Changes Down On The Farm; Longtime SPCA Farm Manager Sheila Foss Retires

June 20, 2024
By: Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

Bills fans Sheila and Newman

Retirement is often thought of as the end of something, but the beginning of something else.

What happens, however, when it’s time to retire from an organization that has shaped the person one becomes…that has been a major part of one’s life from the age of 10 and continued for another 50 years?

We’re going to find out…because we won’t leave her alone.

Today, SPCA Educational Farm Manager Sheila Foss announced her retirement in an emotional, eloquent speech delivered to many of us whose lives she’s impacted for decades.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with Sheila more than two years, and in that short time she and her work have left an incredible impression on me,” our President/CEO Cait Daly said. “Her passion for her work is evident, surpassed only by her love for the animals. Thousands of lives were made better…thousands of children learned more about farm animals and the respect they deserve…because of Sheila’s knowledge, dedication, and caring. The impact she has made is immeasurable.”

As a child, Sheila volunteered at the SPCA and spent time working with us in the mid-70s through mid-80s, right up until she was hired in October of 1985. It’s impossible to number the animals’ lives she’s impacted since then, lives of resident animals along with lives of animals cared for as part of cruelty cases.

Days became nights, weekends became non-existent, when there was an animal in need of extra care…an animal ready to deliver…a restless animal that just needed an overnight buddy to calm anxieties after being rescued from a dark, dreary reality, transferred to the SPCA’s impossibly-immaculate farm, which must have felt like something pretty close to Heaven. Even a televised, important game being played by her beloved Buffalo Sabres couldn’t coax Sheila away from an animal in need.

Longtime SPCA fans will remember Olivia the pig, a Tonawanda farm resident who, at one point, received more visitors and had more fans than any other animal, or person, for that matter, at the SPCA in the early 90s. Sheila started the Olivia Fan Club, a card-carrying members’ club for children that helped teach the children more about farm animals and their care. It didn’t take long for Sheila to realize the responsibility of the SPCA to teach more about all animals, not just domestic; under her guidance, the SPCA’s petting farm became the SPCA Educational Farm, with teaching stations at and around animal stalls, games children could play that educated them about the farm animals in their midst and the magic these animals brought to the world.

Throughout her career, Sheila continued to be amazed at the faces of not only children but also adults petting a goat or llama for the first time…holding a chicken…feeding Olivia a peppermint. If school classes couldn’t get to the SPCA, Sheila brought the animals to them. Why? Because she knew the value of teaching children at an early age that farm animals, too, deserve compassion, care, respect, and love. These weren’t just words or personal beliefs for Sheila. She lived them. Not even cruelty cases concerning several large animals…not even 10,000 chickens running along the I-190 (true story from August, 2008, and no, the number is not an exaggeration)…not even escaped horses running down Ensminger Rd., turning Tonawanda into a scene from Bonanza, could stop her.

When in court for farm animal cruelty cases, Sheila wouldn’t say much; just her silence and expressions made her feelings known. Sheila spent these days lodged somewhere between sadness and anger and every emotion in between as she imagined the suffering endured by case animals. In fact, these and other animal rescue situations only increased Sheila’s fervent desire to better the lives of such special animals, teaching others along the way why they, too, should share this desire.

Despite her stellar achievements, Sheila never loved, or even remotely liked, being the center of attention. In the 34 years I have known her and been blessed to call her my friend, she never easily gave a television interview, never relished being on the radio, never wanted the camera on her for a social media video…she wanted the focus and the attention fixed on the animals and the people with whom she worked. Her humbleness, like her dedication and devotion, is immense.

Sheila saw many changes at the SPCA. Her pristine barn converted to a fundraising “Haunted Barn” for several years. The growth of a staff numbered at around 25 when she was hired to 110 today. A major move from Tonawanda, NY to West Seneca, NY.  In Sheila’s own words this morning, “The SPCA is a haven, where animals are cared for, and where people learn the importance of kindness and respect for all living creatures.”  Sheila witnessed so much change around her, yet her impression of what the organization stands for never wavered.

I know she won’t mind my sharing that her closing comment today was a quote by Charlotte Bronte: “There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.”

Thank you, Sheila, for consistently and lovingly providing comfort to our SPCA creatures, animal AND human, your entire life.

The SPCA’s Patricia Burg worked with Sheila for three decades, and adds these touching words:

One of my very best friends has just retired.

