Photo flap at Riverhead Town Animal Shelter

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Volunteers have for years clashed with staffers at the Riverhead Animal Shelter on Youngs Avenue

Riverhead Townscape, the nonprofit group that sponsors the annual Country Fair and takes on beautification projects throughout town, may be doing just such a project at the Riverhead Town Animal Shelter.

But the plans got off to a rocky start over the weekend, according to Councilman Jim Wooten.

“There’s a policy at the shelter that volunteers can’t take pictures of dogs in the shelter,” Mr. Wooten said. The policy apparently stems from an incident several years ago where pictures of dogs there were used in publishing negative things about the shelter, he said.
“So fast-forward three or four years to this weekend,” Mr. Wooten said.

Townscape member Vince Taldone, who is also a shelter volunteer, was at the shelter on Sunday with a friend who is a professional photographer. He wanted photos of the shelter so that Judy Jacunski of Townscape could combine them with various landscape designs and come up with a rendering to present to the Townscape board, the councilman said.

Mr. Wooten said Mr. Taldone had previously alerted the town that he was working with Ms. Jacunski to come up with a landscape design idea, and from that,  Townscape might donate plantings and also use the design to help beautify the shelter area.

But when Mr. Taldone and the photographer went to take pictures of the shelter building Sunday, the kennel attendant on duty called animal control officer Lou Coronesi, and was told not to allow pictures, Mr. Wooten said. When the photographer continued taking pictures, the attendant called the police.

“And then two police cars came screaming down there,” Mr. Wooten said. Mr. Taldone also had called Mr. Wooten, who said he then called the police department and straightened the matter out.

“The police backed down and realized it was much ado about nothing,” Mr. Wooten said, adding that this is an example of why he feels the town should have a shelter director running the facility, rather than an animal control officer who answers to the police chief.

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