A Brief History of the SPCA Serving Erie County

April 4, 2020
By: SPCA President & CEO Gary Willoughby

There are many things to be proud of when we learn about Buffalo and Western New York’s history. A lesser-known item is that the SPCA Serving Erie County has the honor of being the 2nd animal welfare organization formed in North America in 1867…153 years ago today, as a matter of fact. This occurred before Buffalo had its own dedicated police force or even before the government of Canada was formed.

Our first documented event that eventually led to bringing animal welfare to Western New York occurred on Monday, November 19, 1866.  Earlier that year, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was formed in New York City by Henry Bergh.  On this day, the Secretary of the ASPCA, William Coventry Henry Waddell wrote to former United States President Millard Fillmore to inquire about starting a branch in Buffalo, New York.

Waddell wrote, “We are desirous of availing ourselves of your kind and efficient support in establishing a branch of this society in your city.”

President Fillmore soon worked with an “enthusiastic promoter” of the Buffalo Project, Mrs. Mary Elizabeth (Johnson) Lord, wife of the Reverend Dr. John Lord and daughter of Dr. Ebenezer Johnson, Buffalo’s first mayor.

Buffalo had seen rapid growth in the 19th century, from near devastation of its community and people during the War of 1812, when 500 people called Buffalo home; many new arrivals courtesy of the Erie Canal’s completion in 1825 to a post-Civil War total of nearly 100,000 residents in this city formed in 1832.

The canal boats pulled by horses and other large animals, as well as the tremendous influx of horses pulling people and supplies, along with one of the nation’s busiest ports led to an incredible number of animals without any laws in place to protect them.

While many types of animals had been domesticated going back as far as 14,000 B.C., protection for animals and creating groups to protect them was a new subject worldwide.

The first such organization of its kind was the Royal SPCA, formed in 1824 in England. Their model became the template for the ASPCA 42 years later in 1866, which quickly spread to Buffal in 1867, then Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco.  Mentorship was key in the rapid growth of these groups both in Europe and the United States.

In Western New York, the SPCA Serving Erie County helped establish similar societies in Rochester (now Lollypop Farm) in 1873 and what is now the Niagara SPCA in 1883.

In these beginnings, most communities relied on well-connected community leaders to help influence legislation and enforcement, with most emphasis on large animals, whether they were intended to carry us and our goods or for food purposes. At this time, most households didn’t have dogs or cats as household pets.  The most common animals in your home were goldfish and small birds.

In Buffalo, we were honored to have significant support from community leaders, including the distinction of two of the first 22 Presidents of the United States as board members; Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland. They were joined by a number of Buffalo mayors such as Orlando Allen, C.J. Wells, and William Fargo who served as mayor of Buffalo during the Civil War and was co-founder of American Express and Wells-Fargo. M&T Bank’s first president, Henry Martin, George Washington Tifft (of Tifft Nature Preserve) and later members of well-known families such as Knox, Albright, Wendt, Wurlitzer, Rochester, de Forest, and Spaulding signed on to help animals in need.

Their help was invaluable, but the lion’s share of the credit of our organization’s early success was in the work being done in the trenches. The SPCA employed a couple of cruelty officers who inspected all livestock arriving via train or ship, as well as any injured horse, dog, cat or wildlife animal brought to their attention.  In part two of this series, we will learn about the shift towards dogs and cats, humane education, and other modern programs that evolved out of our important 19th century beginnings.

1895 was a milestone year for our organization. This was the first year of our Humane Education Department’s Poster Essay Contest, the first year that horse-drawn cars were outlawed, making way for electric or motorized public transportation in the city, and was the year the SPCA took over day to day operations of the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter.

The beginning of the 20th century brought forward the SPCA’s influence on bringing awareness to animal suffering in a variety of ways. In 1901, the SPCA worked with then Buffalo mayor Conrad Diehl, to express outrage at the case of Jumbo the elephant, who was to appear at the Pan-American Exposition. Electricity was new to Buffalo and the organizers thought that electrocuting this poor elephant in front of onlookers would demonstrate this new invention’s power.  Fortunately, Jumbo survived and the public was rightly outraged at the attempt.

