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Jan. 27 low-cost feline clinic info >>

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Investigating Recent Canine Respiratory Syndrome

December 8, 2023 —  From the SPCA’s Lipsey Clinic: SPCA Serving Erie County’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allison Kean shares with dog owners of our community information and a timeline recently released by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine on a sometimes-fatal respiratory illness affecting dogs nationwide.

In the release, Dr. Brian Collins of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine urges dog owners to be aware of the symptoms. “One of the hallmark signs is coughing. Dogs may also show other clinical signs such as sneezing, difficulty breathing, discharge from the eyes or nose and decreased appetite.”

Read the full Cornell release >>

An important part of the data from Cornell cautions pet owners against their dogs’ prolonged contact with other dogs, urging them to select boarding kennels and daycare facilities only when absolutely necessary.

As more information on this illness becomes known, the SPCA Serving Erie County will share details here.

If your dog is experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms that could be connected to this illness, contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic immediately.

–Gina Lattuca, SPCA Serving Erie County Chief Communications Officer


November 15, 2023
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

Planning a delicious holiday meal? Those delicious smells are enough to drive any four-legged critter into a food frenzy! The SPCA Serving Erie County has issued these Thanksgiving holiday reminders to keep your pets safe, slim, and trim:

HUNGRY PETS: Too many holiday treats won’t only pack the pounds on us…they’ll pack them on our pets. Many pets are on standard, limited diets; feeding them large quantities of food they don’t normally receive could cause abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, none of which are welcome during this festive holiday…or at any other time, for that matter. Use discretion. Turkey bones are also dangerous for pets. A brittle, spiky bone could cause irritation of the stomach or intestines, or could lodge in your pet’s esophagus.
NOTE: Dogs eating foods to which they’re not accustomed may experience BLOAT, a life-threatening condition. Dogs experiencing bloat may have difficulty breathing, may appear weak and/or depressed, may attempt to vomit but cannot, and/or may appear to be extremely uncomfortable for no apparent reason. If your pet exhibits signs of bloat, bring him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Speak with your veterinarian for more information on this condition.

NO BREAD FOR BARNEY:  Think twice before leaving that homemade bread dough atop the oven to rise. According to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, when bread dough is ingested, an animal’s body heat causes the dough to rise in the stomach. As alcohol is produced during the rising process, the dough expands. Pets who have eaten bread dough may experience abdominal pain, vomiting, disorientation and depression.

PEANUT BUTTER WARNING: Using peanut butter as a holiday treat for your pet? Remember to check the label! Xylitol is a sugar substitute now added to some peanut butters, along with other foods and candies. It’s safe for most humans, but deadly to pets, even in small quantities!  Be sure to check labels for Xylitol or other ingredients that could be dangerous for your pet. It’s also a bad idea to give any animal caffeine-laced peanut butter or other foods; serious health problems could ensue.

  Some animals patiently wait for the chance to pick through the garbage when you’re not around. Aluminum foils with juices, plastic wraps with frostings, even tasty strings from tying turkeys…well, the temptation can just be too much for your deprived pets. Keep your garbage bags away from where pets can chew through them to get to the goods. Ingestion of these items can be life-threatening.

SWEET TEMPTATIONS: CHOCOLATE CAN BE FATAL TO PETS!  Chocolate contains a substance called Theobromine, a compound very similar to caffeine in structure. Theobromine can be toxic to dogs and cats in small quantities, causing vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures, rapid and irregular heartbeats, muscle tremors, coma, even death. Keep chocolate safely away from all animals.

POTPOURRI PROBLEMS:  Of course we want our homes to smell nice when guests arrive…but be mindful that liquid and other types of potpourri, especially sprinkled into rugs, along with many scented essential candles and oils are toxic to dogs, cats, even birds and other animals.

With changes to the veterinary industry, seeking timely medical care for your pet, especially on a holiday, can prove itself to be problematic. Pet owners are advised to take every preventative measure possible to eliminate the chance of animals requiring emergency veterinary care.

Don’t Get Sick! Check for Ticks!

July 6, 2022
By: SPCA Vice President of Veterinary Services Melanie Rushforth

There is a universal belief that there is no better place to be in the summertime than Western NY.  There are so many fun, recreational things to do, and the weather couldn’t be better.  There are picnics and festivals and hiking opportunities galore.

