No-kill does not mean poor care and warehousing animals without the intentional killing. It means modernizing shelter operations so that animals are well cared for and kept moving efficiently and effectively through the shelter and into homes.” — Nathan Winograd, originator of the no-kill movement.

Lauren Melella, Global Animal

The Cattaraugus County SPCA No-Kill Animal Shelter. Photo Credit: buffalo.ynn.com
The Cattaraugus County SPCA No-Kill Animal Shelter. Photo Credit: buffalo.ynn.com

Contrary to its claim to be a no-kill shelter, the Cattaraugus County SPCA in Olean, New York, is considered to be a perversion of no-kill by a number of former volunteers, board members, and concerned citizens. In fact, many are claiming the shelter is one of the more dangerous places for an animal to reside. 

Kelly Chaffee, former CCSPCA President and Board Member, has been quick to say that “the facility has been no-kill since 1985.”

But many maintain that just because the animals are not euthanized at the shelter, does not mean that they are not emotionally and physically suffering. There is substantial proof regarding the neglect that these innocent animals suffer every single day. Animals at this facility are said to be confined in kennels for years, without socialization, veterinary care, or opportunities for placement into loving homes. 

One Citizens for Cattaraugus County SPCA Reform member says, “Animals just lay there and die. There is no routine for vet care.”

Photo Credit: Facebook
Photo Credit: Facebook

Countless of outraged members of the community point to Kelly Chaffee’s 28-year reign as President of the CCSPCA as the main driving force behind the shelter’s abuse and neglect. With a range of allegations including a DUI in an SPCA van, illegal loans, and a record of suspected neglect of thousands of helpless animals, those looking to reform the shelter can’t help but assume the only interest behind this shelter is that of monetary gain.

Records indicate that in 2011, the SPCA took in over $420,000. Yet a number of individuals are wondering where this money is going, as many bills are said to remain unpaid and have accumulated over the years.

In addition, the facility’s roof has reportedly been leaking for several years and a number of employees have complained regarding the constant lack of hot water and heat, especially during the cold winters. But according to the CCSPCA’s website, the shelter has finally decided to repair their roof as of April 15. 

Former Animal Control Officer for the City of Olean and Cruelty Investigator for CCSPCA, Phillip Barrett, is another accused culprit behind the scenes at the CCSPCA. Also said to be Kelly Chaffee’s boyfriend, Barrett is facing multiple counts of Felony Forgery charges stemming from alleged falsifying a veterinarian’s name on numerous rabies vaccination certificates. The case is set for trial June 11, 2013 in County Court, Little Valley, NY.

Many are concerned that these violations, in particular, have put the whole community’s health at risk.

“This is no joke. When you forge a rabies certificate, you put lives at risk and that’s where you need to draw the line,” said Morgan Dunbar, director, Animal Allies of Western New York.

To make matters even worse, it’s also been said that not one licensed medical staff member works at the CCSPCA, despite claims that its “medical area” serves as “temporary housing for animals in need of medical attention, rehabilitation, or recovery time where they can receive individual treatment from our medical staff.” 

Shane was sick for months, throwing up, and losing weight. Left to languish in the CCSPCA's "medical unit," without ever seeing a vet, Shane was found dead in his kennel. Photo credit: Kristi Solari.
Shane was said to have been sick for months, throwing up, and losing weight. Left to languish in the CCSPCA’s “medical unit,” without ever seeing a vet, Shane
was eventually found dead in his kennel. Photo Credit: Kristi Solari.

Aurora Cremen, a former employee, recalls her time at the CCSPCA, stating, “The people in charge didn’t allow us to take animals to the vet. Some got infections and died. Many remained hurt in their cages for a very long time. There is a ‘vet office,’ but never an actual vet or anybody with any kind of medical training and I had to perform surgeries. We had to cut open dogs with scalpels and stitch them up.”

Kennel Attendant Ryan Bordner and former employee Linda Vane have also described multiple occasions when animals in emergency situations went without medical care for days.

In a special investigation conducted by the Niagara Falls Reporter, reporters witnessed first hand the neglect and abuse the animals at the CCSPCA truly endure. They found multiple kittens with substantial ocular and nasal discharge, as well as lethargic behavior. In the misnamed “Kitty Kingdom,” housing approximately 70 cats, they found it disturbing to see so many cats showing obvious signs of upper respiratory distress, with nasal discharge, ocular discharge, and open mouth breathing.

