- What : Putnam County SPCA & Friends Annual Dinner and Fundraiser
- When : Friday, Oct. 28, 7 p.m.
- Where : Four Brothers Restaurant, Mahopac
- Tickets : $55. Click here to purchase.
PUTNAM COUNTY, N.Y. -- Most pet owners in Putnam County love their animals. The ones who don’t have to answer to Ken Ross, the chief of the Brewster-based Putnam County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Ross founded the Putnam County SPCA in 2010. Working with his son and an additional officer, Ross has the huge task of keeping animals safe throughout the 246 square miles of the county. Ross also raises money for the SPCA. The organization receives just $3,000 from Putnam County and $5,000 from the town of Carmel, and the rest of its budget comes from donations through supporters.
The Putnam County SPCA’s mission is to prevent cruelty to all animals by enforcing New York State cruelty statutes, providing medical care and shelter to abused animals, and providing humane education to schools and other interested groups. Putnam County, with its abundant open space and large percentage of people that enjoy animals, has also seen its share of animal cruelty situations.
“It runs the gamut,’’ Ross said. “There have been situations with horses. We’ve responded to communities near lakes where geese have been shot at. People don’t realize all types of animals are protected. It’s not just dogs and cats. We’ve seen everything.”
Ross, whose background is in security and investigations, was working at the SPCA in Westchester when he was asked to start the Putnam County SPCA. He has police authority, and can arrest people who he suspects have mistreated animals. He also writes up the charges, seizes animals and makes court appearances, if necessary. He is on call 24/7, 365 days a year.
Ross has seen his share of disturbing abuse. A few years ago in Putnam Lake, he received a report of a severed head of cat in the middle of the road, and there were indications the suspect might be a serial killer in the making. Ross’ investigation discovered two other similar cases in Connecticut that may have been perpetrated by the same suspect.
He also recalled receiving a sheriff’s department report of a woman who was bit by a snake. The woman died, but Ross also found more than 70 snakes at the property -- none of them indigenous to New York State and more than 50 were poisonous.
“We’ve seen animals that have been abandoned, beaten or in bad shape,’’ Ross said. “People are capable of just about anything.”
He said some situations leave him losing faith in humanity. In one instance, he found a house where a person cared for 35 cats. “The individual doesn’t see the cats are infected, sick and he or she is there arguing with you. It’s so bad you know you have to burn your uniform afterwards. It’s a sad thing. The goal is to make things better for the animals, and ultimately humans,'' Ross said.
Rescuing and protecting animals might not even be Ross’ biggest challenge. He’s also responsible for securing the funds the agency needs to survive. Most SPCAs, he said, have been around for more than 100 years and have developed a fundraising base. As a newer agency, Ross has to open his own financial doors.
The Putnam County SPCA also gets confused by residents with a humane society. Several years ago, a former Pound Ridge police car Ross had been using as his agency’s vehicle was involved in an accident. He sought community help for a new car, and a resident offered Ross $50,000 to help purchase a car and help with expenses, such as insurance. “He said he’d been sending us money every month,’’ Ross said. “He mistook us with the humane society. When he found out he withdrew the offer. I had to take a three-hour walk to clear my head after that.”
Putnam County SPCA’s annual fundraiser is planned for Friday, Oct. 28, at Four Brothers Restaurant in Mahopac. Ross is soliciting advertising for the event journal, and people can purchase tickets on the organization website.
Ross said he tries to help pet owners by offering education and information. “For instance with horses, people find out that they can’t afford a veterinarian. We see that a lot. We’ll give them guidance and go back and check in on them. With the diversity of animals in Putnam County, and tons of acres of property, you have to take one step at a time and try to work with people,'' he said.
Ross’ position has a myriad of financial and logistical challenges, and he’s seen the sad plight of some animals. But he finds his work rewarding.
“We’ve seen how people abuse animals,’’ Ross said. “But that’s often the first step. Then they’ll abuse people. If we can address that first, we can save a lot of people. Sometimes you get down. But then you see all these little victories. At the end of the day, you know you made a difference, and that keeps you going.”
For more information on the Putnam County SPCA, click here to visit its website.