SPCA Rescues More Than 150 Animals from Cheektowaga Property

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

You can help care for these rescued animals >>

UPDATE, MARCH 6 — From the desk of Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn:

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announces that 24-year-old Kerisa J. Schmitt, formerly of Cheektowaga, pleaded guilty last Thursday morning before Cheektowaga Town Court Justice David Stevens to ten counts of Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals; Failure to Provide Proper Sustenance (Class “A” misdemeanors under New York Agriculture and Markets Law).

On Thursday, December 14, 2023, SPCA Serving Erie County officers responded to the defendant’s residence on Colton Street in the Town of Cheektowaga to perform an animal welfare check. While outside of the home, officers saw numerous farm animals inside of a small garage in unsanitary conditions through a window. [There were also deceased animals found at the property.] SPCA investigators and members of the Cheektowaga Police Department later returned to execute a search warrant.

The defendant failed to provide necessary food, water and care to 156 farm and domestic animals on her property, which included 117 chickens, 18 ducks and geese, 15 rabbits, two goats, two dogs, one cat and one pig [along with the animals already deceased]. The animals were found in unsanitary conditions without proper access to food and water.

Prosecutors requested that the court sentence the defendant to a period of probation. Schmitt, who has relocated to West Virginia, received a one-year conditional discharge and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine [no part of the fine is realized by the SPCA Serving Erie County]. As a condition of the plea, Schmitt was ordered to forfeit custody of all of her animals [all animals had been forfeited prior to Schmitt’s Feb. 28 plea]. In addition, Judge Stevens issued a “no animal” order, which prevents the defendant from owning or caring for any animals for the next five years.

“I want to thank our partners at the SPCA Serving Erie County for their work in this investigation and the care they have provided to the many animals rescued from this home,” said Erie County DA John Flynn.

DA Flynn commends the SPCA Serving Erie County, SPCA Officer Melina Homsi, SPCA Agent Molly McLaughlin and the Cheektowaga Police Department for their work in this investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Christine M. Garvey of the Animal Cruelty Unit and Assistant District Attorney Kristen S. Fischer of the Justice Courts Bureau.

UPDATE, FEB. 6 — All of the chickens from the Cheektowaga cruelty case have been adopted at this time (the SPCA kept two of the chickens in its farm flock).  Twelve of 18 ducks have been adopted; six males remain available for adoption. Mortie the pig has also found his new farm home. When details are available on the dogs and cat rescued during this case, they will be shared here. There are rabbits from this case currently available for adoption; they can be viewed here >>


UPDATE, JAN.31 — Kerisa Schmitt appeared in Cheektowaga Town Court this morning on 154 counts of Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals; Failure to Provide Proper Sustenance and 154 counts of Failure to Provide Proper Food and Drink to Impounded Animal (Class “A” misdemeanors under New York Agriculture and Markets Law). She is scheduled to return on Thursday, February 29, 2024 at 9 a.m. for a pre-trial conference. At the request of the SPCA, Cheektowaga Town Court Justice David Stevens issued a “no animal” order, which prevents Schmitt from owning or caring for any animals while this criminal case is pending. Schmitt also signed over to the SPCA possession of the five animals not previously surrendered: two goats, two dogs, and one cat.

According to a press release issued today from the office of Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn, “Schmitt was also arraigned this morning on one count of Petit Larceny (Class “A” misdemeanor) in a separate case. It is alleged that on Saturday, January 6, 2023, at approximately 3:50 p.m., the defendant stole merchandise, with an estimated total value of $205.32, from a store on the 2500 block of Walden Avenue in the Town of Cheektowaga. The defendant is accused of failing to scan the merchandise in the self-check out and exited the store without paying for the items. She was released on an appearance ticket.”

The release continued, “At her arraignment today, our office requested that the Court set bail at $10,000 cash or bond under Penal Law 510.10(4)(t) based upon the defendant’s previous failure to appear and her intent to move to West Virginia. The Court released the defendant on her own recognizance, but issued a verbal warning that any future failure to appear will result in a warrant and bail. Schmitt is also scheduled to return on this case on Thursday, February 29, 2024 at 9:00 a.m.”

“I want to thank our partners at the SPCA Serving Erie County for their work in this investigation and the care they have provided to the many animals rescued from this home,” said Erie County DA John Flynn

DA Flynn also commended the SPCA Serving Erie County, SPCA Officer Melina Homsi, SPCA Agent Molly McLaughlin and the Cheektowaga Police Department for their work in this investigation.

Additional updates will be posted here when available.

UPDATE, JAN. 19 — The warrant for Schmitt’s arrest has been rescinded, according to reports received by the SPCA this afternoon, due to miscommunication regarding the open status of the courts. The new appearance date is January 31. One of two rabbits described below as having serious health-related complications upon rescue reportedly did not respond to treatment and, sadly, has been euthanized for humane reasons. The other is showing signs of responding to treatment and is currently in a foster home with an SPCA staff member.

