Animals

Supervisor Ed Romaine, Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross pose with a 32-inch female American alligator turned in on Amnesty Day. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Long Islanders turned in three American alligators and eight turtles at a recent animal amnesty event in Brookhaven Town, and all of the reptiles are shipping up to a Massachusetts sanctuary.

Brookhaven’s Holtsville Ecology Center hosted the event on Oct. 10 to allow residents to turn in any protected, endangered or threatened animals that require special New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permits without fear of penalties or questioning. It was the second annual event of its kind for the town, which operated with the help of those two agencies and the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

People with dangerous or illegal animals were able to turn them over to professionals, no questions asked.

Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross called the recent amnesty event a success, saying the three alligators turned in “had the potential of ending up endangering the public.”

According to Brookhaven Town, the average length a fully grown female American alligator is a little more than 8 feet, and a fully grown male can be longer than 11 feet. Of the three alligators turned in, two were males, measuring 27 and 29 inches, and one was a 32-inch female.

“People should think twice before acquiring illegal reptiles or mammals,” Gross said in a statement from the town. “They do not make good pets and you are risking fines and possible jail time.”

At last year’s animal amnesty event, people turned in 25 animals, including a western diamondback rattlesnake, a green anaconda, four boa constrictors, an American alligator and two marmosets.

“These animals were turned in before the people harboring them as pets released them into the wild, creating a potentially dangerous situation in our local communities,” Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said in a statement about the alligators and turtles turned over this year. “These animals will now receive proper care without posing a threat.”

Owners of potentially dangerous animals have dumped them in public places in the past, creating a public safety issue. In late August, a 25-pound alligator snapping turtle was discovered in a stream of the Nissequogue River opposite the Smithtown Bull on Route 25. The reptile is not indigenous to Long Island — it is a freshwater animal with enough power to bite off a human toe or finger, and is usually found in places from eastern Texas to the Florida panhandle.

“People need to understand that many exotic animals can be very dangerous if not handled properly or allowed to grow to their adult size,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a statement. “They are even more threatening if released into the wild, where they could harm people or other animals.”

An osprey with two chicks at West Meadow Beach. Photo by Jay Gammill

By Ernestine Franco

Like many sons, Jay Gammill has followed in his father’s footsteps, a U.S. Navy photographer during World War II. “My father had a tremendous amount of photographic experience. We even set up our own darkroom for processing pictures in our basement. Dad was always the guy with the camera,” said Gammill.

Jay Gammill photographs local birds.
Jay Gammill photographs local birds.

Born and raised in Long Island City, Queens, Gammill spent his entire life on Long Island, with the exception of his four years in the U.S. Air Force, 1968-1972. He met his wife Janet after returning home from the service. They married in 1976 and moved into their first home in Levittown. In 1999, they moved to their current home in East Setauket.

Gammill received his first camera, a Brownie Starflash, as a young boy. “Boy, was I happy! No one could turn around without a flashbulb going off in their face,”  he said. And so began a lifelong passion.

When Gammill entered high school at Rice High School in upper Manhattan, he was in the yearbook photography club, and his parents bought him his first 35mm camera. “That camera was glued to me; if there was any kind of school activity, you could be sure I was taking pictures. It was very gratifying to have many of my pictures published in my senior yearbook,” he said.

A Great Blue Heron at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. Photo by Jay Gammill
A Great Blue Heron at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. Photo by Jay Gammill

Gammill purchased his second 35mm camera while in the Air Force and used it for many years after returning home. “Friends always whined when I was taking pictures at parties and social events but those pictures are now filled with golden memories that can really make people smile.”

Retiring as the director of the maintenance training department of New York City Transit in 2009 gave him more time to pursue this unique hobby.

Sitting outside on the deck of his home, Gammill started taking pictures of birds. He found it wasn’t easy. “Then it became a challenge, and I knew I could do better,” he said. “I have an advanced digital camera now {a Nikon D610}, and birds have become my favorite subjects. My wife, who spent summers in Sound Beach growing up, and I go to parks, ponds, nature areas — anywhere birds may be feeding or nesting.”

A great egret at Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park. Photo by Jay Gammill
A great egret at Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park. Photo by Jay Gammill

Gammill has some advice for anyone interested in photography. “Taking photographs will expand your horizons. It is a very enjoyable hobby, getting you out of the house into the fresh air, not to mention some exercise, which I recommend to anyone.” For himself, he has lots of plans. “Now I want to increase my efforts into landscapes, sunsets, night photography and other areas,” he said.

