A recent visit to the SPCA of the Luzerne County reminded me of how busy an animal shelter can become. The SPCA is also known as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
I had the opportunity to speak with Cindy Starke, who for the past fifteen years has served as the Shelter Manager, and who was later joined by the organization’s Development Director, Peggy Nork.
All SPCA’s are autonomous and operate solely on contributions made by caring individuals, foundations, and corporations within the community. The SPCA of Luzerne County receives approximately 5,500 animals annually. The amount of work needed to keep the shelter running is enormous and is performed by approximately twenty full- and part-time employees. The shelter relies on more than 150 volunteers to assist with daily functions and community events throughout the year.
Our local facility can currently house around two-hundred animals at one time. It is always working with rescues and private individuals to find a good home for the animals under their care. Cats and dogs comprise the majority of creatures housed at the shelter, but they also take in gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, turtles, ducks, geese — you name it. “Over the years we have had alligators, crocodiles, livestock, and even a cougar,” noted Starke.
Adoption is vital for these animals, but criteria must be met in order to adopt a pet. An adopter must be willing to provide life-long loving care for the animal, should consider the cost of that care, and must provide proof of ownership of one’s home or present written permission from the landlord indicating that pets are acceptable as well as providing a veterinarian reference. Animals that are deemed dangerous or diseased will not be offered for adoption.
Mrs. Starke stated that there are three basic things one can do to be a responsible pet owner. First, neuter or spay your pet – neutered or spayed animals decrease the population of unwanted animals. Second, collar and tag your pet. And third, keep your animal under control. This would all seem logical, but unfortunately too many pet owners don’t do the simple things, which leads to former pets winding up at the shelter.
The SPCA offers many services that the public might not be aware of. They are involved with cruelty work and respond to calls alleging animal abuse. Their priority is to make life better for animals within the parameters of current law. The shelter has a pet cemetery and crematory. The SPCA also provides educational programs to the public on how to properly care for animals, as well as bite and cruelty prevention. The shelter’s latest program, designed to address cat overpopulation is the Spay and Neuter Assistance Program which is available free of charge to cat owners whose income lies below a certain threshold.
All animals accepted by the shelter are given vaccines upon entry and in many cases are in need of professional veterinary care. The costs of vaccines, medication and veterinary services are fierce and add up quickly when one considers that thousands of animals are accepted annually. In fact, the SPCA spent over $133,000 last year alone on these services. To help alleviate some of these costs the facility relies on a number of fundraising events throughout the year in addition to free-will donations. Check out the SPCA website at www.spcaluzernecounty.org for a listing of all the scheduled events.
Those wishing to help the shelter are encouraged to donate any item that would maintain a household. Items such as bleach, glass cleaner, kitty litter, food (for all types of animals), cloth towels, paper towels, and general cleaning supplies are always in high demand.
For those individuals that might wish to volunteer or help the shelter, please visit their website for more information at www.spcaluzernecounty.org. Members of the community are also invited to stop in at 524 East Main Street, Wilkes-Barre or call 570-825-4111.