SPCA chief says tiny storm shelter was not enough for pets

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Dogs at Suffolk County Community College's pet designated shelter in Northampton Saturday evening.

The shelter set up for pets evacuated over the weekend during Tropical Storm Irene wasn’t big enough and reached capacity quickly, according to Chief Roy Gross of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals (SPCA), which ran the shelter.

“The room wasn’t large enough, which we’re very upset about,” Chief Gross said Tuesday afternoon, two days after the storm moved out of the area.

He said the SPCA generally trains at a facility at the Suffolk Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services headquarters in Yaphank, which can hold about 250 pets. The nonprofit group expected the county to designate that building as the pet shelter during the storm, he said.

But instead, the county instead located the pet shelter in the Woodlands Building at Suffolk Community College’s Eastern Campus in Northampton, a small modular building that could hold only only 40 pets, Chief Gross said.

“It maxed out in no time at all,” Chief Gross said.

The SPCA also operated a pet shelter at the Brentwood Recreation Center, but only about 15 pets were taken to that shelter, he said.
The Woodlands building shelter had a full complement of 40 pets, mostly dogs and cats with a few hamsters and birds. Their owners got to stay in the nearby Peconic Building on the Eastern Campus, where about 70 people where sheltered, Chief Gross said.

The Woodlands building also didn’t have a generator in case power was lost, so the SPCA brought its mobile MASH unit to act as a generator if needed.

Fortunately, the power did not go out, Chief Gross said.

“We had to turn some people away, but the bottom line is, the people that were there were very appreciative and we got it done,” Chief Gross said. “We would have preferred better support from the county.”

A call to County Executive Steve Levy’s office seeking comment was not immediately returned.

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