Town in talks to privatize animal shelter

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town's animal control building on Youngs Avenue.

Riverhead Town officials are in talks with the non-profit group that runs Southold Town’s animal shelter regarding the possibility of that organization also taking over the Riverhead facility.

The 49-year-old North Fork Animal Welfare League has operated Southold Town’s animal shelter since 1980.

Councilman Jim Wooten, Riverhead’s Town Board liaison on animal control issues, said NFAWL has been looking to expand and recently had some architects and engineers examine the Riverhead shelter, which officials have said is too small. Mr. Wooten said the proposal is in a preliminary stage.

“I’ve been looking to privatize our shelter with a non-profit,” Mr. Wooten said.

Last year, the town issued a request for proposals from groups interested in running the municipal shelter, and only one response was received. That response came from Responsible Solutions for Valued Pets, a non-profit group that rescues animals in town, but whose members have often feuded with the town over animal control issues.

The Town Board ended up rejecting the single proposal, as is town policy in cases where there is only one bid, and kept the status quo.

And Riverhead officials said the preliminary numbers they’ve been discussing with NFAWL would be lower than what the town pays for animal control services now.

“We’ve been talking about this for so long. If we can pull this off, this will be huge,” Mr. Walter said Thursday, when the board discussed the proposal at its work session.

The town of Riverhead is bigger than Southold both geographically and by population, but officials say they are optimistic about a possible deal with NFAWL.

“I’d be very happy to sign my name on the bottom of the check and just give it to them,” Mr. Walter said of the shelter. “They’ll do a better job than we are doing.”

A call to NFAWL executive director Gillian Wood Pultz was not immediately returned.

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