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Wheatfield is mulling the possibility of dropping dog control services from the SPCA of Niagara in response to the SPCA’s request for a nearly 20 percent fee increase.

Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said last week that the Town Board might decide to again have its own dog control officer and seek another place to house the stray animals.

The SPCA’s shelter is in Wheatfield, but Cliffe said the town might decide it’s more cost-effective to use some other means of controlling dogs.

At present, the SPCA charges the town about $16,700 a year to pick up strays and house them at the Rainbow Animal Shelter on Lockport Road.

Shelter director Amy Lewis said the SPCA asked for $20,000 for 2014, because it needs more money to house animals as it works toward the goal of being a “no-kill” shelter.

“The lion’s share is associated with the cost of sheltering the animals,” Lewis said of the increase.

Medical care for the animals in particular is increasingly expensive as the SPCA tries to avoid euthanizing the dogs.

Cliffe said before the town gave up on its own animal control work a few years ago, it was paying about $7,500 a year for picking up dogs and another $7,500 to harbor them.

“Certainly, we have to give it consideration,” he said. “Anytime anyone raises prices considerably, you have to look at it.”

Lewis said the SPCA is willing to house Wheatfield’s stray dogs without actually collecting them.

“If the town thinks it’ll be more cost-effective for them to explore their own dog control officer, there will be a slight reduction in the contract cost,” Lewis added.

“There are other ways of doing that,” Cliffe said. For example, Lewiston has an arrangement with a veterinarian in its town to allow the town dog control officer in after hours to deposit strays in cages.

“It has to be lawful. It has to be approved by Agriculture and Markets,” Cliffe said.

He said the board didn’t act on the SPCA’s contract request at Monday’s meeting because the SPCA had only presented the proposal the preceding Friday. The supervisor said he wished the SPCA had sent in the contract a month sooner, so it could have been included in the 2014 budget.

“I certainly think we can handle $3,500 in a $12 million budget,” Cliffe said. “I think we need to do some support of the SPCA, but I don’t like to be hit with substantial increases in cost, not quite at the last minute.”

The supervisor said the possibility of dropping the SPCA contract is not related to the SPCA board’s refusal earlier this year to allow the towns of Wheatfield and Niagara to build a dog park behind the shelter.

Councilman Arthur W. Gerbec said the towns are looking for another site for the dog walking park. The SPCA has 20 acres of open land behind its building.

Lewis said the agency thought a dog park would be “a beneficial thing for the community.” But the SPCA had several concerns, “one being liability issues. We have shelter animals from all parts of Niagara County. Some of them have contagious diseases.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com