Councilman makes push to hire dog shelter director

01/14/2011 12:28 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Riverhead Town Animal Shelter on Youngs Avenue in Calverton.

Management changes could be in store for the Riverhead Animal Shelter.

Town Councilman Jim Wooten on Thursday met with the head of a local nonprofit animal group, RSVP Inc., as well as Brookhaven Town’s animal shelter director and others to discuss ways to get the Youngs Avenue facility to operate more as a private shelter and adoption center — and less of a municipal pound.

The meeting came as ongoing efforts to privatize the facility have failed, and weeks after a pit bull male mix named Bruno was euthanized by an animal control officer, or ACO, despite efforts from shelter volunteers, other animal activists and Mr. Wooten to bide more time for the animal, which the ACO and a vet had deemed aggressive.

The towns shelter is run by the Riverhead Police Department.

“We basically discussed what some of the common problems are in municipal shelters,” Mr. Wooten said.  “Ours was not unlike many others in the past. The real obstacle with ours is the management structure. An ACO is not a shelter director, nor is the police department. The mind set is to discourage volunteers and get out of the adoption business.

“Well we all know that will never happen, so what is the next best thing? Appointing a shelter director to oversee the care and general operation of the shelter, coordinate with the volunteers, and networking to bring about awareness. The ACO and kennel attendants would answer to them, and they would be directly under the supervisor.”

Such an arrangement would remove the police department from any management functions, with animal control officers sticking strictly to animal control and law enforcement duties, but not operation of the shelter.

“This seems the best solution and one that Brookhaven has been doing,” Mr. Wooten said.

It was not immediately clear how a director position would be funded.

The director of the Brookhaven shelter, which is much larger than the Riverhead shelter, earned $91,661 in 2011, a Brookhaven spokesman said.

Police Chief David Hegermiller has said getting dogs adopted should not be the function of a town police department, although Thursday he noted that about 100 dogs were adopted from the shelter last year, with only about eight having been killed. He also said adopting out potentially dangerous dogs from the town shelter could make the town susceptible to lawsuits.

Sue Hansen of Rocky Point, who runs the RSVP (Responsible Solutions for Valued Pets) animal rescue group, has long complained of  management and other inadequacies at the shelter,  sent an email to supporters after Thursday’s meeting saying everyone in the meeting agreed a director “is key to a good shelter.”

Mr. Wooten said he will relay what happened at the meeting to the rest of the Town Board members for the group to discuss possible way to enact some of the proposed changes, which would also involve the town’s animal advisory committee in decisions on whether or not to euthanize a shelter dog.

The committee “is made up of local residences who understand the many different types and breeds of dogs,” Mr. Wooten said.

In an interview Friday, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said he agreed hiring a director is a good idea, but he predicted the town would be hard pressed to make such a move after recently laying off about a dozen employees.

“But there are some other things that we’re looking at ,” he said. “One of the things is that, rather than taking these dogs in and keeping them for long periods of time, maybe some other shelters up west could take our dogs for a fee; maybe it’s easier to adopt a dog up-Island where the population is higher.”

He said Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller is currently searching for shelters that would accept dogs from Riverhead “if we send them a check.”

The supervisor said he recalled the shelter costing about $240,000 to operate last year, although the town has since eliminated the second animal control officer position, which will result in some savings. “But we’re going to spend even more money because we are going to get veterinary help for these dogs,” the supervisor said. “The Town Board has been sticking its head in the sand too long with the animal shelter and I’m not going to do that.”

mwhite@timesreview.com

Read more in the Jan. 20 edition of the News-Review.

16 Comment

  • hire some one you just let go a animal control officer .but it is a good idea.
    bring sean mcabee back as shelter director he got a long with the volunteers
    and did a good job.just a side note you do not need a aco 2 when you have no aco 1 to supervise

  • The Town cant even run an animal shelter properly.

    What makes everyone think they can run the entire Town properly?

  • Rather than hire a director for the shelter, why not assign John Reeve the responsibility. He is presently the sanitation department supervisor with a part time job since the landfill has closed. Add the dog shelter to his responsibilities and let him earn his full time salary.

  • Has “Go-Green … found a better way”?

    As the only, or at least the only apparent individual who has spoken up about the need to improve Southold Town’s municipal solid waste practices, I believe Go-Green is green wash. By promoting disposal of the entire waste stream, Go-Green is reversing the environmental and economic progress made over the past 40 years.

    The only things better about Go-Green are the direct cost and convenience.

    The problems with Go-Green are higher life-cycle and external costs.

    It is wrong for Supervisor Russell to take the option of enforcing the Town Code by ticketing carters who are operating illegally off the table. I do not believe that the Town Board has taken such an immoral and illegal position.

    The first thing Southold Town government should do is whatever it takes to find out where the waste picked up by Go-Green is going.

    It would be more convenient and less expensive for Southold Town to simply dump our trash off the end of Orient Point. I don’t think that would be a better way, do you?

  • Hi Benja. We have not taken the violation of the carters off the table. What we do not intend to do is to issue based on customer count. There would be no practical way to determine how many customers any given vendor has. We are approaching this from a larger perspective. Further, town personel have gone to the Medford facilityto determine if the waste is being recycled and the collective judgement is no. It is going to West Virginia. However, to be fair to the carter, I plan on going the the facility myself.

  • In the letter about the garbage and yellow bags the town states that they are “revenue neutral” however in Dec. I read in the Suffolk Times that the town will lose money if people stopped needing the yellow bags and they were not sure how they would make up that money. So which is it?? I’m confused.. Does anyone else remember reading that??

  • I read that same letter and did not agree with the premise made by the writer. He is the manager of the Town’s transfer station and made that based on the assumption that we would still operate at current services/levels. The fact is that if we do not have to “handle” the municipal’ waste at that site, we do not incur any costs for the municipal waste that is not brought there. There is a problem with ‘fixed’ costs there such as debt service, etc. However, I assure you, the yellow bag fee system is only in place to off set the cost of hauling the residential waste offsite that comes in a yellow bag. The costs other municipal waste that is brought there and needs to be hauled are covered by the scale costs collected at the site. Scott

  • The permit to run the transfer station is under the jurisdiction of the DEC. Please remember that it is State Law and Town Law to recycle. The issue of fairness to local carters is important. They made the changes necessary to comply years ago. This includes hiring local people who need the work. If you have been reading the Patch then you should already know that I have already told a writer that i am looking into how Southampton is able to have both and still keep the DEC permit to operate. I also said that I have no problem changing the rules as long as the rules get changed for everyone. Scott

  • “As the only, or at least the only apparent individual who has spoken up about the need to improve Southold Town’s municipal solid waste practices, ”

    Oh Benja, you’re just so modest.

  • If it is a DEC law they are violating, then let the DEC issue the violation. If it is a town law, then issue the damn violation already, and stop talking about it. It seems like the town is hessitent to move, and to me that can only mean something is wrong. If it was a clear violation, we would not be having this conversation, it would be done already.

  • There is nothong wrong with Lou as Head of RAC……it’s the nutty volunteers that can’t mind there own damn business. Have one of the volunteers control an aggressive dog, that these local airheads use as fighting dogs, I would love to see that.

  • lol tell me about it

  • lol tell me about it