The North Fork Animal Welfare League formally took over operations of Riverhead Town’s animal shelter Friday morning.
The nonprofit organization has been running Southold Town’s shelter since 1980, and Riverhead officials and animal lovers had been trying to get the group to take over Riverhead’s troubled shelter for years.
The town signed a three-year contract with NFAWL in December for $223,135 for the first year, with 2 percent bumps for each of the next two years.
“I am excited about the new venture,” said the group’s executive director, Gillian Wood Pultz, during an interview Friday morning at the shelter. “There’s a lot of places we can go here and lot of improvements we can make. Southold is almost done. We have the new shelter, we have all our programs set up. It’s like starting anew here.”
NFAWL not only will take over the operation of the town shelter, it also will take over the animal control function from the town, as it does in Southold Town.
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter welcomed NFAWL aboard at Thursday’s public Town Board work session, saying, “We’re going to do what we can to help you. I’m sure it will go seamlessly.”
In Riverhead, NFAWL has Ms. Pultz, who is an animal control officer herself, along with three other staff members: animal control officer Alisha Posteraro, kennel attendant Tammy Henderson and kennel attendant Ariel Reichel, who will be certified as an animal control officer soon.
Ms. Reichel had worked for the town as a kennel attendant and is now employed by NFAWL.
The two full-time employees that had been working for the town at the shelter are being moved to other positions, officials said.
Riverhead Town’s shelter has had a rocky relationship with animal lovers and volunteers over the years.
Many volunteers have claimed the town was restricting them from helping at the shelter, and the town largest non-police employee union, the Civil Service Employees Association, had even challenged some volunteer efforts in years past on the grounds that the volunteers were taking union jobs.
The CSEA had filed a grievance over the town’s contract with NFAWL, too, but Mr. Walter said this week the issue has been resolved, as those worker will still work for the town in other capacities.
The NFAWL employees are not in the union, and Ms. Pultz says she welcomes volunteers.
“I have a whole file ‘this big’ of blank volunteer applications,” Ms. Pultz. “Anyone can come in to fill out an application and they are going to be considered just like everybody else.
If it’s determined the town had a good reason for not letting someone volunteer, that person might not be allowed to volunteer for NFAWL either.
But, Ms. Pultz added, “We’re starting over with a clean slate.”