and a significant amount of community support with making it all possible.  

“It was a $5 million project, and we raised $5 million," she smiles. "I mean, people proved that they care about animals. And don’t forget this was through a global pandemic that we were able to do this! So we’re just so grateful, we’re looking so forward to being able to serve our animals better, because we can – and we already have. I came in this morning at 6 o’clock, and when I walked by the dogs were all snuggling up, nobody’s barking – and that was all on purpose, it was designed to be that way. So we’re just really excited to help more and more animals.” 

The new Susquehanna SPCA is open to visitors Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. The shelter’s “New Leash On Life Thrift Shop” is open for donations next door, Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Jesse King is the host of WAMC's national program on women's issues, "51%," and the station's bureau chief in the Hudson Valley. She has also produced episodes of the WAMC podcast "A New York Minute In History."
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