The sheep manicures at the SPCA included a pedicure at no extra charge!

I have known Sheila for more than the almost 30 years that we worked together.  When I was first tasked with caring for an assortment of farm animals at another job, she gave me great advice and helped me learn the ins and outs of taking care of them well.  After I started working at the SPCA’s Educational Farm with Sheila, it was clear that she had a great store of knowledge and skill when we had to help animals in serious need.  She always ran the farm with the goal of being an example of how well things could be done.

No matter what animals came in, she always found ways to do best by them.  No matter how old the farm got, she always made it look the best it could.  For all of the tough cases that came to the farm, and there were plenty, she always focused on the animals that needed our help.  For all of the tough times to deal with and decisions to make, there were always lovely letters and emails of how some farm critter adopted from us made such a difference in someone’s life.

In that long of a time together, we share a host of memories – everything from being there for a variety of babies being born on the farm and catching a stray emu to watching animals blossom with good care and having to say goodbye to farm friends when it was the right time to do so.

There have been a lot of fine people that came our way to help out or adopt animals and some of them became good friends because Sheila always treated them well and appreciated them.

Sheila didn’t confine her interests just to the farm, either, but was instrumental in producing our earlier newsletters, the foundation of our Wildlife Department and even our first website – I have to admit that it was truly funny watching Sheila type html code in as one of her friends read it over the phone to her!

While I will miss Sheila’s presence at the shelter more than I can express, we already have plans to do some fun things together this summer!

SPCA Issues Summer Reminders Designed to Keep Pets Safe

June 13, 2024
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

They’re back! Temperatures are predicted to be in the high 80s/low 90s in Buffalo and the surrounding area very soon. While many are happy with the warm weather forecast, it’s important to remember pets don’t fare as well as some of their owners on these warm days. Please keep the following hot weather pets tips in mind and share with pet owners you know:


HEATSTROKE CAN KILL, AND FAST. Most pet owners realize that keeping pets in hot cars can kill them…but not many realize just how quickly the effects of heatstroke can set in for a dog or cat. And we’re not only referring to 80-degree days; animals suffer heatstroke even on much cooler days.

Heatstroke is a condition animals begin to suffer gradually, but it accelerates quickly. It’s easy for early signs of heatstroke to go unrecognized, and for the pet to be in an emergency situation within mere minutes. The image below is provided courtesy of; please click on the image for a downloadable copy of this chart:

On warm days, a vehicle acts like an oven.  It holds the heat inside, and that heat becomes very intense even on days that don’t seem too warm. On an 85-degree day, even parked in the shade with the windows open, the temperature inside a car will climb to 104 degrees in 10 minutes, and to 119 degrees in 30 minutes.  With the humidity we experience here in Buffalo, it may go even higher.  Because a dog’s normal body temperature is 101-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, he can withstand a body temperature of 107-108 degrees for only a very short time before suffering irreparable brain damage…or death.

The typical signs of heatstroke are:
– Panting – High body temperature
– Dehydration – Red mouth/eye membranes
– Rapid, irregular heart rate – Diarrhea and/or vomiting
– Weakness, looking dazed, confusion – Comatose state

If your pet begins exhibiting any of these signs, contact a veterinarian immediately.

CAN I LEGALLY BREAK INTO A CAR TO SAVE A SUFFERING ANIMAL? Currently, while a handful of states allow good Samaritans to legally break car windows in an effort to save a suffering animal, New York is, unfortunately, NOT one of those states.

If you see an animal alone in a vehicle in extreme temperatures:

-Immediately record the vehicle’s make, model, and license plate number, and record the time you first noticed the animal(s) alone in the vehicle.

-Next, immediately call 911 to report the incident. If the vehicle is located in Erie County, NY and the time is between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., contact the SPCA Serving Erie County as well: (716) 875-7360, ext. 214.

-If you are at a location with a public announcement system (a retail establishment, office, public event, etc.), provide managers, directors, employees, or event coordinators with the details of the situation, and ask for a public announcement that the animal in the vehicle is in severe distress.

-If possible, stay at the scene until help arrives.


Use caution during warm weather months when allowing animals outside for short sessions in yards or on porches. Never leave them outside extended periods of time. Ensure appropriate shade and water are always available. Keep close supervision of your pet when outdoors on hot, humid, sunny summer days, and around inground pools. If you see an animal left on a porch or in a yard with no access to shelter or water, or with inadequate shelter or water, the SPCA may be able to intervene in accordance with New York State’s Animal Shelter Law.

