Fulton Council, Oswego County SPCA Partner Up

Four people pose with a kitten
(Left to right) Carol Gardner, Tanya Semchenko, Dennis Merlino, Caroline Anderson. Photo provided by: Tanya Semchenko

FULTON – Oswego County SPCA and the Fulton Common Council have teamed up in an effort to better the quality of life for pets and strays in the city.

For several years the city has had a problem with the number of feral stray cats and unspayed/unneutered animals and both groups have tried to come up with solutions before Fifth Ward Councilor Dennis Merlino and Oswego County SPCA President Tanya Semchenko met and realized they were both trying to do the same thing.

“We think we have a law that can help control the feral cats without infringing on the rights of animal owners and animal lovers,” Merlino said. “We think it’s going to be very successful just for making sure the animals have their best quality of life.”

The proposed law would require all dogs and cats that go outside the owner’s home or outside the owner’s control to be spayed or neutered. This would decrease the number of stray animals in the city.

Merlino said if a pet is seen outdoors and it does not appear to be fixed, they would take it in, make sure it is healthy and up to date on its shots and then rerelease it, potentially with a fee to the owner.

The proposed law is still in discussion to figure out the right way to control the issue.

“Now, we think we have our best option of the first steps of actually addressing this between a simple law and funding to implement the law,” Merlino said. “We think this is a perfect meeting of the [Oswego County] SPCA and the Fulton City Council.”

Oswego County SPCA has been helping animals in the county since 1973 and is run entirely by volunteers. They rely solely on donations and are not funded by the state or the ASPCA. They do not run a shelter but instead have foster homes for pets while they wait to be adopted.

Their office is based in Fulton, located in the basement of the State Street United Methodist Church.

Semchenko said she recognized that Fulton is a city undergoing revitalization and wanted to help the animals get a better quality of life along with the people in the city.

In addition to working with the Common Council on the proposed law, Semchenko said SPCA is working on the stray cat issue by trying to find placement for them.

“One of the initiatives we already have underway, and have for a couple of months now – and it’s not just open to the residents of Fulton – we have a food pantry for pets,” Semchenko said.

The pet food pantry is located in their office and the hours can be found on their Facebook page, but they are able to meet outside those hours in an emergency.

“We wanted to make sure that no pet went hungry and that people also didn’t feel that they needed to surrender their animals because maybe they were going through a difficult hardship,” Semchenko said.

Longterm, Semchenko said she would like to be able to offer low cost spay/neuter, a microchip clinic and a wellness clinic to Fulton residents.

Semchenko said people can help them by donating to the pet food pantry, donate to help spay and neuter pets, volunteer or become a foster home (SPCA covers the cost and veterinarian bills).

Kate Fire began volunteering with Oswego County SPCA seven years ago after she adopted her cat from them. She was so grateful they nursed the cat back to health after being in a terrible hoarding situation and so she wanted to help out more animals.

“Everybody wants a pet because pets are wonderful, but I know that a big issue for some is affording to spay or neuter, and even sometimes the medical care,” Fire said.

She helps with events and various tasks. At Woofstock, she sits the registration table and makes sure the pets are all up to date on their shots.

“I think everybody at Oswego County SPCA is amazing,” Fire said. “The volunteers are very selfless and always give up their time to rescue and improve the lives of all the animals under their care.”

– July 24, 2019 statement by First Ward Councilor Tom Kenyon

“The article about Councilman Merlino is all wrong. He brought the SPCA people in to our legislative meeting. There was councilors Merlino, Ritchie, Patrick, and Kenyon at the meeting. The four of us only agreed to partner with SPCA to educate people about the cats. In no way did we agree to pick up people’s cats take them to get spayed and neutered then bring them back and charge the owner. His story is false and has people calling the councilors complaining about the story. Besides we would have to do a resolution to make this law. Trying to clear this up. Thank You – Tom Kenyon.”


  1. I do not like your law you want to impose on people. You want to spay and neuter feral animals thats one thing but to go in someones yard and take their pet because they chose not fix them is wrong and then charge them to get their pet back that is wrong many people in this area are on fixed incomes and your going to put both people and pets in extremely stressful situations. To me that is not a solution. I can see if they are running free but out on a chain in their own yard minding their own business that is just wrong .

  2. There is a huge feral colony on N 4th Street behind Mimi’s. It has been there for many years. Isn’t there a program in place to trap, spay and neuter them?

  3. Only reported feral animals, like feral cats living in sheds or garages of abandoned properties, would be considered for health testing, spaying, neutering, and finding new homes. For household pets we encourage spaying or neutering, microchipping, and all vaccinations. SPCA is trying to bring more low cost clinics to Fulton to make these services more available to all pet owners.

  4. Mr. Merlino, that is not what you said in the paper. Change your mind more than you change your drawers. It says that any pet that is outside an appears not to be fixed will be picked up and taken in and a fee will be charged to the pet owner. Feral cats are a problem but who is going to pay for them to be spayed or neutered, and if it is a pet and you spayed or neutered it and the owner didn’t want that done, who is going to pay the court costs. Get you face out of the paper and into doing your job.

  5. I do not want my tax dollars used this way. The City does not have funds for a full time animal controller let alone for one to go and look at animals to see if they are spayed and neutered. Hold a fundraiser to raise $$ for a program for feral cats. Use tax dollars for roads, community projects,

  6. I’m proud to support that this pairing with the SPCA will address the problems of feral cats without using taxpayer money. We are working to inform the public that the Oswego County SPCA, which runs 100% on donations and is now located in Fulton, will be running this program, and with the help of City Council and the Public, will have better access to abandoned properties and improved information of what areas may have problems with feral cats. The goal is to bring these animals up to proper health to be adopted out to responsible loving families.

  7. Mr. Merlino this is a far cry from what the original story was, do you realize how foolish you look? You need to fact check before you put a big story in the paper about this. For over a year and a half you were completely absent and now boom your all in our faces. So what is the truth obviously we will never find it out from you, since you dont know how to handle the truth.

  8. It is not the person who is in the articles job to fact check, that is the job of the editor and the writer. If they misquoted then it’s on them. Dennis Merlino has not ONLY been in the paper recently, he has been in it for the last two years, maybe this is the first time you’ve read one! He is actively involved in anything that is community based. He sponsors CNY ARTS, FULTON JAZZ FEST, FULTON BLOCK BUILDERS, FULTON MUSIC ASSOCIATION, FULTON FURY, FRIENDS OF FULTON PARKS, THE FULTON LIBRARY AND NOW THE SPCA. He has always been actively looking for ways to make the community better and I am very proud of him. He walks the ward daily cleaning up the trash left by others. He works tirelessly for this community. I am very proud to support Dennis Merlino!

  9. I completely disagree with your statement, it is up to the person involved to give the correct information to the reporter they only report what is told to them. If this in fact was misinformation then Mr. Merlino should retract his statement and make it right. But of course he didn’t and it’s never his fault. It’s his pattern to embellish the truth. Typical politician.

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