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.

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.

07/28/13 2:30pm
07/28/2013 2:30 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Amber Cogoli, a town animal shelter staffer, pets one of the dozens of cats that called the shelter home in 2011.

The North Fork Animal Welfare League has come a long way since it was established in 1963 to help combat animal cruelty in the area.

Today, it operates both the Southold and the Riverhead town animal shelters and has worked for 50 years to care and find homes for lost and abandoned animals.

It began when a small group of people got together to find homes for strays and offer information on how to treat animals humanely. At the time, Southold Town operated a pound, not a shelter, which provided little more comfort that being out on the street.

In the 1970s, the pound was no longer in use and strays were kept by vets. Animals left unclaimed were put to sleep. As the league gathered more members, it began to collect donations to build an animal shelter.

League members and others successfully pressured the Town Board to build a decent pound, leading to the construction of a six-run dog facility in Peconic. The league kept a close watch on the operation and was mostly unhappy with the treatment of the strays. Limited food and water and dirty facilities were only a few of the issues.

In the late ’70s, New York State enacted a dog control law that gave humane societies the right to make contracts with the town to manage pounds.

On July 1, 1980, the NFAWL signed a contract with the town to take over the pound and run it as a no-kill shelter, becoming the first humane society on Long Island to contract with a town. The league added six more runs, installed a heating system, replaced broken structures and even bought new bowls.

Executive director Gillian Wood Pultz came on board at the shelter in 1995. She found an overcrowded facility, but over the past 18 years the shelter has become the safe haven for animals that the league always longed for.

The shelter offers educational talks at schools and community centers, a food pantry program for families who cannot afford pet food, a spay/neuter voucher program that provides low- to no-cost surgeries and a large online presence.

NFAWL went into contract to operate the Riverhead town shelter in March and so is now responsible for animals on the entire North Fork. Ms. Wood Pultz said the Riverhead facility is exactly where the Southold shelter was 20 years ago.

“Right now our future focus is to improve the lives of the animals in Riverhead and improve the shelter itself,” she said.

“A lot of stuff is happening and we’re really excited about it,” NFAWL board president Dawn Bennett said. “We’re trying to change the idea that shelters are sad, depressing places. We’re looking to do a lot more educational programs and we’ve just hired a volunteer coordinator, which is a first.”

Despite the passing of half a century, Ms. Wood Pultz said, “our mission is the same, but just on a bigger scale. We have greater resources and have been able to help a lot more animals than when the league just started. We’re doing the same thing — we’re still saving the animals — we’ve just grown.”

The league will celebrate its 50th birthday with a fundraising party on Saturday, Aug. 3, from 3 to 8 p.m. It will be hosted by Lou Corso and family at their home overlooking the Sound on Oregon Road in Cutchogue. The cost is $95 per person, which includes a full buffet and open bar as well as live music by The No Request Band.