Today, December 4, Dr. Sonya Lawlis has issued a new $2,500 Matching Gift Challenge!
Dr. Lawlis, who was the veterinarian who cared for Lemon, the horse featured in our 2018 Giving Tuesday campaign, called today to ask us to extend our Giving Wednesday into Giving Thursday to raise another $2,500! Wow!
A day in the life of Tompkins County Animal Control
Ralph, a Lhasa Apso mix, was a hot mess when he was seized by our Animal Control officers for extreme neglect. He was just two years old. In those two years, he had never been groomed or taken to the vet. Although he lived indoors, he was frequently tied out in the front yard and left to his own devices. A concerned citizen alerted Tompkins County Animal Control to his condition.
Ralph comes to the SPCA of Tompkins County
When our medical staff attempted to examine him, the severe matting of his coat prohibited this. Embedded in his coat was a twisted piece of tie-out wire caught in between the tail and the hair on his rear leg, effectively making him unable to use the muscles to move his tail. Fecal material was hanging off all four feet, his hind end, and was even attached to his facial hair. Medical staff could not locate his ear tissue under the dense matting. Rarely have we seen neglect this pronounced. In fact, his condition represented months of neglect.
There was such concern over shaving him safely and without injury that our medical team determined he would need full anesthesia to conquer the task and to do a complete body exam.
When his coat was shaved off it came off his body in a hard shell and weighed 1 1/2 pounds. Can you imagine how much hair it takes to add up to 1 1/2 pounds? A lot. And all that on an 11 pound dog. This was not a typical day at the SPCA of Tompkins County, certainly. But not an unheard of one either.
What Animal Control Officers Do
Our Animal Control Officers (ACOs) respond to more than 1,200 calls a year from concerned citizens for animals in various states of need, like this call for Ralph.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, they cover all ten of the municipalities in Tompkins County for reports of animal neglect and cruelty. Seven of these ten towns also contract with the SPCA of Tompkins County for stray dog control. It makes for a very busy day for our three ACOs.
People often think they only respond to calls for stray dogs, but it is so much more than that.
Our ACOs are tasked with the duty of protecting all domestic animals--dogs, cats, livestock, snakes, birds, fish, and most recently hundreds of rodents dumped by the side of the road. There is a great deal more to their role than meets the eye.
Keeping the Peace
Our ACOs are also New York State Peace Officers. In the state of New York it is within their purview to enforce Agriculture and Markets laws to protect animals and prosecute those who are breaking the law. Sometimes the laws are not as strong as we would like, and the officers do what they can within the boundaries of the law so the animals have what they need.
When making calls to investigate reports, they find that 50% of their time is spent being a Community Member Educator. They explain why dog houses in the cold are not the best way to house an animal, check on horses with no shelter or food, or work with at-risk members of our community struggling to care for their pets. These welfare checks are an opportunity to educate our community on how to properly care for their animals.
Helping those in need: Our Public Assist Program
A good bit of their work involves coordination with other agencies in the county--the Department of Social Services; Adult Protective Services; local and state police; the county sheriff; The Advocacy Center which supports victims of domestic abuse; and the Cayuga Medical Center Behavioral Unit are all routine partners for SPCA staff.
Each one of these partners can play a role in one of the most important functions of the Animal Control Department at the SPCA--our Public Assist Program.
We know (and you likely do, too) that the human animal bond is a powerful one.
When people are in crisis and suffer terrible scenarios such as eviction, foreclosure, domestic violence, relationship disintegration, fire, flood, or other destructive situations, hospitalization or incarceration, the SPCA of Tompkins County is there to offer temporary housing and care for their beloved pets. The animals have no say in their circumstances and we stand ready to backfill the giant hole that opens when people's lives are in disarray.
We know for sure it is far better for an animal to be cared for temporarily, and then returned to the person who loves it, then face surrender for what is usually a short-term problem.
So far, in 2019, we have managed 39 different cases involving 73 animals that needed temporary housing at a cost of $19,610 dollars. Boarding fees, vet exams, vaccinations and treatments are all needed. It quickly adds up. And, if their pet is not spayed or neutered, we require that the surgery be performed by our shelter staff before the animal is returned to their owner. It is an important part of the contract for help to not contribute to pet overpopulation.
Can you help us meet that challenge?
Every dollar given up to $2,500 will be matched by Dr. Lawlis. You will be helping your fellow community members, their dependent animals, and the SPCA in its role to be there for the animals of Tompkins County, no matter what.