And there are also ticks.  And with ticks, there is the threat of Lyme disease.

There’s no reason for these pests to keep anyone inside during these warm months.  Know what to do to avoid ticks, and you can set yourself up to keep enjoying summer as planned.

According to Cornell.edu, “Ticks are arachnids closely related to mites and spiders. They have four life stages: egg, larvae, nymph, and adult. All stages of ticks (except eggs) feed on blood for energy to grow and later to reproduce. Larval ticks have six legs, while nymph and adult ticks have eight legs. Three tick species are a human health concern in New York: the blacklegged tick, the lone star tick, and the American dog tick.”

The most common tick in WNY is the blacklegged, or deer tick.  Cornell.edu tells us, “The blacklegged tick requires high humidity or moisture to survive. Therefore, this tick is most often found in the forest and at the forest edge where tree cover, dense vegetation and leaf litter provide a moist environment. This tick will search for hosts typically below adult knee-height by holding onto vegetation with their front legs out as hosts pass by, a behavior known as questing.”

A unique characteristic with ticks is that they don’t die in the cold winter months that are common in the WNY region.  They merely demonstrate a behavior closely resembling hibernation.  The question “Do ticks die in the winter?” is answered this way by Cornell.edu:  “Ticks are adapted to the Northeast climate, having lived here for thousands of years. Therefore, they have behavioral and physiological adaptations that allow them to survive adverse conditions including winter cold and summer heat.”

During the cold winter months, there have been cases that describe just the heat from one’s body being enough to “wake up” the ticks on a forest floor should someone decide to sit to rest if out on a hike in the cold weather.  Tick checks should just become as common as checking to see if your keys are in your pocket.  Make it a habit and it will become one!

So, instead of burrowing in your home for the rest of the summer, let’s talk about some ways to make sure you and your furry friends don’t become the next home for a tick.  Or, if that does happen, what you can do to stay safe and not get sick.

First, apply tick repellent to your skin and clothing, especially your shoes and socks. Wear long pants and pull your socks over your pant leg. When you’re out hiking or adventuring, stay on a trail.  Ticks don’t jump or fly, but they will latch onto you from tall grasses by way of questing as mentioned earlier.  All of those awesome smells your dog is finding when he runs off of the trail?  There very well may be a tick lurking and waiting for the perfect furry host to grab onto.

When you come home, make sure you do a thorough tick check, focusing on your thighs, groin area and the back of your head. Then shower. Also, put the clothing you wore outside in the dryer at high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may be hiding. As far as searching for these little predators on your dog, check all over, but spend a little extra time on the warmer, darker parts of the dog, like the “armpits” and areas between toes.  Feel for small bumps and look for little blacks dots. 

Since dogs are much less likely to stay on the trail, ticks can hide in long hair and thick fur. Make sure you talk to your veterinarian about vaccines and other prevention methods.  If you treat fleas and ticks as year-round issues, which they are, preventing the negative effects can be a breeze.

If you find a tick on yourself or your pet, use tweezers to pull it straight out. Position the tweezers directly under the spot where the tick is attached to the skin and pull upward with steady pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick. Upon removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer.  Should this sound too intimidating, contact your veterinarian immediately upon finding a tick.  Time is important, because ticks get busy quickly.

While we encourage all cat owners to keep their cats indoors at all times because of all of the hazards that cats can encounter outside, should you have a cat that does go outside (or your share your home with a dog that gets along with the cat), you should be checking for ticks on your cat as well.  Lyme disease is not as big a concern for cat owners as it is for humans and dog owners. Cornell.edu says, “Although the bacteria that cause Lyme disease is capable of infecting cats, the disease has never been seen in a cat outside of a laboratory setting.”

In short, don’t let ticks ruin your fun at any point in the year.  Just begin a preventative regime with your pets (talk to your veterinarian about what would be best for you, because there are a lot of great options!) and be aware of where to look once you get back from an outdoor adventure.

