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SQSPCA project gets go-head from Empire State Development

Animal shelter construction deemed essential by NYS agencies

COOPERSTOWN, NY – As of Saturday, April 18, the Susquehanna Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SQSPCA) has received the green light to begin construction on its long-awaited animal shelter and campus. Grateful to be deemed an essential service during the COVID-19 crisis and amid concerns over possible flooding, shelter officials are relieved that their capital project is also considered by the state to be essential.

“We are encouraged by Governor Cuomo’s recent statement that construction will be one of the first industries to resume operations. We understand that while our project is has been fast-tracked as we face dangerous conditions at our current location, we recognize all construction to be essential and know that folks across the board are eager to get back to work,” said SQSPCA Stacie Haynes.

Haynes met with New York State Agriculture and Markets Veterinarian David Smith on the morning of April 18 to make the case that the shelter’s project should be approved as soon as possible. Site work at the new location was set to begin on April 1 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis, which prompted suspension by New York State of all businesses and construction not deemed to be essential.

Among the most pressing issues discussed was the current shelter’s location in a flood zone.

“Flooding is typical in our leach fields, dog yards, outdoor kennels and isolation building,” Haynes wrote in a letter addressed to NYS Ag and Markets. “The leach field was flooded in October 2019 and left us without sanitary water for a week. A previous flood left the shelter with a giardia infestation.”

“As recently as yesterday, we had to evacuate our isolation building because water was creeping up from the front yard dangerously close to enter the building,” said Haynes on Tuesday, April 28. “Because of past experience, we know we can take no chances – our flooding is usually the result of flash flood conditions.”

Other problem areas for the current shelter include: inadequate septic system and plumbing; deterioration of the buildings both inside and out; drainage malfunctions; deficient heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems; broken latches and chain link on kennel doors; and poor surgical/medical intake areas, among others.

“Given we are an essential service and are currently facing so many health and safety risks to our staff, our animals and the public, it is imperative that our project, too, is deemed essential,” Haynes concluded in her letter.

Haynes received the official go-ahead from the state just hours after her meeting with Smith, which included a consultation with construction professionals.

In an e-mail, Smith thanked Haynes for showing him why a timely start for the SQSPCA’s construction project is needed.

“The Department of Agriculture and Markets has previously received word from Empire State Development (ESD) that it has determined that construction in support of already designated essential industries has been deemed to also be essential,” Smith added.

The SHELTER US project – kick started by a $500,000 New York State Companion Animal Capital Fund Grant through the Department of Agriculture and Markets with strong support from Senator James L. Seward (R-Milford) – will move the SQSPCA and thrift store facilities 1.2 miles north of the current location on State Route 28 between Cooperstown and Oneonta. Workers broke ground in August, with an original target date of summer 2020 for the move.

Sen. Seward said, “The Susquehanna SPCA is staffed by wonderful, caring individuals who go above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis.  As the SQSPCA contends with new challenges related to the Coronavirus, and persistent flooding issues, I am thrilled that construction is moving forward immediately.

“Along with providing a vital service, this project will help get construction workers back on the job at a time when a boost is truly needed.  I was extremely pleased to advocate on behalf of the Susquehanna SPCA during the grant application process and am thrilled that their well-deserving project is about to become a reality,” Seward added.

The new facilities will improve the daily lives of sheltered dogs and cats by better conforming to guidelines established by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. Upgraded features will include two entrances separating incoming animals from visitors and animals leaving for their new homes, a sterile surgery suite with safe recovery area, a fresh air ventilation system to benefit visitors as well as animals under shelter care, and parking that is more convenient. 

To date, the SQSPCA has just over $1 million yet to raise to meet the project’s $5 million pricetag.

In operation since 1917, the Susquehanna SPCA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization committed to caring for homeless, surrendered, and seized companion animals and finding them loving, forever homes. For more information or to donate, visit www.sqspca.org 

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