01/05/14 3:30pm
01/05/2014 3:30 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town's animal control building on Youngs Avenue.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town’s animal control building on Youngs Avenue.

As the old saying goes, no news is good news.

And while we in the news industry might not agree with that statement as often as others might — try telling that to the people of the year, for example — staying under the radar can often be a pretty good thing.

Case in point, the Riverhead Town animal shelter.

Just over a year ago, the Riverhead Town Board contracted with the nonprofit North Fork Animal Welfare League, which has long run Southold Town’s facility, to take over operation of the Riverhead shelter March 1, 2013.

The decision came after years of controversy at the shelter, which had earned a reputation among animal advocates as an unhealthy, unfriendly environment. Critics chastised police chief David Hegermiller, who somehow ended up in charge of rounding up stray animals. Stronger criticism was focused on the head animal control officer, especially following the late 2011 killing of a shelter dog named Bruno, which most agreed was unnecessary. After months of avoiding the public spotlight, the officer eventually resigned.

Frustrated with the way things were being handled at the shelter, Denise Lucas launched a campaign all on her own to raise funds to ‘Move the Animal Shelter’ (the name of the nonprofit she formed for the cause). Ms. Lucas — the News-Review’s Person of the Year for 2012 — has since succeeded in establishing public dog parks in Calverton and at Stotzky Park, and continues to raise funds for the eventual relocation of the shelter. And on Tuesday, Ms. Lucas was over at the shelter adopting a German shepherd of her own from the facility.

But in the months since NFAWL took over, the shelter has rarely, if at all, found itself in the headlines. No controversial personnel; no news of unwarranted euthanasia on the front page of the paper; no protests outside the facility.

Staff at the NFAWL-run shelter has increased from two full-timers and two part-timers before March, to a current staff of four full-timers and two part-timers. Meanwhile, the number of regular volunteers has tripled and NFAWL has received 600 hours of community service through the courts and the county. The shelter has even spayed more than 150 pit bulls for free, a service NFAWL offers to help reduce future populations at both shelters, where 75 percent of the dogs are pit bull mixes.

So, hard as it is to admit, no news has pretty much been good news at the Youngs Avenue shelter itself.

Perhaps that was most recently evident in the week leading up to Christmas. A shivering, emaciated 10-year-old border collie was found on the side of the road in mid-December, its back legs paralyzed. And while we here at the News-Review documented the shelter’s efforts online at bringing the dog back up to speed, we didn’t learn about Chipper until two weeks after he’d been found, when we came across his story on Facebook. (When the town ran the shelter, it didn’t even have Facebook page. In fact, picture-taking had been banned at the shelter.) Volunteers at the NFAWL-run shelter had been quietly rehabbing Chipper, trying to get him adopted. One generous volunteer even took the time to modify a wheelchair-like cart at the shelter to help him roll around, as opposed to dragging the lower half of his body.

It’s hard to say how Chipper’s story would have ended had the town still been in control. But it’s hard to argue that the town could offer the same services NFAWL has; in fact, those previously tasked with running the shelter will probably tell you the same thing.

In a political environment here in town that can get pretty hostile at times, the nonprofit’s takeover of the Calverton shelter seems to have been a quiet no-brainer.

An entity running smoothly isn’t typically the type to make headlines.

Joseph Pinciaro is the managing editor at the News-Review. He can be reached at jpinciaro@ timesreview.com , or directly at 631-354-8024.

11/02/13 6:36pm
11/02/2013 6:36 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO |  More than 100 animals were available for adoption Saturday at Polish Hall.

Polish Hall in Riverhead was transformed into a giant pet adoption center for four hours Saturday, as the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons teamed up with five other non-profit or municipal animal shelters for a Pet Adoption and Agility Expo.

“We want to make pet adoption as easy as possible,” said ARF’s Executive Director Sara Davison.

The expo provided “one-stop shopping” for people seeking to adopt dogs or cats from the six participating agencies, which included ARF, Kent Animal Shelter, North Fork Animal Welfare League. RSVP, Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation and  Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter.

The dogs were outside the building, the cats inside. More than 100 animals were available for adoption.

In addition, there were agility courses on site for both cats and dogs. All animals at the event were spayed, neutered and vaccinated, and checked by a veterinarian.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A few cats relax Saturday while waiting for adoption.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Dressed for the occasion.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A Persian cat available for adoption.

 

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Cats try their luck on the agility course.

08/23/13 5:00pm
08/23/2013 5:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO |  Sue Condreras with her German shepherd Jesse, an experienced rescue dog that was honored with the Award for Canine Excellence as a Search and Rescue Dog.

Sue Condreras of Northville knew something was wrong the moment her German shepherd came out of the brush.