An unsuspecting ally in the war on ticks is also our friend the opossum.  Should you see these little guys in your yard, don’t fret!  In fact, celebrate them.  Opossum are slow-moving and attract ticks that cling to their fur.  The opossum then eat the ticks, along with just about anything else.  Given the low body temperature of the opossum, these animals are very unlikely to carry rabies.  Next time you see an opossum moving through your yard, just give him a nod.  He’s there to help.

Stay safe out there!

More on ticks from Cornell.edu >>

Ticks and cats >>

See this story on WGRZ-TV >>

Click on the image below to watch the full story, featuring SPCA Vice President of Veterinary Services Melanie Rushforth:

Read more about tick checks >>

–Gina Lattuca, SPCA Chief Communications Officer


May 13, 2022
By: SPCA Vice President of Veterinary Services Melanie Rushforth

The SPCA Serving Erie County has been accepted into the Maddie’s Fund We Foster Challenge! 

The We Foster Challenge is meant to help shelter and rescue organizations create or expand community-based foster programs that will get community members involved and proudly saying, “We foster! So can you!” As we shift towards a more community-centric model of animal welfare, it’s important to get everyone in the Western NY area involved. After all, fostering is a job just about anyone can do.  Pet owners know the incredible bond that humans and animals have and the importance of keeping families together. Foster care is a powerful way to achieve that. That’s what the We Foster Challenge is all about!

SPIRIT is a Shadow Cat currently in a foster home. He’s made great progress in the home, and his foster mom Erica reports that he approaches her now when she holds a brush so he can take control of his own grooming.

Throughout the month of May, the SPCA Serving Erie County will be highlighting Shadow Cats as our We Foster Challenge project. Shadow Cats is a new initiative which works to meet shy or fearful cats where they are behaviorally to assist them in navigating the journey to becoming adoptable pets living out the rest of their lives in long-term homes.  We are seeing a positive response regarding the acceptance of these shy cats just the way they are, so we are expanding the adoption opportunities and housing of these cats to colony settings within the SPCA’s physical shelter as well.  While some Shadow Cats need to get out of the shelter to showcase their personalities, some are best kept with their buddies in the colony rooms that we have in our modern shelter.  We let the cats help us understand what they need.

SMOOCHIE was the first cat identified as a Shadow Cat. She is the “poster child” for the prestigious title, and serves as the spokeskitty! Her foster mom sent this photo and described the progress she is making in her home. Smoochie is still shy and prefers the shadows of her home, but she does come out to play, and follows foster mom around during meal time, and even approaches her for pets. Smoochie is available for adoption from foster mom’s home.

Shadow Cats are the best friend you don’t yet have.  They are quiet, stealth, and maybe just need a little extra time to acclimate into your home before they settle into being a lap cat.  Or perhaps they’ll remain the quiet and polite roommate that is grateful for your companionship and company….from a distance.  Shadow Cats offer the benefit of companionship without the burden of constant attention.  They’re great pets for individuals that work from home, or individuals who might work nontraditional shifts.  They’d be great roommates in apartments (they don’t need too much space!)

Pets are like people in so many ways, so why wouldn’t some of them be a little shyer than others?

This exciting Challenge is funded by Michelson Found Animals Foundation, Maddie’s Fund® and Cuddly in collaboration with Adopt-A-Pet.com, Adoptimize, American Pets Alive!, ASPCA, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, Best Friends Animal Society, Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE), Community Cats Podcast, Greater Good Charities, HeARTS Speak, Humane Society of the United States, National Animal Care and Control Association, Petco Love, and PetSmart Charities.  We are so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this important shift in the work of animal welfare.

Want to get involved with fostering (or even adopting) your own Shadow Cat?  Please contact the SPCA Serving Erie County’s Foster Care Department via email at FosterCare@YourSPCA.org.




