Slide Show: Riverhead shelter dogs receive a vet visit

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Buster, a 50 lb. lab/doberman mix available for adoption at the town shelter, gets evaluated by a Dr. Lachhar and vet tech Dan Lorenz Friday morning.

A local veterinarian visited dogs at the Riverhead Town Animal Shelter on Friday, providing medical care animals at the facility don’t routinely experience.

Dr. Mandip Lachhar of the Animal Hospital of Riverhead examined the 14 dogs at the shelter and said not one of them had a serious physical health problem. However, Dr. Lachhar said, many appeared to have minor skin irritations. Two of the dogs were brought to Dr. Lachhar’s office for additional evaluations this week. The dogs were also treated for worms.

Previously, dogs at the shelter only saw a vet on an emergency basis and to receive the rabies vaccine, according to Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. Mr. Walter’s secretary, Carol Sclafani, is also a licensed veterinary technician and has visited the dogs on Fridays in recent weeks. She said she alerted Mr. Walter to the lack of regular vet visits.

Mr. Walter said the town will continue to use the vet’s services once or twice a month. Initial visits will cost $28 per dog. He said the Town Board will meet with Dr. Lachhar at today’s public work session in Town Hall to discuss a schedule.
“It is the goal of this administration to provide the best possible health care to the animals housed under our roof and today we take an important step in making sure the dogs get the care that they are deserving of, once and for all,” Mr. Walter said in a statement.

The shelter drew criticism recently after a pit bull mix named Bruno was put down despite efforts from shelter volunteers, other animal activists and Town Councilman Jim Wooten to buy more time for the animal, which an animal control officer and a vet had both deemed aggressive. Mr. Wooten, the town board’s liaison to the shelter, has championed efforts to privatize the Youngs Avenue facility and, in recent weeks, to hire a shelter director.

The town shelter is currently run by the Riverhead Police Department. Police Chief David Hegermiller has said getting dogs adopted should not be the function of a town police department,

Still, he has said the shelter’s adoption numbers, when compared to how many dogs have been killed, are quite good, given the shelter’s limited budget and tiny staff, which now includes only one animal control officer.

Chief Hegermiller said the shelter took in 209 dogs in 2010 and only euthanized eight.

Southampton Town’s animal shelter, which was privatized in January 2010 and runs on a $1 million annual budget, has a full-time veterinary technician on staff to treat the 54 dogs, 92 cats, one rabbit and four hamsters in residence there, according to director Donald Bambrick. All animals that come to the Southampton shelter are fully vaccinated and de-wormed after five days there.

Mr. Walter has said he believes the Riverhead shelter cost about $240,000 to run last year.

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See our slide show of the shelter’s adoptable dogs below

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