Turn Around for SPCA of Niagara

March 3, 2013 Updated Mar 3, 2013 at 8:31 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

March 3, 2013 Updated Mar 3, 2013 at 8:31 PM EDT

Niagara, NY (WKBW) - It's been more than a year since a scathing report of animal cruelty and mismanagement was released against administrators at the SPCA of Niagara.

Now, 14 months later, there has been a complete turn around.

The SPCA of Niagara went from being the target of local animal rights protests, to doubling the number of dogs and cats it puts in loving, and forever, homes.

In January of 2012, an investigation revealed that hundreds of dogs and cats were unnecessarily enthused, often using painful techniques.

At it's worst in 2011, just 29-percent of animals who entered the shelter survived.

That number has worked its way up to 99-percent in December of 2012.

Shelters are considered "no-kill" when that rate is at 90-percent or higher.

Amy Lewis, who took over as Shelter Director after the scandal broke in 2012, says "We've been steadily increasing our no-kill rates for three or four months."

"The past year has been pretty tumultuous," Lewis tells Eyewitness News. "Things are beginning to settle down and we're really starting to dig our fingers into things that should have happened decades ago."

Those new missions include starting parvo clinics, fixing mismanaged funds and finding ways to invest in the shelter.

An in-house spay and neuter program could be in the not-so-distant future.

In recent months, the SPCA of Niagara has made headlines for saving animals and taking on a role investigating animal cruelty cases.

That includes rescuing 70 cats from an alleged hoarder in Somerset in July of 2012, saving 64 pomeranians from a suspected illegal puppy mill in Lockport in February and taking 50 cats from a North Tonawanda home just this week.

"I got it into my head that we really needed a new image for the shelter," Lewis says. "I didn't want any of that old stigma lying around."

The image is now different from the inside and out. The shelter even put up a new sign this week.

The shelter now has 100 volunteers and a foster program that has helped more than 800 animals.

However, the shelter does have one major hurtle: money. It is always asking for donations.

Rescuing so many animals and keeping as many alive as possible is pricey -- but Lewis says it is completely worth it.