Changes in store for feline nonprofit SAVES

FEral Cats in Riverhead
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter holds his new puppy, ‘Bandit,’ alongside Pam Green of Kent and Al LaFrance of SAVES, a North Fork feline humane organization.

The times are a-changin’ at North Fork animal rescue nonprofit Spay, Alter, Vaccinate, Every Stray — more commonly known as SAVES — as the organization announced a new president recently and will soon hand over operation of its adoption center at the Riverhead Petco.

Al LaFrance, a Mattituck resident who led the group spearheading its trapping effort, retired as group president this winter, turning the position over to Sue Farrell, another active volunteer.

Mr. LaFrance was the animal welfare group’s most experienced trapper, and caught more than 400 feral cats in 2013 alone, many of which were spayed or neutered and able to be adopted soon after, Ms. Farrell said.

After the cats were fixed, Mr. LaFrance would even open up his home to some of them, allowing them to recuperate in his basement until they were ready to be reintroduced to their colonies, or put up for adoption.

“No one can replace Al,” Ms. Farrell said. “But we are keeping things going in his spirit.”

SAVES, which currently has about a dozen volunteers including five members who serve on the rescue group’s board, said it is still following its mission — helping reduce the number of feral cats on the North Fork by catching them, spaying and neutering them, and eventually placing many up for adoption.

Volunteers will continue to help residents trap felines, and raise funds to help cover the cost of spaying and neutering, Ms. Farrell said.

Ms. Farrell also announced the nonprofit will no longer be running the cat adoption center at the Riverhead Petco store on Route 58.

This weekend she said it will be “turning the reigns” over to nonprofit North Fork Animal Welfare League, which is contracted by Riverhead and Southold Towns to run their shelters, adding that SAVES volunteers will still be on hand to help care for cats at the location.

“Our current Petco volunteers will become NFAWL volunteers, and continue cleaning and maintaining the cats there,” Ms. Farrell said.

She said cats from the Southold shelter will be rotated in and out of the Riverhead location, “and hopefully many more cats in the area will be adopted. It is beneficial all around.”

Marlene Ferber of NFAWL said the Riverhead location gives an added opportunity for many of its almost 100 resident felines to be adopted, as the nonprofit will now have two locations to showcase its cats.

“[Petco is] giving us the space as long as we provide the volunteers to care for the cats,” Ms. Ferber said. “Their employees will also be helping us take care of processing the adoptions.”

Ms. Ferber said NFAWL hopes the Riverhead location will help bring added awareness of the North Fork nonprofit, as many people may not know it took over operations of the Riverhead dog shelter last March.

Currently, Petco is one of two locations residents can visit for cat adoptions within Riverhead, the other being Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton.

This Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., NFAWL will officially open the adoption location at Petco, which it has named the “Cat House.” More than a dozen cats, from kittens to senior cats, will be on display for adoption. For more information call the NFAWL at (631) 765-1811.