In the dog kennels, the majority of the animals in this area were literally bouncing off the walls, some circling repeatedly at high speeds and some appearing to self-mutilate, continually chewing on their paws and tails. The investigation found the stench of urine and feces throughout the facility to be overpowering. They also observed mice scurrying down hallways and under doors. 

According to Dunbar, “The despair and suffering I witnessed at the facility are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Each and every animal inside that facility is in desperate need of help.”

Cats showing signs of respiratory infection, nasal discharge, ocular discharge, and open mouth breathing. Photo credit: Niagara Falls Reporter
Cats showing signs of respiratory infection, nasal discharge, ocular discharge, and open mouth breathing. Photo Credit: Niagara Falls Reporter

But despite claims of the shelter being “a horror story,” one Olean citizen said, “I have been in the SPCA. I would say the conditions are less than good, but in the cases of some of the animals, it is better than being on the street.”

The Cattaraugus County SPCA has reached out to the community for help in the past, claiming that public complaints and criticism has hurt their fundraising resources.

“Get your hands dirty. Get up here and help us out. We are always looking for supplies. Any dog food, cat food, treats, bleach, cleaning supplies, people to come up and just clean the windows, wash the doors. Staff don’t get time to do that they are crazy busy taking care of all the animals,” Chaffee once told YNN Buffalo.

In a September 2012 article published in the Olean Times Herald, John Jeselnick, writes about his experience as a CCSPCA volunteer:

“As a volunteer since summer 2010, I have observed animals’ care and conditions, questioned needs, and been rebuffed often by management. I have seen a lack of proper vet care for a few chronically sick cats. Yes, other animals with burns, dangling limbs and abuses are given immediate vet care…My major concern is that sick animals are not given enough vet care early when it counts.”

Freezers hold dead animals.  Photo credit: Niagara Falls Reporter
Freezers are said to hold dead animals. Photo Credit: Niagara Falls Reporter

He continues, “We have rescued four cats from the SPCA, donated hundreds of dollars in supplies, and I worked countless hours. The workers are dedicated, yet volunteers often walk away saying that conditions won’t change…Management does not welcome input, critical or constructive. The officials will gladly take your money and help. Progressive, receptive board members leave because their ideas and logical goals and queries are not accepted.”

This letter of concern subsequently resulted in the banning of his volunteer work at the shelter.  

Another Citizens for Cattaraugus County SPCA Reform member said, “Those who have (tried to affect change from within) have been reprimanded, threatened, intimidated, suspended, fired and banned from the facility.”

Regardless, Chaffee has denied these allegations. “I think a lot of our supporters absolutely know that everything being said is not only unfounded but they’re ridiculous allegations. On top of that, they’re spiteful and they’re inflammatory and hurting the animals,” Chaffee told YNN Buffalo.

Yet, many believe this shelter’s negligence has carried on for far too long and maintain that the CCSPCA needs to be reformed from the ground up, starting with replacements of those in charge and a revision of priorities. Activists fear that if something isn’t done soon, animals will only continue to suffer a slow and inevitable death in “a prison disguised as a humane facility.”

Tina Wedge, former Board Member and current CCSPCA volunteer, said, “As soon as it becomes very clear that all those responsible for the ongoing crisis are removed from having control over these animals and these animals are going to get the care they’ve deserved for all these years, this community is going to rally beyond belief.”

Hundreds of signatures have been collected on petitions demanding that the contract between the city and CCSPCA be terminated and that alternative animal control services be pursued.

If the current board of directors resigns, the Citizens for Cattaraugus County SPCA Reform claim they “have something in the books right now” with a board in place and veterinary cooperation.

UPDATE: After reading this article, the CCSPCA Board Members responded with the following statement:

“We have responded to these allegations on a number of occasions in the past and they have been proven to be false, yet this small group of people continues to persist with the same negative campaign. We have spent the past year with a positive vision moving forward on a number of new initiatives and will continue to do so. We truly feel that all this time spent engaging in a negative personal-attack campaign takes our energy and resources away from what we really need to be focusing on – which is giving the animals in our shelter the best care we possibly can.”

Petition requesting that Cattaraugus County Municipal Officials terminate contracts with the CCSPCA.

Petition urging the current CCSPCA Board of Directors to resign.