Mimi Hodges, a resident of Sound Beach and long-time friend of Janet Gammill and her family, credits Jay Gammill with revitalizing her own enthusiasm for photography. At a family get-together last year, Gammill invited Hodges to join a closed Facebook photography group.

“The result is that, for the past year, my interest in photography has been revived and I am truly enjoying this renewed passion. I owe it all to Jay,” said Hodges.

Gammill has posted some of his own photographs on Facebook and was surprised that so many people enjoyed them. When asked by friends how he finds these birds, Gammill answers, “They are all around; you just have to look.” And when Gammill looks through his camera, what he sees is spectacular!

Figgy is one of the dogs up for adoption at the animal shelter. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Residents who visit the Brookhaven Town Animal Shelter on Oct. 17 can adopt a dog or a cat for free, as part of a Halloween-themed “Barktoberfest” event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The family-friendly event also includes music, games and face painting.

While dog adoptions at the shelter typically cost $137 and cat adoptions cost $125, those fees will be waived. All animals have been spayed or neutered and microchipped, and received their vaccinations and licenses. They have also been tested for heartworm and fleas.

The shelter is located at 300 Horseblock Road in Brookhaven. For more information, call 631-451-6950 or visit www.brookhaven.org/animalshelter.

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Smithtown Animal Shelter Director Sue Hansen, left, outlines candidates she helped seek out with hopes of hiring somebody to work with her team as an animal behaviorist. Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, center, and Supervisor Pat Vecchio say they are on board to hire someone. Photo by Phil Corso

After losing her volunteer advisory panel tasked with moving the Smithtown Animal Shelter into a new era, town Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) moved forward this week by inviting the shelter director to speak before the board.

Early this year, Nowick assembled a panel of animal welfare experts with hopes of soliciting their advice and bringing calm to a contentious conversation that has surrounded the shelter for the past year. That panel, however, called it quits at a town board meeting last week, accusing Nowick of being unable to respond to one of their top concerns of hiring a full-time animal behaviorist at the shelter with an annual salary of $45,000. In an attempt to set the record straight, Nowick invited new shelter Director Sue Hansen to speak at a work session on Tuesday morning about finding someone to fit the behaviorist role.

“The last meeting was a little bit contentious,” Nowick said. “I want the board to be aware of what we were doing as far as hiring our behaviorist and why we haven’t done certain things.”

Nowick’s former advisory panel consisted of animal welfare attorney Elizabeth Stein and animal welfare experts Lucille DeFina and Diane Madden. The three penned a letter to the board on Sept. 15 accusing Nowick of failing to serve as a bridge between the animal experts and elected town officials, raising the issue of the town neglecting to consider hiring a full-time animal behaviorist to train dogs at the shelter.

The letter was news to Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R), who told the animal experts that he was never made aware of any discussions regarding a behaviorist position.

“You guys got tricked,” Nowick said at the work session Tuesday. “They only wanted one full-time behaviorist. They didn’t want to consider anything else.”

Stein, DeFina and Madden did not return requests seeking comment.

On Nowick’s invitation, Hansen introduced two potential candidates she had vetted who could fill the role of an animal behaviorist at the shelter with hopes of finding homes for the eight dogs housed there: Michael Gould, owner of Hounds Town USA, and Aimee Sadler, owner of Dogs Playing for Life.

“These candidates would be available to work with the staff and make our dogs more adoptable,” Hansen said.

Both candidates, who did not return requests seeking comment, have extensive backgrounds in training dogs and also pet lovers on how to interact with them.

Gould, a Long Island native, has worked with the shelter in the past, helping some dogs train their way to becoming police dogs, Hansen said. If the board chooses to work with him, he would work as a volunteer to help train and assess Smithtown dogs and teach shelter staffers how to handle them. The proposal was met with satisfaction from board members, with Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) calling it a “great idea.”

Sadler, the other candidate for the job, would call on her experience working with other Island shelters including the Southhampton Animal Shelter to assemble socializing playgroups for dogs in Smithtown. Hansen said she’s had Smithtown shelter workers visiting Sadler’s programs over recent weeks to explore how her services could benefit the town. But the town would need to seek ways to fund it, she said.

The board asked Hansen to speak with the candidates and report back  how they might fill the Smithtown shelter’s needs before a deal is inked.

