Capital campaign for new Riverhead animal shelter kicks off


A cramped building, little outdoor space for dogs to play and a dump located right next door have forced officials with the Riverhead Animal Shelter to find a new home. 

The North Fork Animal Welfare League, which has been running the town shelter since 2013, believes it has found that home: the Henry Pfeifer Community Center at Enterprise Park in Calverton. To upgrade the animal’s living quarters with a new facility, the NFAWL kicked off a capital campaign on Tuesday morning to reach its $1 million goal for renovations.

“We desperately need a new facility,” said NFAWL executive director Gillian Wood Pultz. “We worked very hard to get the current one to be functional and to be OK for the dogs for the time being. It has a lot of downfalls. We’ve done the improvements that we can there but we really can’t improve the site better than it already is.”

The two proposed buildings on the land will be connected, which will allow the shelter to offer more room for administrative offices, veterinary service, adoption rooms, training the animals and housing cats — services the current Riverhead shelter is unable to provide.

The Henry Pfeifer Community Center building, which is set to become the NFAWL animal shelter (Credit: Nicole Smith).
The Henry Pfeifer Community Center building, which is set to become the NFAWL animal shelter. (Credit: Nicole Smith).

Ms. Wood Pultz said the number of kennels would not increase much, but the kennels themselves will improve. NFAWL is currently in the beginning stages of design for the space.

The Henry Pfeifer Community Center was chosen as the location at Supervisor Sean Walter’s suggestion after realizing that it was the only space in town that could fulfill all of the shelter’s needs. The current shelter is located on Youngs Avenue.

“It was a completely underutilized building,” Ms. Wood Pultz said. “[The town] was only utilizing it in the summer for a few weeks for a summer camp, but they were maintaining the building year-round.”

Currently, as shown on a poster with a thermometer on it, $500,000 has been raised over the past few years toward the project. Thousands of dollars have been raised through a Move the Animal Shelter campaign organized by Denise Lucas.

Mr. Walter frequently pointed to the top of the poster to stress how much more money was needed to reach the $1 million goal.

To do so, NFAWL hired Tammy Severino, a capital campaign fundraiser. Ms. Severino said there are many ways community members can donate to the shelter. She plans on reaching out to civic groups, the business community and the residential community through events, direct mail and one-on-one conversations, she said.

“What would be nice is to see a lot of corporate sponsorships,” Mr. Walter said. “We spent a lot of money, time and energy into helping those businesses develop on Route 58 so I would like to see a little give back from all those corporate entities.”

People can send a check directly to NFAWL at PO Box 297, Southold, N.Y. 11971 or by visiting

Naming opportunities have been created for those who donate a certain amount. For example, a $5,000 donation allows someone to name a kennel, $10,000 allows the donator to name the garden and $25,000 allows the administrative center to be named after the donator.

“You have to send the check because we have to build this because we are never letting NFAWL go,” Mr. Walter said. “They are a permanent fixture in this town and we are never letting them go … we’ve got to bring that red line from [$500,000] to $1 million and I know this town can do it.”

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Photo Caption: Supervisor Sean Walter, NFAWL board of directors president Dennis McDermott, NFAWL executive director Gillian Wood Pultz — who is holding one of the dogs up for adoption, Sasha — councilman Jim Wooten and councilwoman Jodi Giglio show off the plans for the future shelter on Tuesday. (Credit: Nicole Smith).