Another petition urging the current CCSPCA Board of Directors to resign.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. In addition to the problems with the shelter, we have to deal with activists that come and claim they want to help, but soon lose interest as soon as the cameras are gone, such as the group who created the first petition listed. Animal Allies came wanting to help started their petition and have since abandoned it. Their leader came to a local council meeting and publicly stated “half-truths” giving the shelter fodder to proclaim us as liars, causing us a lot of damage. We since have asked them to step away and no longer interfere.
    The same can be said for the last listed petition, who were also reform group members, but also have abandoned their petition and have lost their focus, instead teaming up with the shelter which has since caused them to be served with a law suit and losing the TV publicity we worked hard to get..again causing us much undo damage.
    The remaining founding members of the group are still working day and night to do anything possible to have these people removed, such as soliciting the help of Global Animal to make our story known

  2. Unfortunately, she is. We try desperately to gain access to the supposed "public" financial records, but she refuses to release them. We have people "obtaining" copies by other means. We have covert videos of inside workings that would turn your stomach. Local government backs and protects her due to personal relations with members of local government.
    You also have to consider the power this woman yields, with her partner being the ACI/DCO if you cause her any kind of grief, you run the risk of them confiscating your pets in retaliation, of which there is no recourse. She has done this many times to many people so locals live in
    fear of having their pets taken away.

  3. Irene, we have many, many times! This woman is a vile drunk and will blatenly look you in the eye and tell you "its none of your business". Ms Chaffee hired a bookkeeper and told her"Dont ever ask to see a bank statement, you wont get one, just write the checks I tell you to", needless to say the newly hired bookkeeper walked out.
    This is why we are doing what we are doing, to let the world know of the illegal activity. The worst part is the Mayor of our city knows exactly whats going on, and doesnt care. Why? Because the mayor is best friends with this woman so she protects her!

  4. What is wrong with this city that they can't get rid of this woman who treats the shelter as her personal fiefdom? Where is the audit of the shelter's financial records? What is WRONG with the board of directors? Are they not her boss? Surely Kelly Chaffee is not Goddess over the entire animal welfare system there? There is no excuse for animals to be neglected psychologically, hygenically & medically. She needs to be taken out.

  5. I used to support the SPCA as did my business… then in 2005 my step daughter answered an ad in the news paper for a job, interviewed and was told that she would have to work a 2 week trial period as a volunteer first… no problem. at the end of the 2 week "volunteer" trial her and all the other kids that worked their butts off to prove themselves worthy of a minimum wage job were ALL told they didn't qualify… 4 months later one of my customers told me the same thing happened to his son… this is how they keep costs down apparently.

  6. Come on citizens, DEMAND to know where your donations are going, whether in personal pockets or otherwise. DEMAND to know why veterinary care is witheld for sick animals, DEMAND to know why very few animals are adopted out of this hell-hole, but most of all, DEMAND an invesitigation into this most uncaring, place with its most uncaring 'manager' Things will only change if enough people shout loud enough. Get rid of this jobs-worth manager and employ someone who will actually WORK for the benefit of the animals, trying their utmost to get as many rehomed as possible. someone who actually possess compassion, empathy and, most of all, moral ethics.

  7. I can say from personal experience, this shelter is an "animals HELL on earth". When first relocating here, I contacted the shelter to offer my services FREE of charge to help rehab the animals to give them the best possible chance of finding a forever home. While speaking with Ms Chaffee on the phone, she asked "What kind of experience do you have?" I went into my extensive background and training history, and when I was finished her only reply was to spew obscenities at me and hang up the phone.

    Due to her illegal activities at the shelter, she prefers to have people with no animal training or background working at the shelter, so that when things are handled improperly, they wont know she is neglecting the animals, or stealing from shelter funds. Individuals that do, are banned from the property and confronted with threats of arrest. In addition to those threats, individuals confronting her or causing trouble, run the risk of having their own personal pets confiscated in retaliation by her partner, who also happens to be the local animal control officer. And once these pets are taken, there is no recourse and the animals are never seen again.

    The community knows very well the goings on there and try desperately to save animals from her neglect by wanting to adopt, but are continually denied. One potential adopter, who is also a licensed vet tech, took his family there wanting to adopt a cat, and picked out the cat who had been housed there the longest, 8 years, and was denied with the explanation, that "They would not care for the cat properly"and in addition to that heart breaking blow, they kept the adoption application fee, which is common practice so these fees can be diverted for her personal use.

    People word wide must step up and help us confront and remove these individuals…it is the only way we can save these animals from a slow torturous death at the hands of cold hearted people who care for nothing but their own monetary gain.