Open interviews May 12 will include the following positions*: 
Animal Care
Adoptions Counselor
Facilities Attendant
Humane Educator
Seasonal Camp Counselor 
Veterinary Assistant

*This list is regularly updated; please check back for additional positions listed. There are other employment opportunities at the SPCA that may not be interviewed for on Thursday; to see all openings including those that will be interviewed for May 12, please click here >>

See this story on Newsradio930 WBEN >>

See this story on WGRZ-TV >>

See this story on WKBW-TV >>

See this story on Buffalo Scoop >>


Mental Health Awareness Month, and How Animals Make a Difference

May 3, 2022
By: SPCA Vice President of Veterinary Services Melanie Rushforth

Most of us don’t need a scientist or a formal study to tell us that spending time with dogs and cats makes us feel better. Those big eyes and the wagging tail that greet you at the door after a stressful day can immediately help one feel calmer. Perhaps it is the companionship, or the shared activity, or even the sense of community that comes from pet ownership.  Pet owners know from experience, but research confirms that spending time with a pet can help reduce depression, anxiety, and loneliness. There is a lot of pertinent data and research being done about ways pets make our lives better.  Should you want to research this further, you can learn more by visiting the Human Animal Bond Research Institute

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, the SPCA Serving Erie County would like to offer a few opportunities throughout this month of May as well as some ideas to help you connect with animals and get a little oxytocin boost!

Adopt a Pet

If you’ve been thinking about adding a new furry family member to your life, there couldn’t be a better time! The SPCA Serving Erie County has a wide range of pets with different personalities to fit different lifestyles. Visit our shelter (or one of our offsite locations) today and see if your new best friend is waiting for you. As with any long-term commitment by adopting a pet you are committing to many years of companionship and care.  Currently, the SPCA Serving Erie County is offering a “Name your Own Price” special through the 21st of May.  While pets are priceless in our opinion, we want to sweeten the deal of their companionship with this promotion.  Adopting a pet can impact one’s mental healthy positively in a variety of ways.


New research is suggesting that volunteers aren’t just helping the communities they serve. People who volunteer actually experience a boost in their mental health.  There are a variety of ways to volunteer as a representative of the SPCA Serving Erie County.  You can check out the different opportunities HERE and decide what works best for you.  If cuddling kittens is considered volunteering, then sign me up!  (It actually is, BTW).


Fostering pets reduces stress and improves your mental health. Animals add so much love, joy, and satisfaction to your days that it’s much more of a reward than a demand. When a shy cat finally comes out of hiding to snuggle, or a weak kitten starts to gain weight, or a stressed-out dog relaxes and plays happily, it’s like the sun coming out from behind a cloud and brightening the day. Fostering allows for some decompression on both ends of the leash, because the humans behind this noble work benefit as much as the animals needing that precious extra time.  Knowing you’re saving a life is a boost that can’t be matched.

Almost 20% of American adults—nearly 50 million Americans currently experience mental illness, and many of them suffer in silence because of the stigmas associated with mental illness and mental disorders.  Mental health is health and deserves to be put on the forefront just like the other illnesses that are recognized throughout the year. The more it is discussed, the less stigmatized and the more normalized it becomes.  Animal welfare is profoundly compassionate, and the impact on the lives of humans in this work is great.  The SPCA Serving Erie County is proud to invest in supporting the mental health of our team, and would be honored to have a small role in improving the mental health of our shared community via the unconditional love of an animal.

(716) 875-7360

This Month’s Vets and Pets, and the Effect of Animals on the Lives of Veterans

An open letter from the SPCA’s Melanie Rushforth

May 1, 2022

Dear Fellow Veterans of Erie County (and beyond!),

First, thank you for your service!

Second, as a small token of appreciation for the service dedicated to this country we share, the SPCA Serving Erie County wants to invite the community at large to spread the word about an incredible promotion happening.  Between May 23rd and May 30th, the SPCA Serving Erie County is waiving adoption fees on most animals for individuals and immediate families of individuals on active duty, reserves, and honorable discharge, along with service-disabled veterans and those retired from military service.  This special offer for these special humans applies at our Harlem Rd location and multiple offsite locations.

As a veteran myself, of the US Army, I know firsthand the benefits of pet companionship.  My pets have seen me off on an overseas deployment and greeted me with unbridled enthusiasm upon my return(s) home.  The comfort of a pet is unlike anything else.  From a scientific standpoint, interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Some studies have even found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.  Pets offer a sense of community and a safe haven in a world that sometimes just doesn’t make sense all the time.

People may often hear military troops refer to each other as brothers or sisters. The military creates a structure of shared work and deepens relationships through tough times.  After leaving the military, or even transitioning from active duty to the reserves, a veteran might find this part of their life lacking. There aren’t always built-in friendships in a new workplace or neighborhood. For single veterans, it could feel as though no one needs their presence to survive.