A few years later, the SPCA highlighted the best horse owners in Buffalo through a series of Buffalo Workhorse Parades held from 1908-1914, both on Main Street and at Humbolt (now M.L.K.) Park. Categories included police and fire departments, deliveries, bakers, and milk dealers, among others. Soon after, Henry Ford and others brought forward motorized cars and trucks that were able to take this work burden off of these horses and the SPCA moved forward with greater emphasis on dogs and cats, as well as veterinary medicine for low-income pet owners.

The first building ever constructed for the SPCA Serving Erie County opened at 121 W. Tupper Street in Buffalo in January 1916. The 5,200 square foot structure cost $21,500 to build and housed the officers’ horses, the administrative offices and the clinic, opened to the public twice weekly.

Nearby, the SPCA was responsible for the care for the growing city’s homeless dogs and cats. This was not a great time to be a homeless pet, as most never had the chance to be adopted. Most cats lived outside, as commercial cat litter wasn’t invented until 1947. Spaying and neutering was many decades away, leading to rampant pet overpopulation.

As we drew closer to the middle of the 20th century, adoptions were up, but the number of animals coming in were as well. 1951 saw a very public breakup of the partnership with the City of Buffalo and the SPCA, in a heated debate about what to do with unclaimed pets. The SPCA tried to accommodate some dogs and cats in their Tupper Street shelter, but there was enough space to safely do so.

In 1962, a $450,000 shelter was built in Tonawanda, which would serve as the organization’s headquarters for 55 years. The shelter would ultimately grow to 26,000 square feet, adding programs such as farm and wildlife divisions, a shelter infirmary, and educational offerings such as summer camps.  In the early days of this new shelter, Erie County was near its all-time population peak, with over 1 million residents. That is about double the population when the Tupper Street location was built and about 900,000 more than we had in our founding back in 1867.

Erie County’s human population declined slightly over the next decades, but the pet population was another story. Spay and neuter services gained traction in the 1980s and by 2000, the SPCA started getting its pet population numbers somewhat under control.  Each year in this new century has seen less homeless animals than the year before, allowing us to do more for the most vulnerable of animals coming to us.

In 2017, the SPCA moved its headquarters to West Seneca, doubling its size to 52,000 square feet at the cost of $14 million. More emphasis was given to wildlife animals, as well as isolation areas to keep the sick animals away from the healthy ones. The organization that has started humbly 150 years ago with just a few volunteers and one officer, had grown to about 115 employees and nearly 2,000 volunteers, all thanks to the people of Erie County who have supported their work all along.

As we face 2020, dogs and cats have the best chance at adoption they have ever had at the SPCA, dozens of species of wildlife have dedicated people to care for them, and the best is yet to come. For more information, please visit http://YourSPCA.org.

SPCA Serving Erie County Paws for Love: HOUSE CALLS, Providing Virtual Comfort to Your Home!

April 2, 2020
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca


The SPCA Serving Erie County Paws for Love therapy animals have officially been relegated to house calls. Make that VIRTUAL house calls.

These Paws for Love power-paws (and feet!) have the ability to heal and comfort right through your screen…from their houses to YOUR houses!

No pharmacy visits. No trips to the doctor. No active ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Gunnar and Howdy are trying to relieve the stress of folks getting a busy signal every time they call Unemployment.

Simply stay home and visit this SPCA Serving Erie County Paws for Love: HOUSE CALLS playlist! Each visit will bring you one of our four-footed ‘out-of-work’ Paws for Love therapy pets offering some holistic, home-side comfort…and we guarantee you’ll be feeling better in no time!

Plus, now you can tune in to WKBW-TV Ch. 7 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning between 6:45 a.m. and 7 a.m. for your 3x/weekly dose of PAWS FOR LOVE comfort and therapy! With Ch. 7’s help, you’ll feel a little comfort first thing in the morning! What a way to start the day!

