Richard Amper, executive director of the Pine Barrens Society, once again lived up to his true form last Wednesday in his latest bid to stop the rebuild of Kent Animal Shelter. His arguments disintegrated in several instances because some of his statements were dead wrong.
Mr. Amper stated that Kent Animal Shelter’s application for a hardship exemption is not legal because only a governmental agency is eligible for such an exemption. The law clearly states that “any person, state or public corporation” can apply for a hardship exemption. Wrong, Mr. Amper!
Secondly, Mr. Amper stated that Kent Animal Shelter does not serve a public health or safety need. During a 30-minute rant, he stated that even though Kent helps control and manage the feral cat population in the Town of Riverhead, that does not qualify as meeting a beneficial health and safety need.
By controlling the feral cat population, Kent is reducing the risk of infectious diseases such as rabies and toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is transmitted by fecal matter from an infected domestic or feral cat and is sometimes left in gardens by cats wandering the neighborhood. When contracted by pregnant women, the disease may present serious medical issues to an unborn child, such as blindness, mental disability and eye or brain damage later in life. Therefore, a pregnant woman can become infected while gardening or by touching any other surface that has come into contact with an infected cat. Leading public health and safety institutions have documented that the parasite reproduces only in cats — both domestic and wild — but mostly in feral cats that ingest infected meat.
Mr. Amper also stated that there are no incidences of toxoplasmosis on record in Suffolk County. That’s because the county does not record cases of toxoplasmosis as it does rabies, so there could be no evidence of any cases.
Mr. Amper stated that Kent Animal Shelter is threatening the last source of drinking water in New York State. This is an overstatement, since water charged or recharged from the Kent property ends up in the Peconic River and eventually Peconic Bay. The underground aquifer is therefore not at risk.
How can the Pine Barrens Commission take Richard Amper seriously when his statements are full of holes? One can only conjecture about what is really behind his campaign against Kent Animal Shelter.
The commission will hold open the record for public comment through Sept. 11 and render a decision by Oct. 21. This process of designing and getting approvals in order to rebuild our aging facility has already taken years and considerable expense, but Kent’s board of directors, attorney, architect, engineer and supporters will keep going if you will. Many supporters have asked us to tell them where to send letters of support, and that’s what we’re doing.
It just doesn’t make sense that a highly reputable, award-winning shelter established long before the Pine Barrens laws were enacted — and which is proposing an upgrade with improved environmental impacts — shouldn’t be allowed to rebuild.
Ms. Green is executive director of Kent Animal Shelter.