Shelter director named one of top 10 U.S. animal defenders


Susquehanna SPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes was recognized as one of the country’s top 10 animal defenders by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Haynes was among a list of prosecutors, law enforcement officials, lawmakers and others who fight for justice for animals, according to the charity’s website.

“I’m so honored,” Haynes said. “I think it comes at a really good time to help us create additional awareness.”

The Otsego County Animal Cruelty Task Force, formed by Haynes and partners in spring 2019, is what caught the charity’s attention, she said. Haynes worked with Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl and Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin to create the task force, according to the website. Other partners are Otsego County Undersheriff Cameron Allison, SQSPCA Veterinary Technician Sara Haddad, Oneonta Veterinary Hospital’s Dr. Joan Puritz and Dr. Christine Schneider of the Leatherstocking Veterinary Group.

The purpose of the task force is to streamline how animal cruelty cases are handled, Haynes said. Often, the shelter gets calls about animal cruelty which should be directed to law enforcement. But without extensive education in state Agricultural and Market law, which animal cruelty falls under, law enforcement can’t always handle those cases.

Another goal of the task force is to equip them with additional information, she said.

“We are not humane law enforcement,” Haynes said. “We have no authority to investigate, to enter a scene, to issue a warrant, to have people arrested. That’s why this group is essential because we get reports all the time.”

In large-scale animal abuse cases, there’s often an outpouring of support from people want to help in some way, Haynes said.

“We don’t want to waste that interest or people’s passion, so we’re writing a grant to put together a public forum that would be part education — what constitutes animal cruelty, how to report and when to report — and a portion where the general public can talk about their concerns,” Haynes said.

Haynes said many laws don’t support animals, and people might be dismayed at some of the answers to their questions. Still, she said, it’s important for people to be aware.

“We want to educate them so they feel empowered in this fight,” Haynes said.

Haynes said she credited SQSPCA staff and supporters for their efforts fighting area animal cruelty and for boosting the shelter’s efforts. Muehl and Devlin also deserve recognition for their parts in getting the task force running, she said.

“If we didn’t have their buy-in and their support, this task force would be a joke and would’ve gone nowhere,” Haynes said.

Muehl said the task force is trying to improve animal cruelty case outcomes little by little, and he praised Haynes’ passion and dedication.

“She does a really good job,” Muehl said. I don’t think I had anything to do with her getting the award. She did it on her own.”

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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