Wilma misses her therapy work so much that she’s taken to hoarding
Ruby decided to take a cue from Wilma
Winston misses his visits to Children’s Hospital, the Buffalo Niagara Airport, and Greenfield Manor.
This hiatus from therapy work has taught Sydney that a big part of effective therapy is to let others play the therapist!
Yeti and Rubie are ready to return to their work comforting people at any moment…but for now, HOUSE CALLS will have to do!

SPCA Paws for Love: HOUSE CALLS begins on WKBW-TV this week. Can’t wait? Visit this playlist for daily doses of HOUSE CALLS comfort! Then click the image below to see Ch. 7’s Jeff Slawson introduce the House Calls feature!

For more information, contact SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca: 716-875-7360, ext. 211.


Spending time social distancing in the backyard or on a nature walk? Check out the warnings concerning ticks and Lyme Disease from the Erie County Department of Health by clicking on the image below.

This page will be regularly updated with the most current developments at the SPCA Serving Erie County. Please see current information concerning COVID-19 and companion animals below the list of cancellations, and check back frequently. Thank you.

Updated April 3, 2020,  3:27 p.m.

On March 20, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo named “Animal Shelters” to the list of essential businesses in NYS. More information is available here on WBEN.radio.com; see the list as of March 20 here.

However, due to rapidly-growing health concerns related to Coronavirus spread, the SPCA Serving Erie County, in an effort to protect community members, patrons, volunteers, and staff members, is modifying its services in the following manner. Please check back frequently as this information is rapidly changing:

-Adoptions will be BY APPOINTMENT ONLY Monday through Saturday. 
Adoptions are open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and appointments will be made until approximately 3 p.m. 
-If you are interested in adopting an animal at the SPCA Serving Erie County, please call 716-875-7360, ext. 207 to schedule an appointment to visit the animals.
-At this time, the only people who will be allowed in SPCA adoption areas are those people with appointments. Please note that we are offering a limited number of appointments each day to reduce the number of people in our building at one time, in accordance with Erie County occupancy guidelines. Thank you for your understanding.

-The SPCA will be admitting sick or injured animals ONLY at this time.
-Sick or injured animals will be admitted to the SPCA BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.
-If you are calling Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., please call 716-875-7360, press 0, and ask for the Admissions Department. If you are calling Monday through Saturday, 4 p.m.-8 p.m., please call 716-449-0363.
-At this time we are unable to assist after 8 p.m., however, there are emergency animal clinics in Erie County with systems in place to assist you after 8 p.m.

-If you are experiencing an emergency with your animal or find that an animal is in an emergency situation, please call the SPCA Monday through Friday at 716-875-7360, ext. 214, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. During the hours of 4 p.m.-8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays 8 a.m.-8 p.m., please call 716-449-0363.
-When you call, please advise the dispatcher if you or any members of your household are experiencing flu-like symptoms. This information will ensure first responders can prepare to prevent the spread of any illnesses.
-At this time we are unable to assist after 8 p.m., however, there are emergency animal clinics in Erie County with systems in place to assist you after 8 p.m.

-Those wishing to make financial donations are encouraged to do so online, by phone at 716-875-7360 ext. 227, or through the mail at SPCA Serving Erie County, 300 Harlem Rd., West Seneca, NY 14224.
-The SPCA will absolutely need donations of towels, sheets, blankets, newspapers, etc. at a later time. If you have items to be donated, we cannot accept them at this time but please hold them for our animals! Details >>
-Due to staffing restrictions at this time, most donation receipting is on hold.  We ask for your patience as receipts may be delayed by a few weeks.

Closed to the general public.
-If you have a sick or injured farm animal you are surrendering to the SPCA Serving Erie County, please follow the Animal Admissions guidelines above. Only sick or injured animals can be admitted at this time.
-If you are ill and have a sick or injured farm animal to surrender, please follow the Animal Admissions guidelines above to schedule an appointment for possible pick-up.
-Those interested in adopting farm animals or fowl should call 716-875-7360 ext. 212 or 215 to make an appointment to meet the animals.