Contact the SPCA immediately if the location is within Erie County Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., at (716) 875-7360, ext. 214.

Read more about the Animal Shelter Law here.

And remember…pets can get sunburned too. Speak with your veterinarian about applying animal-safe sunblock to your pet’s sun-sensitive areas, such as nose and ears, even when the animal is only outdoors for short sessions.

ADMINISTER FLEA PREVENTION PRODUCTS CORRECTLY! Early last June, the SPCA received two cats on death’s door after cheap, incorrect flea products purchased from deep discount stores were applied. The SPCA has already received several phone calls this season from people who misapplied flea products to their pets.   DO NOT APPLY PRODUCTS MEANT FOR DOGS ON CATS, AND DO NOT APPLY CAT FLEA PRODUCTS TO DOGS, AND FOLLOW DIRECTIONS CONCERNING THE VOLUME AND MANNER OF APPLICATION!  Read the directions carefully PRIOR to application, not during application. The application of improper flea products, low-quality flea products, or products applied incorrectly, can cause internal damage or death to your pet. Always consult a veterinarian before purchasing and applying flea products.

USE CAUTION WHEN PURCHASING SUMMER PET TOYS.  Flea products are not the only items that shouldn’t be purchased at deep discount stores. Some pet toys are not durable enough to withstand a pet’s play. This tip and photo came to us in the summer of 2019 from Patrick in South Dayton, NY. Patrick purchased a disc dog toy from a deep discount store for his dogs Roscoe and Titan. On the first throw, Titan caught the toy, which shattered, said Patrick, “…like a mirror” (see photo). Be sure the toys you purchase for your pets are safe and sturdy.


KEEP PETS HOME DURING OUTDOOR FESTIVALS.  Art festivals, food festivals, summer fireworks displays, and other crowded outdoor events are no places for dogs.  Extremely hot weather, paired with immense crowds of people and strange noises and scents, heightens the stress level for many animals; the repetitive, exploding sound of fireworks is enough to make even the calmest animal frantic and sometimes aggressive. Your pet’s body is closer to the asphalt and can heat up much more quickly.

The hot pavement can also burn unprotected, sensitive paw pads when dogs are on pavement for any period of time. Test the pavement! Place your hand on the pavement for ten seconds. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog. Check out this photo from a June, 2019 post on WGRZ-TV and click on the photo for the full story:

DON’T FORCE EXERCISE, primarily after a meal or in hot, humid weather. Instead, exercise pets in the cool of the early morning or evening. Be extra-sensitive to older and overweight animals, or those prone to heart or respiratory problems. Bring an ample supply of water along on the walk. For cool, indoor walks, bring pets to shop at the SPCA’s Petique or other pet-friendly stores.

BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU WALK! Avoid walking your dog in areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals (see below), or have puddles or spots of auto coolant. The sweet taste of poisonous liquids attracts animals and can sicken or kill them if ingested. Clean any spills immediately or consider using animal-friendly products to help minimize risks.

Unfortunately, the use of wild rat poisons also increases during warm-weather months, which poses potential hazards for your pets. Be mindful of any poisons your pet(s) can reach on your property and other properties. Read the Humane Society of the United States’ recommendations on alternatives to rodent poisons here >>

WATCH WHAT THEY EAT & DRINK! It wasn’t long ago that two family dogs in North Buffalo died after eating poisonous mushrooms (amanita) growing right in the backyard. Check yards and any areas pets frequent. If something looks suspicious, don’t take a chance….GET RID OF IT. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread through the urine of contaminated animals. The bacteria can get into water (puddles, ponds, pools, etc.) or soil and survive there for months. Humans AND animals can be infected. Use caution when letting your pet drink, walk through, or swim in water that may have been exposed to infected animals (rodents, wildlife, infected domestic animals, and others).

KEEP YOUR PET WELL-GROOMED AND CLEAN to combat summer skin problems. If your dog’s coat is appropriate, cutting his hair to a one-inch length will help prevent overheating and will also allow you to watch for fleas and ticks. Don’t shave down to the skin, though; your pet can get sunburned (see below)! A cat should be brushed frequently to keep a tangle-free coat. Long-haired cats will be more comfortable with a stylish, summer clip.