UPDATE, JAN. 18 — Kerisa Schmitt failed to appear in Cheektowaga Town Court this morning.  Justice David Stevens has issued a warrant for Schmitt’s arrest. Updates on this story will be posted here when available.

UPDATE, JAN. 4 — Kerisa Schmitt was scheduled to appear in Cheektowaga Town Court this morning, but did not appear. The SPCA has filed 308 Class A misdemeanor charges. Recently, Schmitt signed over to the SPCA ownership of 151 animals:  117 chickens, 18 ducks/geese, 15 rabbits, and one farm pig. SPCA Educational Farm staff members say 76 chickens have been placed, but 41 of the chickens and all other animals are still being cared for by the SPCA. Schmitt did not sign over ownership of two goats, two dogs, and one cat. Schmitt’s arraignment is  adjourned until January 18 at 9 a.m. Updates on this story will be added here when available.

UPDATE, DEC. 18 — Veterinarians and SPCA staff worked throughout the weekend to complete medical evaluations on all of the animals rescued from the Colton St., Cheektowaga garage and home. All of the birds were banded by the SPCA with identification numbers. Many of them had animal body scores of one. There is respiratory illness, injuries, and some infection amongst the birds, which appear to be young in age. The goats are being treated for respiratory/lung issues, and the pig has an apparent infection in the scrotum area. These animals appear young as well. Two rabbits are in very poor condition; one has injuries and the other has an unspecified illness related to gastrointestinal symptoms. The other rabbits, the dogs, and the cat are in fair condition. At this time, none of the animals have been signed over to the SPCA. Those interested in fostering and/or adopting chickens and/or livestock can fill out an application here >>  and email to the attention of Educational Farm Staff at farm@yourspca.org; fax to (716) 424-1165; or drop off at 300 Harlem Rd., West Seneca, NY 14224. Questions on fostering farm animals? Please email SheilaF@yourspca.org or PatriciaB@yourspca.org.

Yesterday, officers and agents of the SPCA Serving Erie County rescued more than 150 farm and domestic animals from a Cheektowaga home and garage.

SPCA Officer Melina Homsi and Agent Molly McLaughlin visited 42 Colton Street in Cheektowaga the morning of Thursday, Dec. 14 to do a welfare check on a dog reported to be at the property; the dog was reportedly owned by Kerisa Schmitt (Schmitt’s name was spelled phonetically in an earlier version of this story since SPCA and Cheektowaga officers were not provided identification at the time of the initial investigation).

Two goats and a pig now safe at the SPCA.

When McLaughlin heard noises and detected foul odors coming from the garage at the property, she saw through a broken window several farm animals living in squalor.

The officers obtained a search warrant to enter the garage and home. Officers found approximately 138 animals in the garage space SPCA Chief Investigator Lindsey Wood estimates as a 20′ x 20′ area. More than 100 of the animals are chickens that were found crammed into two small makeshift pens, one 3’ x 4’, the other 5′ x 7′. The pens were packed with feces approximately six inches deep.

The SPCA rescued the following*:
From inside the garage, 117 chickens, 18 ducks, two goats and one pig. Seven rabbits were rescued from a hutch outdoors on the property. Two dogs, one cat, and eight rabbits were rescued from inside the home.

Just some of the 100+ chickens rescued from Cheektowaga, now at the SPCA

In addition to the animals that were alive, there were multiple deceased animals and body parts from deceased chickens throughout the garage.

All animals were rescued from the scene Thursday and immediately transported to the SPCA Serving Erie County’s 300 Harlem Rd., West Seneca location where they are being cleaned, housed, and fed, and currently receiving veterinary examinations and care.

“In just 24 hours, seeing a total transformation of the fowl from filth and distress to clean, comfortable, and happy is most rewarding, and why we do this job every day,” says Wood. “Our team worked together well into the night and started all over again today to ensure these animals are shown the proper respect and care they were not given previously.”

Assisting Homsi, McLaughlin, and Wood at the scene yesterday were SPCA Officers Heine, Jaworski, and Laird; SPCA Agents Abrams and Giles; Dr. Jean Feldman, DVM accompanied by a veterinary student; Town of Cheektowaga Housing Complaint/Code Compliance and Fire Company representatives; and Town of Cheektowaga Police, including Officer Jones who worked alongside SPCA officers for the duration of the rescue.

The animals have not been signed over to the SPCA Serving Erie County at this time.

Schmidt was issued an appearance ticket for Cheektowaga Town Court January 4, 2024 by Officer Homsi. Animal cruelty charges are pending.

Updates on this ongoing animal cruelty case will be provided here as they become available.

