November 26, 2021

New energy at SPCA

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Aubree Piermatteo, kennel attendant and office assistant, looks over Layla, who was recently spayed at the Cortland Community SPCA in Cortlandville.

Texas native and former zookeeper with an MBA is the new SPCA shelter manager in Cortlandville.

“I’m a Texan, born and raised. I have lived in Florida the past four years. This is the first time living in the Northeast, a place where there’s snow, and a real fall,” said Emily Bach, 27, of Ithaca.

“My partner is getting her Ph.D at Cornell. We moved up here from Florida,” she said of Ali.

Bach has been overseeing the Cortland Community SPCA since Aug. 3, replacing Sandy Snyder, who retired after about 10 years as manager.

Looking to adopt?

People can see available pets on the www. website.

“I always wanted to work with animals and I have for a long time, in zoos, in sanctuaries, in field work,” Bach said. “I trained animals on stage at Busch Gardens for a while in Florida.”

Bach’s last post was as a public relations and events coordinator at Bishop Animal Shelter in Florida for three years. She has a bachelor’s degree is from Texas A&M in wildlife and fisheries science, with a focus on animal behavior.

She thought she was going to be a zookeeper. And she was, at Lemur Conservatory Foundation in Florida. But she wanted to focus on marketing and the supply chain and do it to benefit animals.

“I decided after doing a lot of those jobs, it was a lot of physical labor,” she said. “I am a small person. I don’t think I would have been able to do that into my 40s and 50s, for the rest of my career. I changed paths and got an MBA.”

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Emily Bach of Ithaca is the new Cortland Community SPCA shelter manager. She comes most recently from Florida, where she was a marketer and program coordinator for an animal shelter there.

Robert Bittner, board member at the SPCA, said leaders there considered five candidates from more than 100 applications. The seven-member board was impressed with Bach because of her mix of experience, plus she was eager to take on the challenges of the small, financially challenged shelter, and had the know how to revamp its website and Facebook page.

She took it upon herself to completely redesign the SPCA website and give it a fresh new look — before she was officially employed, Bittner said.

She has since updated its Facebook page and interacts with the public on a regular basis. She opened an Instagram presence and even ran some GoFundMe fundraisers for animals that needed medical care, Bittner said.

Bach likes New York. “I love working here,” she said. “It is a hard job. But it’s a really rewarding job, taking care of animals and finding homes for them. It’s really satisfying.”

The board wanted fresh new ideas, she said. There’s a progressive movement in animal shelters, moving away from images of the pound and the dog catcher, she said.

“We can help provide resources for the community. We have a food bank. We can provide information for people, training on nutrition, puppy or kitten problems.”

Bach said some information is on the SPCA’s website. But people who adopt can ask the shelter if they are having problems with their new pet, and get help.

Also, she is working on its quarterly fundraising newsletter, which can bring in $25,000 in donations per newsletter. She wants to offer an online version to save money and help the environment.

Bach hopes to create special events after the coronavirus pandemic. It is offering an Oct. 17 Subaru Loves Pets adoption event at a car dealership.

How much to adopt?

  • Cats under six months: $100
  • Kittens, 6 months to year: $50
  • Adult cats: $30
  • Dogs, large: $125
  • Dogs, small: $175
  • Puppies: $250.

Cats are tested for FIV, the cat version on HIV, and feline leukemia.

Cost includes spay/neuter procedure, rabies and distemper vaccines and flea and tick preventative care.

Financially, “we could be better,” she said. “It’s been hard because our census is low.”

She said people are taking better care with their animals during the pandemic, having more time at home. Fewer animals are brought in, though it has seen a recent kitty explosion — 20 cats, along with three dogs.

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

The L kitty litter Sept. 29 at the Cortland Community SPCA in Cortlandville. Litters are labeled by alphabet and all the animals in the litter are named with that letter.

The SPCA is funded from donations, fees, bottle and can donations and contracts with municipalities to handle animal control.

Its low cost spay and neuter clinics take place once a month, 30 animals at a time.

Its foster care program is on hold because of the pandemic, save for one volunteer, Joyce Warner, who cares for neonatal kittens until they are ready for adoption.

At the no-kill shelter, which can house 40 cats and 20 dogs: “I have my hand in everything,” Bach said. She oversees 10 part-time employees, events and public relations. She works with a medical team with a vet tech.

On a Tuesday in September, cat care coordinator Ryan Marcey was getting ready to give Layla, a cat, ear mite medicine with Aubree Piermatteo, a kennel attendant and office assistant.

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Ryan Marcey, cat care coordinator, prepares medicine for ear mites for Layla.

“I love it,” Piermatteo said, as she was checking Layla’s stitches after being spayed. “I have always loved animals, always wanted to work with animals.”

Bach changed the process of adopting a bit. People can pick out an animal they are interested in and fill out an application and then SPCA officials can review from there.

The SPCA is interested in people with a big heart, Bach said.

“There’s no really such thing as a perfect pet owner. It’s not what kind of house they have or what kind of income they have,” Bach said. “Anyone who really cares for their animal.”