USE CAUTION WHEN MAKING SUMMER LAWN/GARDEN PURCHASES! When purchasing lawn and garden products, always read the labels for ingredients toxic to dogs, cats, and other animals. Fertilizers, weed killers, herbicides, pesticides, and other chemicals can be fatal to your pets. “Weed out” the toxic products from your garage, and learn more about non-toxic, pet-friendly seasonal items. Snail, slug, and rat/mouse baits, and ant/roach baits and traps are also hazardous. Metaldehyde, one of the poisonous ingredients in many baits, is often very appealing to pets, and metaldehyde poisoning can cause increased heart rate, breathing complications, seizures, liver complications, and death. If insect and nuisance animal control items must be purchased, keep them in locations impossible for pets to reach.

KEEP CORN COBS AWAY FROM DOGS! In August of 2013, SPCA veterinarians removed corn cobs from the intestines of not one but TWO dogs! Both survived, but without veterinary treatment the results could have been fatal. Read this article from  discussing the dangers of corn cobs and corn to dogs.

DO NOT USE HUMAN INSECT REPELLENTS ON PETS! These items are toxic when ingested at high doses, and dogs and cats may lick it off and ingest it, potentially resulting in a toxicity. Read more about what you can use here.

BUNNIES NEED TO KEEP COOL TOO! Pet rabbits who live indoors with no air conditioning can benefit from an easy cooling technique. Rabbit owners can freeze a filled water bottle. Once the water bottle is frozen, it can be wrapped in a cloth and placed on the rabbit’s cage floor. If the rabbit becomes too warm, she’ll instinctively know to lie next to the bottle. Fans can also be pointed in the general direction of a rabbit cage, and rabbits will raise their ears (their natural cooling system) to catch the breeze and cool off. On hot days, pet owners with rabbits living in outdoor pens will want to ensure their pets are cool enough in outdoor locations; if not, rabbits and pens should come indoors.

If you witness animal cruelty this summer, including animals left outdoors extended periods of time with inappropriate shelter in yards or on porches, the SPCA Serving Erie County may be able to help. If the location is in Erie County, contact the SPCA  Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., at (716) 875-7360, ext. 214. Other times, please contact your local animal control agency, police department, or your local after-hours emergency clinic.

Local Students Protect Dogs from Extreme Buffalo Cold & Heat by Building Doghouses for SPCA’s Operation P.A.W.S.

June 11, 2024
By: Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

Students from The Foundry and OLV Human Services presented student-built doghouses to the SPCA Serving Erie County today as part of the SPCA’s Operation P.A.W.S. (Providing Adequate Water & Shelter) program!

Each winter and summer the SPCA receives calls for service in response to dogs left outdoors in extreme temperatures. Some community members lack the resources and/or knowledge concerning appropriate shelter for their dogs, Operation P.A.W.S. is a program of the SPCA Serving Erie County designed to provide pet owners and at-risk dogs appropriate shelter and other supplies.

This semester, students at The Foundry [ a hands-on education facility dedicated to increasing neighborhood prosperity by empowering individuals through education and entrepreneurship ] built doghouses for Operation P.A.W.S. to help the SPCA assist these pets and pet owners.

The Foundry held a ceremony today at its 298 Northampton St., Buffalo location to celebrate the students’ work, and students and staff presented the doghouses to the SPCA

“We’re so excited to build new partner relationships as we work on initiatives designed to keep people and pets together,” says Tyler Robertson, SPCA strategic initiatives program manager. “This relationship with The Foundry is not only valuable to us, it is valuable to every pet owner who will benefit from the hard work of these students, building doghouses to protect four-footed family members.”

Amina Boyd, The Foundry’s education director, says, “At the Foundry, we are dedicated to equipping our students with essential life skills through hands-on learning experiences. Watching them create quality products that positively impact our community is truly rewarding. Their achievements and the community’s appreciation of their hard work make it all worthwhile.”

Sr. Director of Innovative Learning at OLV Human Services Marga McMahon adds, “This opportunity not only allows our students to participate in hands-on learning, but also exposes them to vocational and volunteer opportunities in their communities.”

For more information on collaborating with the SPCA and Operation P.A.W.S. in the construction of doghouses, please contact Robertson at the SPCA, (716) 875-7360, ext. 238.