Residents have flocked to board meetings over the past year to air their grievances surrounding the shelter, accusing former Director George Beatty of mismanaging animals and staffers and honing in on various aspects of operations there. Beatty retired as director in August, prompting the hiring of Hansen.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Whew!! Hurricane Joaquin has drifted out to sea! Unfortunately, we have become all too familiar with natural disasters — think Superstorm Sandy. If another disaster were to occur, would I be prepared not only for myself, but also for my pet? What about for everyday emergencies?

Believe it or not, many of the same precautions and treatments we would use on ourselves we can also extend to our more “furry” family members: a basic first aid kit specifically for our pets, an emergency plan available in advance, etc. A basic first aid kit for your pet should include a blanket, thermometer, pen light, sterile 4×4 gauze pads, sterile dressing (small, medium, large), roll gauze, 1 and 2 inch white tape, Telfa non stick bandages, triangular bandages and safety pins, cloth strips, betadine or triple antibiotics, scissors, tweezers, instant cold pack, hydrogen peroxide, splint, veterinarian’s phone number, local animal emergency clinic’s phone number, Poison Control’s phone number, Glucose concentrate (e.g., Karo Syrup or other syrup), canned dog or cat food and bottled water.

Once you have your first aid kit prepared, you will be ready for most emergencies at home. Here are some tips on handling most general emergencies:

*If an animal is frightened or in pain, it may bite, even friendly dogs or cats. Consider using something like a small piece of rope or a tie to muzzle your pet, or throw a large thick blanket over the pet to pick it up. Please do not get yourself hurt trying to help a scared, injured, potentially dangerous animal.

*Anything makes a good stretcher — a flat board, an old door, etc.

*If an animal is vomiting for whatever reason, do not offer any food or water for at least three hours. We know there is a concern of dehydration, but many times that is the time an animal needs to rest the stomach, if it is a less serious cause of vomiting, and giving any food or water too quickly may make things worse. If you are very concerned, it is better to check with or visit your regular veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital before considering food or water.

*For bite wounds or penetrating wounds, try to keep the wound clean and moist until the animal can be transported to your regular veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital. Moistened clean cloths, gauze, etc can be used. If there is excessive bleeding, direct pressure should be applied; consider an ACE bandage. Do not try to remove anything that is impaled into the pet.

*Bone fractures can be immobilized with a splint. A splint can be made of rolled up magazines or newspapers, cardboard, a metal hanger, or wood. If it is an open compound fracture, cover it with a clean moistened dressing. If the animal cannot or will not allow a splint, just try to keep them confined until you can transport them to either your regular veterinarian’s office or an emergency veterinary hospital.

*If you suspect your dog has ingested poison, call a veterinary emergency poison hotline. If possible, have both the trade name and the generic name of the poison.  Do not try to get the animal to vomit before speaking to a veterinary emergency poison control representative or licensed veterinarian. Certain poisons, particularly those that are caustic, may cause more damage on the way back up, and if your pet is disoriented from the poison, you risk aspiration and aspiration pneumonia.

The emergency clinic I work for recommends the National Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 299-2973. They are staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with veterinary toxicologists. There is a $45 consult fee, but it is well worth it. I hope this information helps to make us all better prepared for emergencies.

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 16 years and is pictured with his son, Matthew, and his dog, Jasmine.

Penny just recently got adopted after more than a year at Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington. Photo from Arleen Leone

Huntington residents will have spaying, neutering, and adoption fees for pit bulls waived from Oct. 1 until Oct. 31 in recognition of National Pit Bull Awareness month.

Arleen Leone, the special programs manager of Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington, believes that every day should be pit bull awareness day.

“They are gentle, sweet loving dogs,” Leone said in a phone interview. “There is a huge need for education, and on a daily basis we try to bring awareness to these dogs.”

Leone said that Little Shelter has many different education programs. In one program, Leone said the shelter staff travel to approximately 100 schools a year and try to educate kids on how to handle themselves around different dogs. They also discuss the importance of spaying and neutering.

“They think they are pocket poodles,” Leone said of pit bulls. “All they want is love and affection.”

According to Leone, pit bulls were originally bred to be family dogs, however over the course of time, people began to breed them as fighting dogs. This “ruined the breed” and it’s why there is a need for much education about the animals. The shelter said they had a pit bull named Penny who took more than a year to get adopted because “she looked like something she was not.”

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) offered town board resolutions at the Sept. 16 Huntington Town Board meeting to waive the fees at the town animal shelter on Deposit Road in recognition of the month.

