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…)
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…)
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.
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.
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.
For years, animal advocates across the East End have pressured Riverhead Town officials to make changes at the municipal dog shelter, which has been criticized for its management and the dogs’ living conditions.
In mid-December, the advocates finally got their wish.
The Riverhead Town Board voted unanimously on Dec. 18 to privatize the shelter starting early next spring, contracting with a long-established North Fork nonprofit group.
The contract between the town and the North Fork Animal Welfare League will authorize the nonprofit group to run, staff and supply the shelter, which was previously overseen by Riverhead Town’s police chief.
Under the three-year contract, the town will pay $223,135 — roughly $5,000 more than the 2012 shelter budget — to the welfare league. The town will cover utilities and maintenance, officials said, and supply a vehicle for animal control activities.
The welfare league has run the Southold Town animal shelter in a similar manner since 1980.
“We could not be more excited,” league president Richard Radoccia said after the contract became official. “We look forward to bringing the same nurturing care to Riverhead that we have extended to the animal community in Southold.”
The Riverhead shelter had been under almost constant fire from critics for years. The most notable of cases came in late 2011, when a dog named Bruno was euthanized. The animal control officer managing the shelter at that time said the dog had bitten a child in the face, but this later proved to be untrue. The ACO later stopped coming into work before resigning.
The shelter also faced a crisis earlier this year when another ACO was mauled by a pit bull and a pair of unexpected resignations left the shelter with just one full-time employee for a short time, alarming critics.
Town officials quickly hired part-time kennel attendants to fill the open positions and care for the dogs.
North Fork Animal Welfare League will take over the shelter beginning March 1.
After more than a year of on-again, off-again negotiations, Riverhead Town is set to privatize its animal shelter under an agreement with a nonprofit group, officials said.
The shelter on Youngs Avenue, which is run through the Riverhead police chief, will be run by employees with the North Fork Animal Welfare League, a nonprofit group that currently runs the Southold Animal Shelter — if the deal is approved, officials said.
The Town Board will vote on a resolution to accept the contract at Tuesday night’s meeting.
“This is huge news,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter. “The animals are dancing in their kennels.”
The contract will have the town pay $223,000 — $5,000 more than the town had budgeted to run the shelter itself — to NFAWL to run the animal shelter, Mr. Walter said. The group will staff and supply the shelter while the town will cover utilities and maintenence, he said.
“We’re going to pay the heat and the lights, similar to the contract that Southold has,” Mr. Walter said.
The town’s two full-time shelter employees will be encouraged to apply for other possible positions within the town, officials said.
The town will also provide a vehicle to the nonprofit group so they can pick up stray animals, explained Councilman John Dunleavy.
“This is a good deal for the town and a good deal for the dogs,” Mr. Dunleavy said.
NFAWL would take over the shelter starting Feb. 1, Mr. Walter said.
The group will continue to run the Southold shelter in addition to the Riverhead shelter, allowing them to “tap the donor and volunteer base in both towns,” Mr. Walter said.
NFAWL has run the Southold animal shelter since 1980 through a mix of town contract money and private donations.
Mr. Walter said if the deal is approved, it will good news for all North Fork animal lovers.
“It’ll make Southold shelter better and it’ll make our shelter 100 percent better,” he said.
Volunteers at the shelter have long criticized the town about the shelter’s operations, arguing that more employees and better conditions are needed for the more than dozen dogs that are usually there at one time.
Since late 2011, town officials had held several meetings with the group to hammer out a deal, most recently on Friday, officials said.
NFAWL executive director Gillian Wood Pultz was not immediately available for comment.
The board’s resolution to approve the contract was not available.
It was a white-tailed deer, not a reindeer, but there was still holiday spirit aplenty when the North Fork Animal Welfare League got help from a local veterinarian in rescuing a three-legged buck whose antlers were hopelessly tangled in nylon ribbon, wooden posts and tomato cages at an Orient residence. The mess was attached to a nearby fence, trapping him.
“The poor guy, I figured if anyone deserves a second chance, he does,” said Dr. John Andresen, a veterinarian at Matittuck-Laurel Veterinary Hospital who helped to free the deer.
“He could still run around, but his head was tied to this long lead of tangled up fencing,” said NFAWL director Gillian Wood Pultz. She called Dr. Andresen, who has a keen interest in large animals, to come out with a tranquilizer gun so the rescue team to get close enough to remove the unwanted headgear without harming the animal or themselves.
“Once he was tranquilized it only took about 10 or 15 minutes to get him untangled,” Ms. Pultz said. Eventually the buck regained consciousness.
“That was a pretty traumatic experience and he needed to calm down, so we just let him be as he woke up and told the owners of the property to call us if he wasn’t up and moving around in an hour,” she said.
Dr. Andresen said he was only too happy to help save the deer.
“Initially, when I got out of vet school, I wanted to be a zoo vet,” he said. “But that’s not really practical because there aren’t many openings to do that, so it’s always just been an interest of mine.”
Ms. Wood Pultz described the rescue as “a good story because it had a good outcome. More often than not there are bad outcomes and we have to humanely euthanize the deer. Every year, we see deer that haven’t been tracked by hunters running around with arrows in them. Recently we had to humanely euthanize a fawn that was attacked by a dog and suffered a broken spine.”
Ms. Wood Pultz said traumatic injuries in deer are fairly common, but three-legged deer are less so and she knows of only one other, which has been living in Southold Town for years.
As for the Orient deer’s missing foreleg, she said the amputation appeared to be an old injury.
The North Fork Animal Welfare League’s plan to build a cat shelter on four acres in Calverton met with no opposition at a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on Thursday and will likely be approved at the ZBA’s next meeting, officials said.
The ZBA hearing was on the issue of whether or not an animal shelter was a permitted use in the agricultural protection zone in which the property is located. The town code doesn’t specifically list that use.
Peter Danowski, the attorney on the application, said the character of Youngs Avenue wouldn’t be altered by the cat shelter because there’s already a dog shelter there and a landfill there. He said that livestock and animals are also common in the APZ zoning.
About 10 supporters of the plan were present Thursday, but only Mr. Danowski spoke.
“I see no problem with this application, we’re in favor of it,” said ZBA chairman Fred McLaughlin, who indicated a formal vote would take place at the Dec.13 ZBA meeting.
Once the ZBA approves the use, NFAWL must go before the town planning board for site plan approval.
The non-profit NFAWL has run Southold Town’s animal shelter since 1980 under contract with that town. Southold’s shelter handles dogs and cats, according to Gillian Wood Pultz, the executive director of NFAWL.
Riverhead Town’s animal shelter handles dogs, but not cats, and is right down the street from NFAWL’s proposed cat shelter on Youngs Avenue in Calverton.
The group is planning to lease four acres of vacant land from Rex and Connie Farr for a dollar a year for 99 years and build a 1,638-square-foot cat shelter, which would only occupy about an acre.
NFAWL plans to catch stray cats, spay and neuter them, and either release them or put them up for adoption, Ms. Pultz said in an interview.
“The cat population in Riverhead is out of control,” she said. NFAWL would not operate the cat shelter under contract with the town, she said.
The group received a $300,000 bequest from Patricia Toner Troxel of Mattituck for use in building an animal shelter and some of that money will be used on the cat shelter, Ms. Pultz said.
The Farrs, who own an organic farm on Youngs Avenue, have been active in animal rescue efforts themselves for many years, caring for everything from cats to birds to runaway cows to dogs that were slated to be euthanized.