Find more on The Foundry here >>
Find more on OLV Human Services here >>


From Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn: Cheektowaga Man Pleads Guilty in Dog Fighting Case

Trisha Yearwood featured one victim from this case, Wade, as her #EveryDog ‘Spokesdog’ of the Week

July 22, 2022
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

UPDATE, June 11, 2024:  According to the Erie County District Attorney’s office, sentencing for James A. Jackson that was supposed to happen this morning was once again postponed until July 2 at 9:30 a.m.

UPDATE, June 4, 2024:  According to the Erie County District Attorney’s office, sentencing for James A. Jackson that was supposed to happen this morning was once again postponed until June 11 at 9:30 a.m.

UPDATE, June 3, 2024: According to the Erie County District Attorney’s office, sentencing for James A. Jackson that was supposed to happen this morning was postponed until tomorrow, June 4, at  9:30 a.m.

UPDATE, March 21, 2024:
From the desk of Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn:

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announces that James A. Jackson pleaded guilty Tuesday to all eight counts against him (listed below). The defendant admitted that he trained three pit bull mixed breed dogs, two males and one female, under circumstances evincing an intent for the dogs to engage in animal fighting and intentionally depriving the dogs of food and medical treatment. Jackson faces a maximum of 7 years in prison when he is sentenced on two files on Monday, June 3, 2024 at 9:30 a.m. Prosecutors requested that the Court remanded the defendant pending sentence on the second file, a gun case, but his release under supervision was continued. The charges against a co-defendant who was also indicted for their alleged role in the dog fighting case will be dismissed after the sentencing proceeding. See the full update here >>>

UPDATE, Feb. 4, 2024
From the desk of Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn:

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announces that 23-year-old Aveon D. Lockhart of Cheektowaga and 24-year-old James A. Jackson of Cheektowaga were arraigned late last month before Erie County Court Judge Sheila A. DiTullio on an indictment charging them each with the following offenses:

*Three counts of Prohibition of Animal Fighting (Class “E” felonies under New York Agriculture and Markets Law)
*Four counts of Overdriving, Torturing, and Injuring Animals; Failure to Provide Proper Sustenance (Class “A” misdemeanors under New York Agriculture and Markets Law)
*One count of Prohibition of Animal Fighting, Possession, Sale or Making of Animal Fighting Paraphernalia (Class “B” misdemeanor under New York Agriculture and Markets Law)

An investigation began after the Cheektowaga Police Department received an anonymous tip regarding dog fighting on April 12, 2022.

It is alleged that on April 13, 2022, SPCA Serving Erie County investigators executed a search warrant at the defendants’ residence on Andrews Avenue in the Town of Cheektowaga. Investigators allegedly recovered evidence common in dog fighting operations inside and outside of the home. Three dogs, found in the basement and first-floor of the residence, were seized. The remains of two deceased dogs were recovered from the backyard.

The defendants, while acting in concert with one another, are accused of training three pit bull mixed breed dogs, two males and one female, under circumstances evincing an intent for the dogs to engage in animal fighting for amusement or gain. The defendants are also accused of intentionally depriving the dogs of food and medical treatment.

Lockhart and James are scheduled to return before Erie County Court Judge James Bargnesi on Tuesday, March 19, 2024 at 9:30 a.m. for a pre-trial conference. Both defendants were released on their own recognizance as the charges are non-qualifying offenses for bail.

“These defendants are accused of using cruel methods to train these dogs to become dangerous animals. This case highlights the tragedy of these underground, illegal activities. I want to thank the SPCA Serving Erie County for their work in this case and other animal cruelty investigations,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.

DA Flynn commends the SPCA Serving Erie County Chief Investigations Officer Lindsey Wood, Cheektowaga Police Officer Joshua Katashuk and Town of Cheektowaga Dog Control Officer Aaron Kandefer for their work in this investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Christine M. Garvey of the Animal Cruelty Unit.

As are all persons accused of a crime, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Updates on this story will be provided as they become available.

UPDATE, Nov. 1, 2022: Wade was ADOPTED! After 202 days with us at the SPCA, this loving boy, who somehow lived through the most barbaric cruelty imaginable…who we never thought would survive…found his place in the world, and in two special hearts!

We were honored to meet the warm, caring, compassionate Frank and Brenda of Amherst last week, and when they met Wade, it was an instant love connection.