“Anytime we can help lower the amount of animals we have housed in shelter, regardless of the breed, is a good thing,” Berland said in a phone interview. 

Berland said that it is important to be smart about what kind of animal you chose to adopt and what type of household you’re bringing it into.

Although Berland does not own any pit bulls, some of her friends do, and she said they are “totally friendly and adorable.”

DogFest Walk ‘n Roll Long Island takes place on Sat.

Giavanna DeStefano, flanked by mom Cynthia, and Harry, a golden Labrador retriever, meet at a training session in February. Photo from John Bentzinger

They say dog is man’s best friend, and for one Northport family, the adage couldn’t be any truer.

The DeStefanos are on a quest to raise money this week for Canine Companions for Independence’s DogFest Walk ‘n Roll fundraising event. The nonprofit group matches assistance dogs to children and adults with disabilities at no cost to the individual.

It was through CCI that Northport 9-year-old Giavanna DeStefano, who is disabled, met Harry, a golden Labrador, in February. And life has changed significantly for the DeStefanos since he joined their family, according to Giavanna’s mom, Cynthia DeStefano.

“Harry cleans her room for her,” DeStefano said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “For me, I should say. She likes having him around. It’s like her little buddy that’s there for her.”

Harry is Giavanna’s friend and helper. The girl, who was born with a genetic anomaly called Trisomy 9 Mosaicism syndrome, is nonverbal and has global developmental delays and balances issues. For instance, if someone were to bump into her, she would fall and wouldn’t know to brace herself to cushion the fall. She can only speak about seven words.

The dog is trained in more than 40 commands, and can do things like open and close doors, turn light switches on and off, and pick up dropped items for Giavanna, according to John Bentzinger, public relations spokesperson for the group.

“But his main job will be to give her constant companionship, and he is a social bridge to her peers,” Bentzinger said in an email.

The dogs go through a rigorous training process. It costs about $45,000 to train each of the dogs, and it’s through the DogFest Walk ‘n Roll that CCI helps raise money to fund some of those expenses, Bentzinger said. Last year, the group raised more than $40,000, and this year, they are aiming for $60,000.

There’s a waiting list of about a year and a half for one dog. CCI owns 53 dogs in the northeast region, and the nonprofit owns more than 500 dogs nationally.

Harry is Giavanna’s companion. The two-year-old lab sleeps with her at night. When Giavanna returns home from school, Harry gets antsy awaiting her arrival, when he hears the bus. He picks up her stuffed animal toys around the room. He swims in the family’s shallow pool with her. He attends doctors appointments with her.

When his vest is on, Harry is ready to go to work, Giavanna’s mom said.

“He’s helpful for her,” she said. “He’s very funny.”

Through Harry, Giavanna is gaining a greater sense of responsibility. Giavanna helps her mother groom and feed him, take him for walks. Having Harry by Giavanna’s side makes her more approachable and gives her more attention, which she likes, her mom said.

“They see him, they see her, and it softens the whole ‘what’s wrong with this situation’ kind of thing,” she said.

Experiencing life with Harry motivated the DeStefanos to give back by fundraising for CCI, Cynthia DeStefano said.

“It’s a great organization,” she said. “Going through the program was amazing, and to see what these dogs can do, and how they adapt to each person’s needs, is an amazing thing. We’re blessed to have been able to do this.”

So far, they’ve raised $185 out of their $300 goal. To donate to the DeStefanos’ team, go to their fundraising page at www.tinyurl.com/nn3sn4y.

The fundraiser DogFest Walk ‘n Roll Long Island takes place this Saturday, Oct. 3, at Marjorie Post Park in Massapequa. For more information, visit www.cci.org.

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Bob Hebert, left, and Darlene Ghents, right, with trainer Wendy Karyo and puppy Elijah, center. Photo from Hebert

A little bit of change has gone a long way for one Setauket-based wine shop.

Bob Hebert and his team at Hamlet Wines, 730 Rt. 25A, started collecting spare change about six months ago to benefit the Brookhaven Animal Shelter in order to pay for formal dog training for some of the dogs that have been in the shelter the longest.

The purpose behind the project, Hebert said, was to help the animals become more likely to find forever homes.

“A dog trained to walk on a leash, sit, stay has an easier chance of finding a forever family to adopt,” Hebert said. “Our customers have been amazing. In a short six months we have collected enough spare change to have a trainer come to the shelter and start to train.”

Hebert said the trainer also wants to help and committed to match every hour donated with one of her own.

The change collection for Brookhaven shelter dogs will continue through Dec. 31.

