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JAN 06 - JAN 14, 2015

Is Dyster's Proposed $3.2 Million Animal Shelter Plan For the Pits?

By Anna M. Howard

January 06, 2015

Mayor Paul Dyster said that a number of Pit Bulls on a porch generally indicates that home is a drug house.

Niagara Falls - Is Mayor Paul A. Dyster planning to open a city taxpayer funded animal shelter within the next two years and is the city's troublesome pit bull population the real reason for the mayor's dog pound dream?

On November 14 Channel 2 News reporter Jeff Preval's story, "Mayor proposes $3.2 mil for possible animal shelter" reported that the S.P.C.A. was expected to end its relationship with Niagara Falls by 2017, and that Mayor Dyster had earmarked $3.2 million for a city shelter. Preval noted that, "$3.2 million is only an estimate at this time."

The mention of "Mayor Dyster" and "$3.2 million" and "estimate" in the same story should make city taxpayers nervous.

The mayor has earmarked $1.6 million of casino dollars for 2015 and again in 2016 to support his possible animal shelter.

On December 17, Mayor Dyster appeared on the Tom Darro show for his usual, but irregularly scheduled, WJJL radio appearance.

In response to Darro's question regarding the mayor's animal shelter plans, the mayor laid out what he expected to do if he couldn't reach an agreement with the S.P.C.A. Dyster told Darro, "The S.P.C.A. is moving toward no-kill and that's a good thing…if the they want to work it out (a contract) we will work it out."

Dyster said he had a trained police officer to handle animals, a vehicle for animals and added "we've put a place marker of $1.6 million of casino funds in the next two budgets for a building…we may get a not for profit to operate it on contract…we need to get a building or use a current building."

Dyster also said something rather strange while on Darro as he described the dog control problems of Niagara Falls. He said, "When you see guys sitting around on a porch with pit bulls we know what we have, a drug house, right?"

Was the mayor pointing out that there is an illegal drug problem or a dog control problem? Was he linking illicit drugs to troublesome dogs? And is he more concerned about caring for the dogs than removing the drug problem that it's connected to?

Are pit bulls the real, and hidden, reason for the mayor's move to put the cost of an animal shelter on the backs of city taxpayers?

How much of this is a Dyster negotiating ploy to get a better contract with the S.P.C.A? One thing is certain is that if Dyster does build an animal shelter, it will cost the city millions of dollars to operate.

A December 28 Niagara Gazette article by Philip Gambini titled, "As S.P.C.A. of Niagara deals with surplus of pit bulls, officials defend breed" contained two essential takeaway points: pit bulls represent the largest percentage of city dog calls, and pit bulls are lovable, misunderstood animals that make good family pets.

To drive home the point of pit bull lovability the article quoted Kelly Casale, the S.P.C.A. adoption director, Dave Bower, a city police officer and animal officer and Amy Lewis, the S.P.C.A. director.

The question may very well be: Who is more competent to take care of abandoned dogs in Niagara Falls - the SPCA or the city?

Casale owns a rescued pit bull and said, "A dog bites more out of fear…if you give it love and compassion it will show you all the love and compassion you could want."

Lewis said of pit bulls, "A dog can be violent in the same way a person can be violent. You wouldn't judge the entire race on the actions of a single person."

Officer Bower noted that 60 percent of the "loose dog calls" in the city involve pit bulls. He called the breed "gentle giants" saying, "They are some of the most loving dogs I've ever come across."

In the wake of the Channel 2 story, the mayor's remarks on Darro, and the Gazette's pit bull feature we suspect that someone or some group are salting the local media with information to support the Dyster animal shelter plan.

And why would that be?

Well, consider the money at stake…at least $3.2 million by the mayor's admission, just to get started.
Consider that a shelter – whether city run or "on contract with a not for profit" – would require a director, employees, consultants, a building, equipping the building, vehicles, insurance, utilities, promotion and advertising, legal and veterinarian services with all the infrastructure and bureaucracy that comes with it.

Salaries, contracts, services. We know where this is heading: straight onto the backs of city taxpayers.

As for the non-stop Dyster administration mantra that, "These are casino funds not taxpayer dollars" the Reporter continues to insist, "It's all taxpayer funds when the city receives, administers or spends it."

The Gazette recently, and much to their credit, wrote in two articles that city bed tax money (with regard to the New Year's Eve guitar drop) was unquestionably city taxpayer money because all city money is taxpayer money and must be spent responsibly.

It's nothing short of outrageous that the city, at this time in their fiscal history, is even considering taking on the business of animal sheltering whether it's a city run facility or "a contract with a not for profit."

Whatever problems exist between the S.P.C.A. and the city are not insurmountable. The mayor needs to compare the cost of a city animal shelter with the annual cost of the SPCA which is less than $200,000 per year.

Now imagine what the cost of operating a municipal animal shelter will be with a dozen employees, food, veterinary care, heat, air conditioning, equipment, and supplies.

Four city employees alone (not anywhere sufficient to run an animal shelter), with benefits, will surpass the cost of the SPCA contract.
It is inconceivable that a city-run animal shelter will cost less than $1 million per year.

We recommend that the Dyster administration do all it can to reach an agreement with the animal care and control professionals of the Niagara County S.P.C.A.

Mayor Paul Dyster said he may build a taxpayer funded animal shelter in Niagara Falls - if he can’t work matters out with the SPCA.






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