-If you have made that difficult decision for your pet, the SPCA is still able to help with euthanasia services at this time BY APPOINTMENT.
-If you are calling Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., please call 716-875-7360, press 0, and ask for the Admissions Department to make your appointment. If you are in an emergency euthanasia situation and are calling Monday through Saturday, 4 p.m.-8 p.m., please call 716-449-0363.
-Information on pet euthanasia  is available here >>  

Currently-scheduled visits have been cancelled.

– no new appointments will be made at this time.

Closed to the general public.

No new registrations at this time.
Summer Camp is not cancelled at this time. Any status changes will be announced.

At this time, the SPCA Serving Erie County will not be receiving animal transports from out-of-town to limit potential risk of disease spread.

There will be no new volunteer orientations at this time. All youth volunteer attendance is postponed. There will be no new Paws for Love volunteer evaluations or orientations until later this year. If you are a current volunteer, please check with your team’s coordinator for further instructions…and thank you for everything you’re doing to stay informed while you’re continuing to help our animals.

-The Wildlife Department will be responding to animal emergencies.
-Anyone with a wild animal emergency should CALL BEFORE TOUCHING THE ANIMAL(s) OR BRINGING THE ANIMAL(s) IN!
8 a.m.-6 p.m. please call 716-449-0727.
6 p.m.-8 p.m. please call 716-449-0363.
8 p.m.-8 a.m. we are closed.

At this time, other departments will operate as usual. Again, this information is rapidly changing.

The SPCA has cancelled most events through April 30, 2020. Some of these events will be rescheduled. Cancelled events include but are not limited to:

March 21:            Wildlife Baby Shower (virtual event at https://YourSPCA.org/WildlifeBabyShower/)
For more information, contact SPCA Events Coordinator
Caitlin Fager: 716-875-7360, ext. 230.

March 23:            “Understanding Your Cat” seminar
For more information, contact SPCA Humane Education Director
Christine Davis: 716-875-7360, ext. 262.

March 24:            Wildlife Dep’t. information session
For more information, contact SPCA Wildlife Director
Barbara Haney: 716-875-7360, ext. 220.

March 28:            ELVIS FOREVER Fundraiser for the SPCA
For more information, contact the WNY Elvis Appreciation Society:

April 8:                 Wake Up With Wildlife “Wildlife Rescue” seminar
For more information, contact SPCA Wildlife Director
Barbara Haney: 716-875-7360, ext. 220.

April 13-17:          School Break Camp
For more information, contact SPCA Humane Education Director
Christine Davis: 716-875-7360, ext. 262.

April 20:                “CBD and Pets” seminar
For more information, contact SPCA Humane Education Director
Christine Davis: 716-875-7360, ext. 262.

April 26:                 Paws at the Pub
For more information, contact Buffalo Brewpub: 716-632-0552.

March & April:   “Furry Tales Preschool Story and Adventure Time” sessions

For more information, contact SPCA Humane Education Director
Christine Davis: 716-875-7360, ext. 262.

March & April:   “Tale for Two” reading sessions
For more information, contact SPCA Humane Education Director
Christine Davis: 716-875-7360, ext. 262.

March & April:   Scout workshops
For more information, contact SPCA Humane Education Director
Christine Davis: 716-875-7360, ext. 262.

March & April:   New volunteer orientations
For more information, contact SPCA Volunteer Services Director Kelly Deschamps: 716-875-7360, ext. 232.

March & April:   Youth volunteer attendance and programs
For more information, contact SPCA Volunteer Services Assistant
Desirea Mojica: 716-875-7360, ext. 252.

If an SPCA Serving Erie County program or event on your calendar is not on this changeable list, please contact the SPCA at 716-875-7360 prior to attending for confirmation.

This is NOT a static list. As officials at the SPCA work to address the ever-changing health needs in our community, any new information will be released as soon as possible.