Jesse, who was wearing a vest that marked her as a trained search and rescue dog, was limping and yelping in pain.

The experienced rescue dog had suffered two herniated discs in her spine. But even a six-month rehabilitation process, which involved acupuncture and physical therapy, couldn’t keep Jesse down.

And Ms. Condreras could tell her partner wanted to get back out in the field.

“You can sit in my yard and throw the ball 10,000 times and she’ll bring the ball back 10,000,” Ms. Condreras said, explaining how she knew Jesse was eager to work again.

So Jesse was put back in action and, on her first rescue mission in the swamps of New Jersey, she located a missing hunter.

Jesse and Ms. Condreras’ dedication is now being honored by the American Kennel Club, which has announced Jesse as the winner of this year’s Award for Canine Excellence as a Search and Rescue Dog.

“It’s an honor for us to go out there and receive this award on behalf of all the other search dogs and canine teams that go out there and work,” Ms. Condreras said.

Ms. Condreras has owned German shepherds for years and has practiced obedience training with them, but decided about six years ago that she wanted to train a dog specifically for search and rescue.

She went to a reputable breeder in New Jersey, who showed her Jesse, then a 4-month-old pup.

“It was a match made in heaven,” Ms. Condreras recalled. “She came up to me and wrapped her paws around me.”

When Jesse turned a year old, their training began and the dog eventually became certified as a volunteer live search and human remains detection dog. The two operate through a Long Island volunteer group, going wherever emergency officials need them.

Jesse doesn’t just search for lost people. She also serves as a therapy dog, and has visited hospitals and nursing homes more than 250 times.

“The most rewarding thing is we’re able to do this as a team,” Ms. Condreras said. “There’s a bond that’s gotten that much stronger. Sometimes you look in her eyes and you know what’s going on … There’s a bond I can’t explain.”

Lisa Peterson, an American Kennel Club spokesperson, said Jesse typifies the tenacity of her breed.

“It’s really quite something,” Ms. Peterson said. “Jesse is multi-talented.”

Jesse and Ms. Condreras will accept the award at this year’s annual National Championship dog show in Orlando, Fla. Until then, the two partners are taking a little time to celebrate.

This week, as Ms. Condreras relaxed as part of a short stay-at-home vacation. Jesse couldn’t rest; she was swimming in the pool.

psquire@timesreview.com

08/06/13 5:00pm
08/06/2013 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Baxter, Misha and Sidney of Selden with their owner Irene Rabinowitz at last year’s dog park opening in Calverton. Riverhead’s own dog park at Stotzky Park will open Saturday.

Isn’t it about time you throw your dog a bone? Riverhead residents now have the opportunity to do just that.

The opening of the brand new Duke Dog Park is set to take place at 1 p.m. Saturday in the upper parking field at Stotzky Park. Councilman James Wooten and other elected officials will be on hand to usher in the latest addition to the Riverhead community.

The park gives residents a chance to let their dogs run free and play in a large, secure fenced-in area. The new park comes just a year after the long-awaited dog park at EPCAL in Calverton opened.

Councilman Wooten worked alongside Riverhead resident Denise Lucas, the founder of the non-profit “Move the Animal Shelter,” or M.T.A.S, who played a big role in raising enough funds to build the park and for supplies.

“I think there is a big advantage to having a dog park in our town,” Mr. Wooten said. “There are a lot of seniors who live in condos who don’t have that space.”

Mr. Wooten said he believes Riverhead was one of the last communities to get its own dog park.

“It gives people a place to go,” he said. “I think there is a real need for it and I see a desire for it.”

The park is free to the public.

07/18/13 5:00pm
07/18/2013 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN PHOTO | Puppies saved from Grand Bahama will soon be available for adoption at Kent Animal Shelter.

There’s nothing cuter than a yard full of puppies. And when they’re puppies saved from a dismal future, their big eyes and wagging tails seem even sweeter.

Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton is taking part in ‘Operation Puppy Lift,’ a program started by the Humane Society of Grand Bahama.

The northernmost island of the Bahamas, Grand Bahama has population issues with stray dogs and only one animal shelter to deal with the problem. Around 1,200 animals are taken in per year at the shelter, Kent executive director Pam Green said. Overcrowding leads to a high euthanasia rate.

To help save the puppies, HSGB started “Operation Puppy Lift,” in which the organization joins together with no-kill shelters in the U.S. to take in the needy pups. Kent welcomed 15 new puppies Wednesday who were flown in from the tropics.

The strays traveled on a private charter from Grand Bahama to Florida, and then went on a commercial airplane to JFK airport in New York where the shelter workers picked them up. HSGB paid for the transportation through its own funding and the puppies are solely in the shelter’s care now.

