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Lewis given 1-year term as SPCA director

WHEATFIELD – Amy Lewis, who has been serving as interim director of the SPCA of Niagara since a scandal over animal care broke at the start of the year, has accepted a one-year contract as executive director, the organization announced Monday.

Lewis, a Lockport resident, joined the SPCA of Niagara from the SPCA Serving Erie County after the ouster of John J. Faso as director of the Niagara County organization.

The scandal over what critics considered excessive and unnecessary euthanasia of animals and other complaints of mismanagement led to a scathing investigative report by Barbara Carr, director of the SPCA Serving Erie County.

Lewis, who had been working for Carr as supervisor of admissions and rescue, was hired as interim director Feb. 15.

The organization's members elected a completely new board of directors May 29.

Lewis said her appointment was for only one year because the new board still may be interested in doing a wider search. "We've gathered momentum, and we don't want to get in the way of some of the events that are coming up," she said.

Asked if she is interested in seeking the director's post in such a search, Lewis answered, "Time will tell. It seems like I have a lot of support. If things keep going well, I would probably be interested."

Lockport Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert, a board member who has volunteered to serve as media spokesman, said, "I think the consensus was a year. There were many problems highlighted in the press that we're just taking a cautious approach. As we get more comfortable as a board, we might do something more long term."

Lewis' salary is $50,000 a year. Lewis said she was hired at an annual rate of $45,000 to be interim director; Faso had been earning $70,000.

"I think we've all realized the organization isn't in a position to pay anyone a ton of money right now," Lewis said. "My being here is not about the money. It's about enjoying what I do and making a difference."

The SPCA's announcement also said that Bob Richardson, law clerk to State Supreme Court Justice Frank Caruso, has been chosen as interim board president. Pamela Bruns, an animal foster parent with the SPCA Serving Erie County, is vice president; David Urban, an accountant, is treasurer; and Michelle Madigan, controller of EGW Associates, is secretary.

Eggert's news release said the survival rate of animals brought to the shelter has jumped under Lewis' management.

"Last year, taking an average of the 
12 months, only 56 percent of the animals left the shelter alive," Lewis said. "For the past four months, 86 percent of the animals left the shelter alive, either through adoption or as strays being returned to their owners."

The SPCA of Niagara charges $150 to adopt an adult dog, $250 for a puppy, $125 for a kitten and up to $75 for an adult cat. Lewis said the cat price depends on age, and the oldest cats can be free.

The SPCA is sponsoring a free parvo virus vaccination clinic from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Ninth Street and Ferry Avenue in Niagara Falls. It's open only to those who can show proof of residency within a 12-block radius of that intersection.

Lewis said other upcoming events include "Dog Days of Summer," a two-day cookout and vendor fair Aug. 25-26, and a casino night in January in Lockport's Tuscarora Inn.