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WHEATFIELD – The SPCA of Niagara urged residents to adopt its dogs and cats in a statement Tuesday that said the shelter is filled to far over its capacity.

As it announced discount adoption fees, the SPCA also urged local residents to relieve the animal traffic jam by rescuing some of them.

“If you have one cat in your home, it’s not so much trouble to have two,” said Susan Persico, a Buffalo veterinarian and SPCA board member. “It is discouraging that people aren’t opening their hearts to these animals.”

The SPCA has announced its intention to shift to a no-kill policy, after a scandal almost two years ago over euthanasia of healthy animals. But Amy Lewis, the shelter director, said Tuesday that she’s out of space, and animal activists who pushed for a no-kill policy haven’t followed through by adopting the animals.

Persico said, “The staff is getting very discouraged. A staffer was in tears the other day because of 14 kittens that came in from a hoarder who had to go to the hospital.”

“We had several animal activists in our ear. They told us the public was sitting on the edge of their seats, just waiting for the Niagara County SPCA to go no-kill so they could support us. We’re more full than we’ve ever been, Lewis said. “Despite what the activists have said, the support isn’t pouring out of the woodwork.”

The no-kill policy tripled the SPCA’s medical budget, Lewis said.

“Despite a sizable deficit, we still hear from some that we are ‘just in it for the money.’ Money is important because money is what pays our bills, and those bills come from caring for the animals in our facility. We continue to provide for them even though our shelter is bursting at the seams, and even though it is very costly to do so. Last year, it cost the shelter $902,000 to keep our doors open, and we brought $731,000 in. There was no profit made,” Lewis said.

One of the problems is that most of the dogs in the kennels in the Lockport Road shelter are pit bulls, which aren’t for everybody.

“At this moment, probably 90 percent of our kennels are filled with pit bulls or pit bull-type dogs,” Lewis said. “Most of them are from the City of Niagara Falls. They have a breeding problem there.”

The SPCA has 74 dog kennels, but as of Tuesday evening, there were 82 dogs in the building. Two are double-bunked in kennels with other dogs, one is being kept in the lobby and six are in crates in the garage, Lewis said.

As for cats, the SPCA’s 105 permanent cat kennels are full, and about 30 other cats are in temporary housing in the shelter, Lewis said.

“Animals are getting sick because of the overcrowding, especially cats,” Persico said. “They have been finding kittens just dead in their cages because of stress.”

Through Dec. 31, all adoption fees will be waived for animals six months old and older. In 2014, the regular prices will be $110 for dogs six months and older; $225 for puppies; $100 for kittens; $60 for cats ages six months to three years; and free adoptions for dogs more than 10 years old or cats more than three years old.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com