Kent became involved in the program when office manager Linda MacDonald reached out to a friend who worked with HSGB. Ms. Green said she plans on making this an ongoing partnership.

“It’s such a shame that these little guys are being put to sleep without a chance,” she said as small puppies on leashes ran around her legs. “It’s just a different culture there when dealing with the dogs.”

The dogs are called “potcake puppies,” a local name used to describe the native mixed breeds on the island.

“They’re a mixed breed and look a little collie-ish … they have longer snouts,” Ms. Green said when describing their appearance.

The adorable puppies are all less than a year old, the youngest being four months, and shelter staff members said the dogs will stay a small to medium size into adulthood.

After being checked by a veterinarian, vaccinated and spayed or neutered, the puppies will be put up for adoption. The shelter is hopeful the process will be complete by the end of the week.

Kelly Cross, a staff member at the shelter, said that although she limits one dog for herself, it is difficult not to get attached to the new ones when they arrive.

One pup from Grand Bahama is already stealing her heart.

“I think this one is my favorite so far,” she said of a tiny white puppy with light brown spots. “You get very attached — I mean just look at them. But it’s rewarding to see a great family come in and fall in love. It’s sad to see them go, but it’s a good kind of sad.”

The shelter is also picking up four more puppies on Saturday who hail from Turks and Caicos, islands with a similar dog problem.

Those interested in adopting one of the new puppies can visit the shelter’s website www.kentanimalshelter.com. Pictures of the new pups should be online in a few days, and applications are available on the website.

intern@timesreview.com

05/08/13 8:00pm
05/08/2013 8:00 PM
COURTESY PHOTO | Members of the Suffolk County Probation Officers Association at the starting line of a motorcycle rally that raised more than $1,000 for charity.

COURTESY PHOTO | Members of the Suffolk County Probation Officers Association at the starting line of a motorcycle rally that raised more than $1,000 for charity.

A motorcycle rally by the Suffolk County Probation Officers Association raised $1,400 last month for a national guide dog foundation that serves disabled veterans and active duty service members.

The rally started outside the association’s building in Patchogue on April 20 and ended at The Maples restaurant in Manorville. The event featured lunch for the riders, live music and door prizes, officials said.

The money raised through the rally went to the America’s VetDogs — Veteran’s K-9 Corps, a nonprofit founded by the Guide Dog Foundation. The group helps veterans by providing assistance dogs and training at no cost to help disabled veterans get the support they need, according to the group’s website.

psquire@timesreview.com

04/09/13 2:00pm
04/09/2013 2:00 PM

Riverhead police and town workers helped rescue a dog trapped in a sewer late Monday afternoon, police said.

The dog’s owner notified police that her dog was trapped in a sewer drain in front of her Fishel Avenue home about 4:30 p.m., police said. A The owner, an officer and a town sewer department worker lifted the top of the concrete sewer cover and pulled the dog out.

The dog was uninjured, police said.

“The dog was scared,” said the sewer work, Bob Smith. “It had to have been in there for quite a while. I don’t know how it got in there, if it was chasing something or if it was just a curious young pup.”

Mr. Smith said the dog appeared to be a lab mix and was white with a bit of brown on its face.

“It was a cute dog,” he said.

The dog was standing in the water when they pulled the cover off, Mr. Smith said.

“It wasn’t that deep,” he said. “It was really only a couple feet. The dog was just young and couldn’t jump out.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

02/05/13 1:55pm
02/05/2013 1:55 PM

liveblog

The Town Board on Tuesday agreed to donate land for a new town animal shelter and to offer preference to town residents and Sandy victims to live in downtown’s new subsidized Summerwind housing complex.

No specific site for the land to be donated to the Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter nonprofit group was mentioned in a resolution approved by the board at its meeting Tuesday. The MTAS group is raising money to build a new shelter in town.

As for the Summerwind vote, it passed 4-0 with Councilwoman Jodi Giglio abstaining since she is part owner of the project.

The town also held a hearing on proposed animal control regulations that would, among other things, give the town discretion as to whether to accept surrendered dogs at the town’s existing animal shelter. These regulations are meant to conform with North Fork Animal Welfare League rules, as the nonprofit human group prepares to take over the town shelter on March 1.

The board also rejected, 3-2, a resolution to re-send to Suffolk County planners a zoning change proposal that would allow for a Concordia-owned assisted living facility on Mill Road property in Riverhead.

Board members approved a resolution to name two new town ballfields in Calverton after two fallen soldiers from Wading River.

The board took up other items as well. News-Review reporter Tim Gannon blogged live from the meeting. Click below to see what he had reported.

 

Riverhead Town Board agenda 02-05-2013 by