Dogs Crowding SPCA Of Westchester In Briarcliff

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Veterinary Assistant Chris Gallant watches over Grace, an abandoned chow retriever, at the SPCA of Westchester in Briarcliff Manor.
Veterinary Assistant Chris Gallant watches over Grace, an abandoned chow retriever, at the SPCA of Westchester in Briarcliff Manor. Photo Credit: Nathan Bruttell

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – Workers of SPCA of Westchester in Briarcliff Manor are not sure how much longer Grace – a chow retriever suffering from mange, tumors and arthritis – has to live, despite working tirelessly to help her recover from her ailments.

Grace was found by a SPCA volunteer two weeks ago on the streets of Cortlandt and her immune system was weakened by the cold, SPCA officials said.

But Grace’s story isn’t unique. Volunteers and residents from around Westchester locate dozens of stray dogs in the winter months that don’t seem like lost pets, but ones left abandoned.

“Grace seems to have been treated well in the sense that she’s very loving but she has many tumors and numerous health issues that she couldn’t have survived outside for very long,” said Lisa Bonanno, development manager at the SPCA. “It leads me to believe that whoever owned her couldn’t afford to keep up with her health issues as she was getting older.”

The SPCA of Westchester contracts with dozens of local towns for animal control services including Briarcliff Manor, Ossining and Croton. It can be difficult to identify whether an animal was lost or abandoned, but Bonnano said more and more dogs have been found with tumors and other serious health issues that would not allow them to survive on the streets and the dogs are typically found without collars or any identification.

“The peak of the winter and the peak of the summer can be pretty bad and we’re finding it happens more in those times,” she said. “Those are often vacation times and when people go away they don’t always properly take care of their dogs and realize they can’t take care of them financially anymore.”

Bonnano said the SPCA of Westchester will occasionally take dogs from owners if the dogs have serious health issues, but space is running out at the no-kill shelter.

“Being a no-kill shelter means that there is plenty of time for us to find these animals new owners but it also means we fill up quickly and can’t take anymore when we’re at capacity,” she said, noting that the SPCA was nearing its limit of 100 dogs. “We have a good foster system but lately we’ve been inundated with pit bulls. People are breeding them and then when they can’t sell them, they just leave them on the street.”

Compounding the problem of the declining space inside the SPCA is the colder weather, which means fewer people coming in to adopt, Bonnano said.

“We’re much more at-risk of hitting capacity during the winter,” she said. “People just don’t come out to adopt and we pick up more strays so it can get pretty difficult.”

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