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Opinion
What you need to know for 01/20/2017

Sch’dy SPCA eyes conquest of shelter

Sch’dy SPCA eyes conquest of shelter

What is going on between the Schenectady County SPCA and the foundation that operates an animal shel

What is going on between the Schenectady County SPCA and the foundation that operates an animal shelter in Glenville?

Such unseemly doings.

The director of the shelter gets a couple of pit bull puppies dropped off to her, from the streets of Schenectady, she takes them to the city police station and leaves them there, asserting that the shelter is not able to care for them, and the SPCA demands that she be arrested.

Yes, arrested. For abandoning helpless animals. The director of a long-established and respected animal shelter. If it were anyone else, “they would have been arrested by the SPCA” itself, asserted the new SPCA chief, David Dean, a retired Troy cop, who also demanded that the police “investigate others who may have been involved in this criminal conspiracy.”

Well, the police announced yesterday they will make no arrest, so Rosalie Ault, the shelter director, can rest easy as far as that goes, but I don’t think she can rest easy as regards the SPCA.

The SPCA pretty clearly wants to effect either a “hostile takeover,” as its founder, Mathew Tully, threatened in a letter last October, or at least pound into submission the foundation that runs the shelter, as he made clear in the same letter.

Let me clarify: The Animal Protective Foundation is a private nonprofit organization, supported by donations, that has existed since 1931, with a mission of caring for unwanted dogs and cats, basically. It houses up to 30 dogs and 75 cats at a time and tries to find homes for them. It provides dog training, spaying and neutering services, veterinary services, and sad to say, euthanasia for those animals that have reached the end of their rope.

It has contracts with the towns of Niskayuna, Glenville, Duanesburg and Princetown, and used to have a contract with the city of Schenectady but no longer does, to accept stray animals that are picked up by animal control officers.

The Schenectady County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, meanwhile, is also a private nonprofit, but under a provision of law peculiar to New York its officers, if duly trained, are considered “peace officers” with the right to carry firearms and make arrests.

It was founded in 2008 by Mathew Tully, a lawyer originally from Long Island who specializes in suing the federal government, is a former prison guard and also a colonel in the National Guard, with a distinctly military-command manner.

He made himself all at once the new SPCA’s “chief of department,” “chief humane law enforcement officer” and “chairman of the board of directors,” acquired a police-type uniform and badge, a Glock .45, and a police-looking vehicle, with “Peace Officer” written on it, to aid him in the rescue of mistreated dogs and cats.

A couple of months ago, after prying 44 cats and a dog loose from a Rotterdam animal-hoarder, he won an agreement from Schenectady County that made his SPCA the county dog-control officer for purposes of state law, which had required the county sheriff to shelter stray animals.

The sheriff was not equipped for any such task, and indeed county officials were unaware that he had such an obligation. Tully brought a legal action against them, and they negotiated a settlement, under which the SPCA became, in effect, an arm of the county, receiving half of animal fines and a promise of surplus vehicles, while the county got out from under its responsibility to shelter strays. The SPCA took over that responsibility.

One problem was that the SPCA had no shelter, and still doesn’t. It has to find someplace else to drop animals that it picks up, and that’s where the problem starts.

Tully right from the get-go has wanted the Animal Protective Foundation’s already crowded Maple Avenue facility to be the SPCA’s shelter, and the Animal Protective Foundation has not been interested.

In Tully’s telling, “There’s no better opportunity for us than for the only animal shelter in Schenectady County to be our animal shelter.”

The shelter doesn’t have enough room to accommodate stray dogs from the city of Schenectady?

“What if the SPCA were to raise $100,000 to build dog runs?” he asked rhetorically, adding that such new “runs,” or kennels, would be reserved exclusively for SPCA pickups. He said he has proposed that to the Animal Protective Foundation, but, “we haven’t heard anything in response.”

He insisted yesterday he doesn’t want to take over the shelter. Rather, he wants the Animal Protective Foundation to accommodate the SPCA’s pickups.

“It seems to be the right solution,” he said.

The Animal Protective Foundation doesn’t want to cooperate, he suggested, because “you have to use the incinerator,” meaning that realistically a lot of the city’s strays would be unadoptable and would wind up being euthanized.

Marguerite Pearson, spokeswoman for the shelter, replied, “He has written us many correspondences, but never has this really been expressed.”

Indeed, in his single-spaced two-page letter dated Oct. 24, addressed to the chairwoman of the foundation’s board of directors, Rebecca Pauley, he blustered about his “new authority in regard to animals,” bestowed by the county, and declared, “the time is upon us to ensure another entity can provide ‘protective’ services to animals in Schenectady County.” He said if the foundation doesn’t go along with his plans, then it will be consigned “solely to the history books.” He will take over all animal services through a new “Schenectady County Animal Protection Federation.”

“Our first interaction with this guy,” recalled Ms. Pearson, “he came in here telling us what we need to do to support his activities. He was looking for funding. He really has no concept of what we do. … We have a mission, we have our own priorities for the organization. For him just to come here and say, ‘I want you to serve my needs,’ does this make sense? Are we supposed to trust him?”

Just yesterday he sent her an email, referring to the SPCA as “they,” since he has officially resigned pending deployment to Afghanistan, saying, “I believe the SPCA’s position is that they will never work with Ault again” — Ault is the director. “If she is arrested this week, the SPCA will be calling for YOUR resignation, and they will never work with you again for attempting to cover up and/or downplay what she did.”

Which sounds like nothing less than war talk.

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