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A Boy Scout says hi to a puppy at the fourth annual Sound Beach Civic Association Pet Adopt-A-Thon. Photo by Giselle Barkley

The Hartlin Inn parking lot was full of furry friends from puppies to older dogs and kittens for the Sound Beach Civic Association’s fourth annual Pet Adopt-A-Thon in Sound Beach, Saturday.

Tanner is a 10-month-old hound that was up for adoption at the fourth annual Sound Beach Civic Association Pet Adopt-A-Thon. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Tanner is a 10-month-old hound that was up for adoption at the fourth annual Sound Beach Civic Association Pet Adopt-A-Thon. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Shelter’s and organizations like Save-A-Pet, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Grateful Greyhounds, Last Chance Animal Rescue, Long Island Bulldog Rescue and other organizations showed their many pets that are up for adoption. Organizations like the Regina Quinn Legacy Fund, which helps provide funds for animals in need, was also in attendance.

According to Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach civic, four dogs and one cat were adopted several hours into the adopt-a-thon, and three more dogs were adopted by the end of the event. In addition to adopting pets, people could also get their face painted, enter a raffle to win a basket of pet-related prizes and donate money to organizations to help their cause.

All proceeds went to the animal organizations in attendance.

The Sound Beach Civic Association hosted its first Pet Adopt-A-Thon in 2012, and the association intends on continuing its efforts to find loving homes for local pets in need.

Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, second from left, sits at the table with advisory board members pictured left to right, Lucille DeFina, Diane Madden and Elizabeth Stein. File photo

The Smithtown Animal Shelter’s inaugural advisory council has called it quits.

It has been about eight months since Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) rolled out the panel of animal welfare experts, geared toward moving the town’s shelter forward, but those same experts spoke before the Smithtown Town Board last Thursday night, accusing Nowick of failing them as the shelter’s government liaison. Animal welfare attorney Elizabeth Stein read a letter she had sent to the board on Sept. 15, calling out Nowick for failing to serve as a bridge between the animal experts and elected town officials concerning one of the advisory group’s biggest points: hiring an animal behaviorist at an annual salary of $45,000 to train the eight dogs being housed there.

“We reassured the public, on countless occasions, that we were not on the advisory council as window dressing and that we would never compromise what we felt was necessary to protect the animals,” Stein said. “We were told the town council was supportive of our efforts, and were promised the council’s full cooperation. These promises were empty and the cooperation was never forthcoming.”

Stein said the experts were adamant about having an animal behaviorist working with the shelter dogs on a regular basis to address behavioral issues so they can find homes, but were stonewalled due to fiscal constraints.

In response, Nowick said she had brought the recommendation to the town attorney and comptroller, but had put it on hold when Susan Hansen took over for the retired George Beatty as shelter director in August.

“I did start the process of trying to get a behaviorist. We tried almost everything,” Nowick said in response to the advisory council resignations. “We talked item-for-item and decided to wait and see what the new director of the shelter wanted for the position.”

Stein and her former panel members, animal welfare experts Lucille DeFina and Diane Madden, said they had brought a potential candidate forward who was willing to take on the behaviorist role on a full-time basis. Nowick said she could not yet iron out a full-time contract due to fiscal constraints, but reiterated her commitment to the position by exploring if it could be done on a volunteer basis instead.

“A behaviorist is necessary to make the shelter a progressive, no-kill shelter,” Madden said to the board last Thursday night. “When you have a 2016 budget that has cuts and making do with what you have, you’re not going in the right direction.”

Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) told the animal experts that it was the first he had heard of their recommendation to install a behaviorist. In his remarks, the councilman said he felt it was unfair for the panel to place blame on the town board as a whole if Nowick was not communicating their concerns to her colleagues.

“I object to the finger being pointed at me,” he said. “There has never been a discussion by this board involving these recommendations at any time that I’m aware of. Perhaps this board should cease-and-desist doing business like that.”

That news left DeFina stunned.

“I cannot believe my ears, because Lynne Nowick was supposed to be the liaison, and she put together this committee and I watched her for months and months on the video tape at home, bragging about how great we were and all the wonderful things we did,” she said. “To find out that the board knows nothing about our requests for a trainer, which we were all asking for from day one — it’s hard to accept.”

At the end of the meeting, Hansen mentioned some of the improvements at the shelter she and her staff were ushering in, including a new dog-walking plan and training program for volunteers, while acknowledging that it was only the beginning of progress.

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