SPCAs across New York state are shifting their focus of operations from surrender intakes to abused and neglected animals as severe cases rise.

Cait Daly, president and CEO of the SPCA of Erie County, said from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 20, 2021, there were 13 animal cruelty arrests among hundreds of cases — which was nearly double the previous year. From Oct. 1, 2022 to July 17, 2023, they have seen seven arrests and many are felonies.

Daly said they are taking in animals that are victims of beating, abandonment, being left outdoors in extreme heat without water or shelter and living in unsanitary conditions.

“It’s incredibly devastating,” said Daly through misty eyes. “It’s been very hard to do this work every day. But I love it. So I do it and we all love it and we care a lot.”

At the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, which serves as the SPCA for Albany and Rensselaer counties, CEO Ashley Jeffrey Bouck said cases are up 156% year over year.

Both shelters now take in fewer surrenders to make room for abused and neglected animals.

“It really disheartens us to have to say no to our community, that we can’t help because there’s literally no space here,” said Jeffrey Bouck.

Daly blames societal issues on the heels of the pandemic, including: 

  • Cost of living increases
  • Uncared for mental health issues
  • Increases in substance abuse
  • Eviction moratorium expiration
  • Fewer spay/neuter surgeries during the pandemic

According to data from the World Animal Foundation, the issue is not localized to New York or the United States, it is global. The foundation said there has been a 16% increase in animal cruelty cases in the United Kingdom over the last year. In the last 10 years, animal cruelty complaints worldwide have increased by 55%.

Daly recommends people consider fostering and adopting to help.