A furry friend can provide friendship and love, plus a reason to get out of bed every day. Our pets are entirely dependent on us to survive.  Pets are there 100% of the time. Dogs and cats are ready for snuggles, long conversations and play time. Many dogs, and even some cats, enjoy going for walks with their humans. Relationships and bonds are formed and deepen over time.

This promotion wouldn’t be available without the support of longtime friend and supporter of the SPCA, Nancy Gacioch of Buffalo.

If you have a former service-member in your life, please encourage them to take advantage of this Pets for Vets celebration.  The SPCA Serving Erie County is currently beyond capacity with animals that need loving homes.  They would be honored to share their lives and love with an area veteran.

Thank you for your support of the work of the SPCA Serving Erie County and for your service.

-Melanie Rushforth, SPCA Vice President of Veterinary Services
United States Army

Veterans Day Reflections From the SPCA’s Melanie Rushforth

Veterans Day 2021 — After almost 30 years of holding a role that serves the public in some way, I’m never without gratitude. I began my social service career following military service, and while the two may seem quite different, they are actually more similar than not.  These days I wake up and look forward to the moments and challenges that come with being the Vice President of Veterinary Services at the SPCA Serving Erie County, and around Veterans Day I tend to lean heavily towards reflection. This year, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on what being a veteran off of the battlefield looks like through my eyes.

November 11, formally celebrated as Armistice Day, has been known as Veterans Day since 1954 when it was renamed. Veterans Day officially marks the anniversary of the end of World War I in 1918 and honors those who served in the armed forces.

To those who served, and for those who love the men and women who have served, Veterans Day is more than just a holiday, and for some (myself included) it is a time of reflection on years of service and the impact that service has on the work in which we are involved now.  The ongoing pandemic may be fostering an environment in which resilience is front and center, but this year seemed to call for a written reflection on the ways in which my military service shows up in my work as an animal welfare professional.  Dogs and cats are very different than tanks and battlefields, yes.  But the basics of teamwork, trust, and training span across different industries where veterans may find themselves serving in a different capacity.

As a United States Army veteran, I’m proud of my service.  It was never easy, but it was always meaningful.  I could probably apply that statement to my work in animal welfare, especially as animal welfare has shifted over time to serve whole communities and commit to tackle issues from a social justice approach, versus simply treating the symptoms over and over.  My time in service shows up on a daily basis with regards to the value I place in people, and the trust we need to have with one another to do good work in an effort to really make lasting change.

Veterans bring a sense of resourcefulness, boldness, and leadership that is often not replicated in employees with civilian backgrounds. They’ve been faced with the challenge of getting a job done without access to the resources that would ideally be available.  This resourcefulness is a highly-desirable employee trait within the nonprofit sector, since it is always trying to grow, adapt, and meet the needs of people and animals with limited resources at hand. Veterans also bring a sharp ability to stick through difficult tasks and see them through to completion.

The military cultivates many traits that serve well in business and community service. It champions collaboration, innovation, and problem-solving. Innovation shows up because of people having to think on their feet. There were many circumstances where no one knew what was around the corner, or what challenge would arise, but a standing belief that runs deep in the military is that ‘there is always a way.’ When it comes to executing a mission, there’s a strong adherence to relying heavily on the collective creativity of the team to get the job done.  Teamwork truly does make the dream work.

The military produces individuals with uncanny adaptive thinking and a capacity and passion for continuing to learn. This learning environment focuses on personal development, as well as training and developing subordinates and peers. This acts as a force multiplier when a veteran is added to the staff of any organization, whether for-profit or nonprofit. Veterans work to develop a crew that can perform well together rather than focusing on the individual. This commitment to a greater cause becomes an ingrained culture that can improve the work habits of the entire team.

For fellow veterans, I thank you for your service.  For the loved ones of fellow veterans, I thank you for your support, trust, and commitment.  In the community where we all intersect, I invite us all to continue to find ways to collaborate, grow, and strengthen the bonds that truly unite us.  We are stronger together.

— Melanie Rushforth, SPCA Serving Erie County Vice President of Veterinary Services and former member of the United States Army

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