Wanted: Big donors for new Riverhead dog shelter

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Animal activist Denise Lucas will need to raise an additional $270,000 to complete her plan to build a new town animal shelter and construct several new dog parks.

Despite raising more than $30,000 for her plans to build a new town animal shelter and construct several new dog parks for Riverhead residents, animal activist Denise Lucas said she will need to raise at least another $270,000 through donations or sponsorships to make her vision a reality.

Now she’s hoping she can find generous donors to purchase individual aspects of the parks and shelter.

“If some high-roller in town wants to come up with 20 grand, we could get something [built],” said Ms. Lucas, who founded the fundraising group “Move the Animal Shelter” in October.

The new shelter, proposed as a 100 x 120-foot steel structure, would cost more than $330,000 in total, according to a preliminary work proposal for the building.

This figure, Ms. Lucas said, would be just enough to get the shelter built, and would not include equipment or other items for the dogs within. Those would have to be supplied later, though she believes community members would be more willing to donate once construction begins.

“I just want to get the project going,” Ms. Lucas said. “It’s been five months already, I just want something to happen.”

Despite the daunting dollar amount, Ms. Lucas is hopeful that a generous donor will offer to sponsor a section of the construction, like the shelter’s walls, which would cost just over $19,000.

The town, which originally planned to build a first dog park at EPCAL this spring, will also build two additional parks at Stotzky Park and Jamesport, Ms. Lucas announced. Of the $30,000 raised so far, $7,400 has been raised specifically for the new parks.

“I’m hoping to have the dog park [at EPCAL] open by April 28,” she said, adding that the other two parks should open in May and June, respectively.

Ms. Lucas is looking for sponsors to pitch in to purchase or donate individual aspects of the parks, such as benches and obstacles for the dogs to play on.

“I’m really asking if the community could come together and somebody please start helping, anybody, businesses or wealthy people, helping to pay for stuff,” she said.

Proposed legislation concerning dog parks was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday night at Riverhead Town Hall, where the public was able to give feedback on a proposal to add a definition of dog parks, along with fees for usage, to the town code.

In response to a question about funding the parks, Councilman James Wooten said Ms. Lucas’ fundraising efforts and permit fees should suffice. The exact legislation reads: “Permits for the Dog Park shall be issued by the Office of the Town Clerk upon proof of a current dog license, Rabies Vaccine Certificate and Health Certificate. Fees for the year-round Dog Park Permit are as follows: Resident $15, Non-Resident $30, Replacement of Lost/Damaged Permit $10, Amended Dog Owner Permit for each additional dog $5.”

In the meantime, Move the Animal Shelter has scheduled more events to help raise donations for the new shelter. Several of the group’s previous events were sold out, and Ms. Lucas expects large turnouts at future fundraisers as well.

The group’s next event on March 29 at Hy Ting Restaurant downtown will feature Councilman James Wooten and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio in a cook-off against Ms. Lucas’ friends. Tickets to the buffet dinner will cost $20 per person, she said.

Ms. Lucas has spent the past five months raising funds at a breakneck pace. But when asked whether she would want to raise money professionally for other causes, Ms. Lucas immediately said that wasn’t going to happen.

“Absolutely not,” she joked. “I miss my family.”

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Additional reporting was provided by Tim Gannon.