To help with the care of these animals in need, please visit YourSPCA.org/Donate-CheektowagaAnimalRescue. Gifts of any amount are appreciated.

(*Numbers may fluctuate pending further investigation)

You can help care for these rescued animals >>

View this story in the Buffalo News >>


Severely-Emaciated Dog Found In Back of Van; Animal Cruelty Charges Pending as Teams Work to Save Logan’s Life

February 29, 2024
By: SPCA Communications Manager Bethany Kloc

Help Save Logan’s Life >>

Found during a traffic stop in a wheelbarrow in the back of an allegedly-stolen vehicle, Logan was barely hanging onto his life. He was so weak and emaciated that he could barely move; he could only lift his head slightly.

The SPCA’s law enforcement team was contacted about this heartbreaking case of cruelty by the Erie County Sheriff’s Office and representatives from the Town of Concord earlier this week (information on cruelty charges detailed below). Looking into his eyes, we knew we had to do whatever it took to try to save this dog’s life. No matter the cost.

Due to the severity of his emaciation with a body condition score of 1/9, we transported Logan to an emergency veterinary facility for the intensive care he required. Cases of emaciation this severe are so often deceiving, and due to internal complications, a prognosis can change within mere moments.

Today marks a small victory – for the first time, Logan is up with the assistance of the emergency veterinary team. However, his journey to recovery is long, and the veterinary bills have already surpassed $3,000 and continue to climb. We’re committed to helping Logan regain his strength, but we can’t do it alone.

Logan’s life hangs in the balance, and we urgently need your support. Donations will help us save Logan and other dogs in dire need. Please give here >>, and write “Logan” in the comments.

Your generosity can help us provide the care he desperately needs. Let’s unite and give Logan the second chance at life this good boy deserves!

Animal cruelty charges are pending against Logan’s owner, who has already been charged by other law enforcement agencies on additional violations during this incident. Updates on this disturbing story of animal cruelty will be posted here as they become available.

Help Save Logan’s Life >>


Two Amherst Men Arraigned on SPCA Charges of Animal Cruelty in Beating of Small Dog

June 29, 2023
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

Erie County DA John Flynn’s Comments >>

UPDATE, Feb. 22, 2024 — The SPCA learned that Blake Hiligh and Zachary Pilarcek pleaded guilty to one count of Disorderly Conduct (violation) before Amherst Town Court Justice Ann Nichols on February 7, 2024. Both defendants were sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. Additionally, Hiligh was ordered to surrender the dog.

Blake Hiligh, 19, and Zachary Pilarcek, 20, of Amherst, were arraigned in Amherst Town Court at 12 p.m. today. Both men were charged by the SPCA Serving Erie County with animal cruelty, Class A misdemeanors in accordance with Article 26, Section 353 of the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law, in the alleged beating of a small dog.

At 11:20 p.m. June 13, an anonymous email was sent to the SPCA’s Animal Cruelty Investigations Department. The email included a video that had been posted on a Snapchat account that evening.

In the video one man, Pilarcek, a native of Endicott, NY, is speaking off-camera about damage a dog did to a couch in a Sweet Home Road apartment he shares with the dog’s owner, Hiligh, a native of Maryland, and claims he will film the punishment the dog will receive.

Hiligh, the dog’s owner, is then filmed yelling at the dog, a four-year-old buff-colored male Miniature Poodle named Kobe, and proceeds to beat him with what appears to be a leather belt.

An investigation was launched the morning of June 14 by the SPCA Serving Erie County. The email sent to the SPCA included the name of one of the individuals and provided information leading SPCA Animal Cruelty Investigator Lindsey Wood to contact University at Buffalo Police officers, who received similar incident reports and fully cooperated with the SPCA investigation.

Wood, assisted by SPCA Animal Cruelty Investigator Jennifer Maleskis and SPCA Agent Nicole Abrams, located Hiligh and Pilarcek the same afternoon. Both men were charged at that time. Kobe was rescued from the property and immediately transported to the SPCA Serving Erie County’s veterinary team for a full examination and any necessary treatment. Kobe is currently in the care of the SPCA at an undisclosed location and has not been surrendered to the organization.

Amherst Town Court Justice Geoffrey Klein placed a temporary order on the defendants prohibiting them from owning or caring for any animals while the case is pending. Further proceedings for Pilarcek are scheduled for Thursday, July 27 at 9:30 a.m. ; further proceedings for Hiligh are scheduled for Thursday, August 3 at 9:30 a.m. for further proceedings. Both were released on their own recognizance as charge is a non-qualifying offense for bail. There will be a bond hearing in Cheektowaga Town Court on July 6.