–Gina Lattuca, SPCA Chief Communications Officer


Updated March 31, 2020, 10:45 a.m.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has kept current a second advisory document from March 20 (in addition to the document linked below) that no evidence exists that COVID-19 can be contracted from pets.

Updated March 20, 2020, 2:54 p.m.
Today, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) released an updated advisory document concerning COVID-19 and companion animals. Please find that document here >> .

Updated March 17, 2020, 11:57 a.m

Yesterday, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) released an updated advisory document concerning COVID-19 and companion animals. Please find that document here >> .

March 12, 2020
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 increases in New York State and worldwide, the SPCA Serving Erie County is taking proactive measures to ensure the safety of people and animals on its premises. Please see the information above on changes to SPCA-related events and programs in response to COVID-19.

On February 29, 2020, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) released an advisory document entitled The New Coronavirus and Companion Animals, stating, “You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people,” recommending that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.

The WSAVA also released an update to the document on March 7, 2020. In this document, WSAVA states, “Currently, there is no evidence suggesting a specific animal host as a virus reservoir, and further investigations are ongoing,” and, “Currently, there is limited evidence that companion animals can be infected with SARS-COV-2 and no evidence that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection to other animals or to humans. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.”

Read the entire WSAVA Advisory Document dated March 7, 2020 at  https://bit.ly/2IB7p5O, and please regularly check for updates as more information becomes available. The March 7 document provides links to the most up-to-date information and advice on human infection along with the most up-to-date information related to animal health, and a list of frequently asked questions.

Pertaining to pets in homes, Animalsheltering.org recommends pet owners take the following simple steps to ensure preparedness in case of illness:

– Identify a family member or friend who can care for pets if someone in the household becomes ill;
– Have crates, food, and extra supplies on hand for quick movement of pets should it become necessary;
– All animal vaccines should be up-to-date in the event boarding becomes necessary;
– Ensure all medications are documented with dosages, administering directions, and if possible, your veterinarian’s prescription;
– Ensure pets are wearing identification (collar & ID tag) or are microchipped.

For more information on your pets and COVID-19, please speak with your veterinarian. Find a list of recommendations for a  PET DISASTER PREPAREDNESS KIT here.

–Gina Lattuca, SPCA Chief Communications Officer

This page will be regularly updated with the most current developments at the SPCA Serving Erie County. Please check back frequently.


Humane Poster & Creative Writing Contest

Information on our REVISED 2020 contest is here >>

Submissions and nomination letters must be received by the SPCA no later than
August 31, 2020! And now submissions can be made DIGITALLY at bit.ly/2WWzm06 !

Submissions can also be dropped off at the SPCA Serving Erie County,
300 Harlem Rd., West Seneca, NY.
NOTE: During the SPCA’s COVID Response period, an appointment to drop off children’s submissions will be necessary. To make an appointment, please call 716-875-7360 and press 0 Monday through Saturday after 8 a.m.

To learn more about this contest, contact Christine at christined@yourspca.org or 716-875-7360, ext. 262.

Click on the image below for more information!



All to benefit the SPCA Serving Erie County, during PAWS AT THE PUB!

Sunday, April 26  *  12 p.m.-5 p.m.
Buffalo Brewpub, 6861 Main St., Williamsville, NY

Event sponsor: Tommy Rotter Distillery

Guest bartenders: Community Beer Works

Country 106.5 WYRK, #1 for Buffalo’s New Country, will be on hand
12 p.m.-2 p.m. to meet and greet patrons!

Silent auction items include tickets to a Toronto Blue Jays vs. New York Yankees baseball game, Taste of Country tickets, and much more!

This is a free event, open to all ages, and is a PET-FREE event!
Come for a little while, or stay the whole time! Food and beverages are available for purchase!

For more information, visit the Buffalo Brewpub at 6861 Main Street, Williamsville, NY 14221, or call the SPCA’s Caitlin at 716-875-7360 ext. 230.