Today, Wade survived again! He made it through all the tears and goodbyes and hugs and kisses, and he has officially started his brand-new life, a life Frank and Brenda plan on filling with…well…more hugs and kisses!

Be a good boy, Wade, and to Frank and Brenda, our warmest gratitude for making this boy the newest member of your family!

July 23, 2022: Watch Trisha Talk About Wade & the SPCA >>>

From Animal Cruelty Victim to Adoptee to Trisha Yearwood’s #EVERYDOG, Wade has Stepped His Way to the Top!

Avid country music fans already know Garth Brooks will be performing in Buffalo tomorrow night!

As part of a new program in conjunction with Brooks’ stadium tour this summer, his wife, 3x Grammy (along with a host of CMAs and ACM Awards!) winner TRISHA YEARWOOD wants to help every dog find a loving home!

Through her new #EveryDog effort, Trisha uses her Trisha Yearwood Pet Collection platforms to showcase an adoptable dog at an organization located in each tour city. The #EveryDog Campaign (details here >>) uses a dog in that community as a “spokesdog” for getting EVERY dog in that community (and beyond!) adopted!

According to the website, #EveryDog is described this way:

After doing some research, Trisha and her marketing team picked the SPCA Serving Erie County as the representative organization, and current adoptee WADE will be the official #EveryDog this week! It’s an all-new effort that kicked off mid-April, so we are thrilled to be part of the program’s beginnings!

And the exciting news doesn’t end there! Trisha will be talking about our SPCA and Wade on Facebook Live Saturday morning, July 23, during her “Coffee Talk” session!

Now, we can’t tell you too much about Wade’s journey YET. We want to leave that to Trisha. But we promise you…it’s heroic and touching and emotional and most of all, a story of hope and healing.

Be sure to tune in to Facebook at around 11:30/11:35 a.m. Saturday! Trisha should be live with Coffee Talk at approximately 11:40 a.m., and you can watch at  [UPDATE: See Trisha talk about Wade and the SPCA Serving Erie County at]

You’ll see Wade’s photo, hear more about his story, and you may even see some videos of our staff members (Lindsey Wood, Dr. Allison Keane, Mindy Ussrey, Phil Weiss, and Cait Daly) talking about Wade’s heroic journey! We know this touch of country will find him a loving home!

Learn a little more about handsome Wade right here >>>! Interested in adopting during our Summer of Love? Then come on in to our 300 Harlem Rd., West Seneca shelter and meet him in person; Wade’s adoption fee is half-off! Remember, as Trisha says, what’s meant to be will always find a way! We guarantee, you’ll fall “…in love with the boy!” 

SPCA Serving Erie County Offers Free Adoptions to Current and Past Military Members During Vets & Pets

May 22, 2024
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

To thank the members of the armed services this Memorial Day, the SPCA Serving Erie County once again offers Vets & Pets, 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 program, a longtime SPCA tradition, is proudly presented by the kind, caring, and patriotic folks at Northtown Subaru.

Vets & Pets begins Saturday, May 25 and runs through Saturday, June 1* at the SPCA’s 300 Harlem Rd., West Seneca location (off-site locations are not included in this campaign).

“Northtown Automotive is proud of our longstanding partnership with the SPCA and our commitment to supporting those organizations that support Western New Yorkers. The SPCA Serving Erie County helps thousands of animals in need every year,” said Harold Erbacher, chief operating officer and co-owner of Northtown Automotive Companies. “We pride ourselves on assisting others by creating a sense of family, generosity and sharing, both at the dealerships where we work and in the community we serve.”

Photos of adoptable animals can be found here >>.

Adoption hours can be found here >>.

Military ID or DD214 will need to be presented. If an individual is currently serving outside of New York State, that individual’s spouse can adopt during Vets & Pets if a military spouse identification card is presented. Adopters can apply the Vets & Pets waived adoption fee promotion toward a total of two animals.

Please contact SPCA Senior Director of Operations Mindy Ussrey with any questions: (716) 875-7360, ext. 210.

*The SPCA’s West Seneca location is closed Sunday and Monday, May 26 and 27. See a list of our animals available here.  Adoption hours are 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Final guest passes for those wishing to adopt from the SPCA’s West Seneca location are issued one hour prior to closing.


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; fax to (716) 424-1165; or drop off at 300 Harlem Rd., West Seneca, NY 14224. Questions on fostering farm animals? Please email or

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 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 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.

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