A press release issued by the office of Erie County District Attorney John Flynn states, “Hiligh and Pilarcek, both University at Buffalo football players, were subsequently suspended then dismissed from the program.  ‘I want to thank our partners at the SPCA for their work in this investigation and the many services that they provide to help animals in our community. I also commend the University at Buffalo and the UB Football program for taking immediate action, which further demonstrates that animal abuse will not be tolerated in this community,’ said Erie County DA John Flynn. DA Flynn commends SPCA Animal Cruelty Investigators Jennifer Maleskis and Lindsey Wood and SPCA Agent Nicole Abrams as well as University at Buffalo Police for their work in this investigation.”

Keep watching YourSPCA.org for important updates on this case.

Join us in our fight to protect animals >>



February 14, 2024
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

SPCA Serving Erie County President/CEO Cait Daly, together with the organization’s board of directors, is pleased to announce the appointment of Kelly Wolfe, MSW as the SPCA’s new Chief Development Officer (CDO).

Wolfe most recently held the position of Donor Engagement Manager at the SPCA Serving Erie County for approximately two years.

“Kelly has an incredible talent for connecting people to the SPCA’s mission and getting folks excited about our work,” says Daly. “She is a gifted professional and I look forward to the successes we will experience with her at the helm of our fundraising efforts.”

With 20 years of non-profit leadership experience and more than 10 years of fundraising and animal welfare experience, Wolfe is excited to move into this new, challenging role.

“The SPCA has very strong executive leadership, and I am excited and honored to be joining that team, helping to change the landscape of animal welfare to better serve our community,” says Wolfe. “The mission of the SPCA is very close to my heart. Through the Development Department, we will be ramping up contact with supporters to ensure they know the scope of the important work being done on a daily basis.”

“The SPCA Board of Directors is incredibly excited that Kelly has become our new CDO,” says SPCA Board of Directors Chairperson P. Jeffrey Birtch. “She is stepping into some big shoes, and her years of successful development experience leave no doubt that she is the perfect choice. On behalf of the entire board, I congratulate Kelly on joining the SPCA’s senior leadership team.”

Wolfe, whose experience also includes creating and overseeing youth programs and working with the elderly, is excited to apply her fundraising experience in this new role.

“I’m eager to apply best practices in fundraising techniques to SPCA strategy, ensuring we are able to raise the funds to not only help more at-risk animals but to ensure this agency is sustainable, continuing to serve the ever-changing needs of this community for another 150 years and beyond.”

Outside of work, Wolfe fosters kittens, gardens, and enjoys spending time outdoors. She assumed her position as CDO in January.

Click here for more information on the SPCA Serving Erie County and its leadership team.

From Peta.org: 

The Case Against Glue Traps

A glue trap is a small board covered with a sticky adhesive designed to ensnare any animal who wanders across its surface. These devices inflict slow, painful deaths on mice, rats, birds, chipmunks, bats, lizards, squirrels, and any other animals small enough to get caught in the glue. They can take days to die of starvation, dehydration, or blood loss, while they cry out in agony. Take steps to outlaw these cruel traps!

Make Your Voice Heard >>


Get your tickets for the Pawsitive Payday Raffle presented by Hodgson Russ LLP and sponsored by Dual Print & Mail and help rescue and care for animals in need! Get one ticket for $10 or get three tickets for a steal at $25! Grab your tickets here or call Caitlin at 716-875-7360, ext. 230!



A unique learning experience for children with at least one thing in common: THEIR LOVE FOR ANIMALS! Children will learn about a variety of animal-related topics while meeting and interacting with cool animals, learning to understand and appreciate the unique bond we share! Register children for one day, two days, or all days! Just select the appropriate button or click the image above!


Questions? Contact SPCA Director of Humane Education Christine Davis:
(716) 875-7360, ext. 262 or christined@yourspca.org


PetNotices.com Provides New and Unique Opportunity to Memorialize Beloved Pets

January 12, 2024
By: Media Sales Plus, Inc.

Media Sales Plus, Inc., a leading provider of media sales and obituary notice services in North America, is pleased to announce the launch of a brand new website dedicated to pet obituary notices and memorialization located at www.petnotices.com.

WNY.PetNotices.com provides pet lovers and their families with a platform to memorialize their pets for all eternity. The local WNY site will be part of a new global site on the web at www.petnotices.com, thereby filling a void for a global pet memorialization and services platform. Additionally, pet lovers will also have an opportunity to place the obituary notice in their local newspaper (where available, and for an additional fee) as part of an arrangement made by PetNotices.com and many of their affiliated newspaper partners across the US and Canada.

Upon arriving at www.petnotices.com, pet owners will find a simple form that will be used to tell the life story of their pet. All notices will include an option for the pet owner to upload photos, videos, obtain messages from the guest book, and the ability to share the pet notice via social media. The pet notice will then be published on the website for a one-time posting fee of $29.99 with a portion of the proceeds benefiting various pet-related causes in Western New York.

Read more about this new pet memorialization service here >>

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