06/03/14 2:00pm
06/03/2014 2:00 PM

liveblog

The Riverhead Town Board will hold a public hearing this afternoon to discuss moving the nonprofit North Fork Animal Welfare League, which operates the town animal shelter, to a portion of the Henry Pfeifer Community Center, a town-owned building that underwent a nearly-half million-dollar renovation about a decade ago. (more…)

05/14/14 12:38pm
05/14/2014 12:38 PM
After he was missing for six months, Charlie was reunited at home in Mattituck with Kayla and Greg Masem and 18-month-old Wyatt. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

After she was missing for six months, Charlie was reunited at home in Mattituck with Kayla and Greg Masem and 18-month-old Wyatt.
(Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

After escaping from her Mattituck home in November, 5-year-old Charlie heard her name for the first time in six months on Friday.

With a wagging tail and lots of kisses, the settler/pointer mix was undeniably happy to be finally recognized by someone, anyone — in this case, a staffer at the Southold Animal Shelter.  (more…)

05/07/14 5:30pm
05/07/2014 5:30 PM
Eileen Kreiling, manager of the North Fork Animal Welfare League's Riverhead shelter, with 4-year-old pitbull Benny, who has been at the shelter since February. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Eileen Kreiling, manager of the North Fork Animal Welfare League’s Riverhead shelter, with 4-year-old pitbull Benny, who has been at the shelter since February. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

In a divided vote Tuesday, the Riverhead Town Board scheduled June 3 hearings for two proposals connected with moving the nonprofit North Fork Animal Welfare League, which operates the town animal shelter, to the property holding the Henry Pfeifer Community Center in Calverton, a town-owned building that underwent a nearly half-million-dollar renovation about a decade go and has been underutilized ever since.

“It was a monumental day in Riverhead for the animals,” said Denise Lucas, head of Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter, another nonprofit that has held more than 40 fundraisers in the past two years to offset the cost of finding a new town animal shelter.

The vote took place in a room filled with supporters. And while none of them spoke, they burst into applause after a deciding third vote in favor of the hearings was tallied. Ms. Lucas said more than 30 “animal people” attended.

The 3-2 vote — with Supervisor Sean Walter and councilmen Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy in favor and council members Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen opposed — technically concerned only two issues: scheduling public hearings on the transfer of the Pfeifer building to the town from the community development agency and signing a no-rent land lease allowing NFAWL to build a new kennel on the town land and use the building as a shelter.

However, the 3-2 split could foretell how board members will vote next month on moving the shelter to the Pfeifer building.

“The [current animal shelter] on Youngs Avenue is inadequate and poorly located,” Mr. Wooten said.

Mr. Gabrielsen disagreed, saying that the Pfeifer building “is a hostile environment for dogs” and adding that it’s in an industrial park next to railroad tracks. He’d prefer that the town sell or lease the property, and use the proceeds in the town’s recreation department.

“We’ve got close to 1,000 kids in lacrosse, football and soccer that need more room … versus 18 dogs in the shelter. Pick your priority,” Mr. Gabrielsen has said in recent weeks.

05/02/14 4:18pm
05/02/2014 4:18 PM
The Riverhead Town Animal Shelter. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The Riverhead Town Animal Shelter. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

It looks like the dogs at North Fork Animal Welfare League could be in for a treat.

Three town board members have said they are in favor of a plan that will move the nonprofit from the town’s shelter on Youngs Avenue to the Henry Pfeifer Community Center building in Calverton, and will vote next week on scheduling two public hearings needed to move the plan forward. (more…)

05/01/14 6:00am
05/01/2014 6:00 AM
Cats of all ages are looking for loving home at the NFAWL animal shelter in Peconic. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Cats of all ages are looking for a loving home at the NFAWL animal shelter in Peconic. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Ever think about adopting a pet, but weren’t sure if you could find the right animal to complete your happy home? Well now is your chance.

North Fork Animal Welfare League is taking part in a nationwide pet adoption event — teaming up with the nonprofit Maddie’s Fund foundation and hundreds of other shelters — to find homes for 10,000 animals.  (more…)

03/15/14 8:00am
03/15/2014 8:00 AM

After Chipper, a 10-year-old border collie, was found in downtown Riverhead, a North Fork Animal Welfare League volunteer made him a wheelchair. He’s with kennel attendant Tammy Henderson on shelter grounds last Friday morning, before Chipper was flown to his new home in Illinois. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch photo)

Not too long ago people talked more about conditions at the Riverhead Town Animal Shelter than about the dogs there who were up for adoption.

But ever since the nonprofit North Fork Animal Welfare League took charge at the Calverton shelter, contracting with the town through 2015, a lot more volunteers can be seen walking the dogs along Youngs Avenue.  (more…)

03/10/14 12:00pm
03/10/2014 12:00 PM
Chipper the dog resting at North Fork Animal Welfare League's shelter in Calverton after he was rescued in December. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

Chipper the dog resting at North Fork Animal Welfare League’s shelter in Calverton after he was rescued in December. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

The paralyzed dog found abandoned in downtown Riverhead in mid-December has been adopted from the Riverhead Animal Shelter to an exotic new home in Illinois.  (more…)

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.