February 27, 2020
By: Gina Lattuca, SPCA Chief Communications Officer

Snow and wind are back in Buffalo. Please take every precaution to ensure pets are outdoors only for very short periods of time with owners’ supervision! Other basic winter pet tips include:

*OUTDOOR ANIMAL SHELTER MUST BE SUITABLE FOR INCLEMENT WEATHER: …and if it’s not, animal welfare officers can rescue the pet even before he or she shows signs of suffering, thanks to New York State’s Shelter Law that went into effect in 2003. Thanks to a legislative push in late 2018 that led to stronger laws concerning the tethering of dogs within Buffalo city limits, the SPCA and other law enforcement organizations can now take even more steps to ensure dogs are protected from the elements.

* Keep a Tight Leash:
Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Pets can lose their scent on snow and ice, especially if snow is falling at a fast rate, and your pet can easily lose his sense of direction. Pets may also panic during a snowstorm and run away; many pets are lost during the winter months. Remember to keep current identification on your pet at all times!

*Keep Pets At Home: Never leave your pet alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold. Your pet could literally freeze to death.

*Always Dry Pet’s Wet Feet: Thoroughly wipe off your pet’s legs and stomach when she comes in and out of the rain, snow or ice. Check her sensitive foot pads, which may be bleeding from snow or ice encrusted in them. Your pet may also pick up salt and other chemicals on her feet accidentally. These chemicals could hurt her if she swallows them while licking her feet.

*Lay Straw for Dogs’ Visits Outdoors: Can’t get your dog to wear booties? Lay straw on top of snow for trips outdoors by dogs reluctant to step out onto a freezing surface to relieve themselves.

*Check Cars for Cats: During the winter, stray or neglected cats outdoors sometimes sleep under the hood of the car where it’s warm and comfortable. If you start the motor, cats could get caught in or flung about by the fan belt, causing serious injury or death. To prevent this, bang loudly on the hood and sides of your car before turning on the ignition to give the cat a chance to escape.

*Keep Outdoor ‘Sessions’ Short: Take your dog outside only for as long as it takes for him to relieve himself. Dogs, particularly small, short-haired breeds like Chihuahuas and terriers, suffer from the cold despite their seemingly warm fur coats. Live within Buffalo city limits? Don’t forget Buffalo’s new laws pertaining to tethering dogs in inclement weather..

*Bathe Pets Only When Necessary: Your pet runs the chance of catching a cold when wet, especially in cold weather. If you absolutely must bathe your pet, consult a professional groomer or veterinarian.

*Keep Pets Warm: Limit the clipping of your pet’s hair in the cold winter months, keeping your pet as warm as possible. Brush your pet daily in lieu of clipping to keep your pet’s coat healthy, shiny, clean and mat-free. Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep far away from outside drafts.

*Hungry Pets: Speak to your veterinarian about increasing your pet’s supply of food, particularly protein, to keep his fur thick and healthy through the winter months. Inquire about vitamin and oil supplements.

*ANTIFREEZE IS POISON TO PETS: ANTIFREEZE, EVEN IN SMALL DOSES, IS A LETHAL POISON FOR DOGS AND CATS! Because of its sweet taste, animals are attracted to it. Be sure to clean up spills thoroughly, and consider switching to an animal-friendly antifreeze. Ensure that, if you store Antifreeze in a garage, shed, or other places accessible to your pets, it is well out of pets’ reach.

If your pet becomes lost, be sure to visit YourSPCA.org’s Lost and Found page for recommendations on where to post lost pet listings, and tips for finding your lost pets.

Do you suspect animal cruelty in Erie County, NY? Learn how to report the case to the SPCA Serving Erie County here.

Hey! Do you recognize that lovely lady in the lower right photo? That’s our very own Director of Humane Education Christine Davis!! Christine has been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Humane Educators ! We’re so proud of you Christine!

Read more about the APHE here >>

We will share additional information as it becomes available! CONGRATULATIONS, CHRISTINE!