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York County SPCA prepares to start taking in wild animals

Officials at the York County SPCA say they are beginning the process that will enable them to take in wild animals.

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Felix Rodrigues Lima
MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP, PA — Officials at the York County SPCA say they are beginning the process that will enable them to take in wild animals.

The SPCA anticipates it will mostly take in small mammals and birds that are orphaned or injured. It will only accept animals that are brought to its facility on Susquehanna Trail, rather than searching for them in the community.

"Given the void that we saw and the opportunity to maybe fill that need, we decided to dip our toe in the water and see how we could help," York County SPCA executive director Melissa Smith said.

The move comes amid the decline of wildlife rehabilitators in the area. Wendy Looker, one of those rehabilitators here in York County who founded Rehabitat 25 years ago, decided to retire, and her group decided to provide financial resources and know-how to the SPCA.

"They have the advantage of being centrally located, very well-known and having four veterinarians on staff," Looker said.

Veterinarians are allowed under state law to treat wild animals for up to 72 hours before having to transfer them to a state-certified wildlife rehabilitator, but Looker says it can be a different kind of challenge.

"Typically, domestic animals aren't going to try to defend themselves and/or hurt you," she said. "Wild animals, of course, have different kinds of reactions, but frankly, the biggest difference is the stress level of the wild animal."

The York County SPCA already had its first experience with a wild animal in June, in which Looker brought in an injured hawk to the facility and the veterinarians examined it.

"It's the knowledge that we need to gain, and then it's having a holding area that we can have set a side for these animals because we don't intend to keep them long-term," Smith said. "We intend to just be sort of a halfway house until we can get them to the really experienced people that can help them."

The SPCA hopes to have its facility ready to take wild animals in by next spring. Until then, people who see a wild animal than may need attention can call the SPCA, which will point the caller in the right direction, Smith said.

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