Animals

Visitor’s entrance to the Town of Smithtown Animal Shelter and Adoption Center. Photo from Town of Smithtown

Every dog has its day, and Town of Smithtown could be handing a juicy opportunity to any private organization looking to run its animal shelter.

Town officials are looking to potentially turn partial control of the Town of Smithtown Animal Shelter and Adoption Center over to a private company. One caveat, though, is board members warn they will only go through with the plan if it doesn’t cost more than the town already spends.

“In my opinion, if this were to go through, the organization would have to be animal experts or organizations that are expert in the care of animals,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “And it has to be financially feasible. If the RFP comes back and it would be in excess of what we pay now we wouldn’t support it.”

The town board voted 4-1 July 17 to put out a request for proposal for any private organization that is interested in assuming day-to-day operations of the shelter. 

“We’ve been discussing this for more than 18 months as a board,” Wehrheim said. “Prior to choosing the director, if that happens and we keep it, the board has had conversations for professional animal
organizations who would agree to come in and operate the animal shelter in a public-private partnership. This is strictly exploratory.”

The supervisor said that some groups have already shown interest. Under the proposed plan, current animal control officers employed by the town would remain in place. The town would continue to assume the maintenance of the property and building, as well as handling any animal control or capture programs. The incoming private organization would handle the day-to-day operations, including feeding, cleaning and fostering the cats and dogs. 

The shelter has not had a director since Sue Hansen was suspended by the town from the position in February 2017 after allegations surfaced of incompetence and mismanagement. Hansen has a pending lawsuit against the town for being arrested on allegations of criminal trespassing on the town property after her suspension. She had taken over the reins from George Beatty, who resigned in 2015, after a
scandal surfaced with claims of animal neglect and abuse. 

Supervision of the shelter has since fallen to the town’s Department of Public Safety headed by Director John Valentine. Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R) said those public safety officers in the shelter would move back to the department office should this plan go into effect.

Wehrheim said they were looking for nonprofits already involved in animal care, but he did not rule out any for-profit organizations coming in.

Inzerillo, the liaison to the shelter, voted against the RFP, though she said she didn’t necessarily disagree with the concept. Instead, the councilwoman said she wished the town would have waited until after they finished upgrades to the shelter such as the construction of the new independent Trap, Neuter and Release building.

Smithtown has attained a $168,000 grant to build a new TNR building on the existing property. The town will pull matching funds equal to 25 percent of the grant, or approximately $56,250, from the town’s capital budget to complete the project, and it expects to begin building in early 2019. 

“I would have preferred to have some more time to make an informed decision … or to potentially discuss the idea with experts first or in a work session with the board,” Inzerillo said. “I have the utmost faith in my fellow board members that they would not commit to anything concrete that would put these projects in jeopardy.”

Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

MEET EBONY!

This happy, playful boy is an 8-week-old shepherd/Lab mix. Ebony is the last of his litter and is feeling kind of lonely. Luckily he is in a wonderful foster home where he gets plenty of love and attention. Ebony has been working on being housebroken with his foster mommy and seems to be starting to get the hang of it. He’s full of energy and has lots of puppy kisses he would love to share with you if you let him. Ebony comes neutered, microchipped and as up to date as possible on vaccines.

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. For more information on Ebony and other adoptable pets at Kent, visit www.kentanimalshelter.com or call 631-727-5731. 

Update: Ebony has been adopted!

A look at SCPD's current K-9 Unit facility in Yaphank, which lawmakers are seeking funding to upgrade. Photo by Amanda Perelli

By Amanda Perelli

Republicans and Democrats in Suffolk County are having trouble getting on the same page.

Amid a greater fight over the issuance and ultimately failed vote on bond-seeking resolutions lumped together into an all or nothing proposal from the Democratic side in recent weeks, funding for several county initiatives is in a state of limbo, including for plans to upgrade Suffolk County Police Department’s K-9 Unit facility in Yaphank. The bond was voted down as a stand-alone proposal at the July 17 legislature meeting.

“This is unfortunately again, where we run into politics,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said at a July 10 press conference at the facility. “The funding for the new K-9 state of the art facility here is being blocked again by members of the minority caucus.”

The roof leaks in the current structure, the floor has holes in it, and the air conditioner and heating do not work properly, according to Bellone.

“I just wanted to note for the record once again that while I support the construction of this building I do still believe that we should be able to do the planning for this building in-house with [Department of Public Works] staff,” said Minority Leader and Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) prior to the vote at the July 17 Legislature meeting. “A number of us, both on the republican side and democrat side toured the facilities. It’s clear that they need to be replaced, but we just believe that the planning for this can be done in-house. Operating funds rather than spending $150,000 of borrowed money to outside contractors to do this work.”

Bellone and other county Democrats called for funding for a renovated, full-indoor kennel for training and to house these dogs when their handlers are away during the press conference.

Sue Hansen of RSVP, Legislator Monica Martinez, County Executive Steve Bellone, and Legislator Rob Calarco call for funding for SCPD’s K-9 Unit facility in Yaphank at a July 10 press conference. Photo by Amanda Perelli

“The population of this county has grown over the years and as a result the size of our K-9 unit has grown over the years,” said Legislator and Deputy Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue). “We are housing far more dogs here now than we ever had, and we have to have appropriate facilities for these animals to be kept so that they can be in the top shape and top health, so they can do their job, which is important.”

The SCPD K-9 Unit currently has 22 dogs. Nearly 12 years ago, a more than 20-year-old Sachem School District trailer was transported to Yaphank as a short-term SCPD K-9 Unit housing facility, and it is still in-use today, according to a press release from Bellone’s office.

“When it came time to vote for the resolution and fund this new facility, they voted against it,” Bellone said, referring to the legislature’s Republican members. “So here it is, unbundled, a single, stand-alone bond. Earlier this year, we put that forward and they voted no.”

The Minority Caucus wants the planning done in-house rather than borrowing to pay for the project, which, according to Bellone, would delay the project up to four years.

“We made it clear to police officials that we agree with building a new facility — that’s not the problem here, but what the county executive is asking us for is to borrow $150,000 to pay an outside contractor to design a kennel,” Cilmi said last week. “We spend $250 million in public works every year, and we believe that somebody from public works, working with our police department, should be able to engineer that building. They’re in a donated shack basically right now, we don’t need a Taj Mahal here.”

Animal rights activist Sue Hansen attended the conference representing local animal welfare and rescue organization Responsible Solutions for Valued Pets. She said the organization has been working with Suffolk County Legislator Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), who is chairwoman of the county’s Public Safety Committee, on laws dealing with animals. Hansen said the organization is in favor of bonding to pay for the upgrades to the facility.

This post was updated July 17 to reflect the result of the vote on the matter at the July 17 Legislature meeting.

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

“Hi, it’s me – Shellbee!” Thus begins “Shellbee’s Story,” a tale of a dog (no pun intended) as told by the dog and “recorded” by her “Mommy,” Port Jefferson resident Jennifer Flynn-Campbell. “My story,” continues Shellbee in the first lines, “has been put into words so humans see the world through my eyes, hear the sounds of emotions, and come to understand the purpose behind the adventures of my life.”

Related in a series of almost three dozen letters, Shellbee tells her own story from pup to forever home and beyond. It is funny and touching, clever and honest. In this unusual journey, Flynn-Campbell has chosen to endow the black Lab with extraordinary insight; by the end, she has artfully convinced us that it is Shellbee relating her life’s story.

The author with her mom, Jennifer Flynn-Campbell

The book — a hybrid of memoir and fiction and something all its own — is not just for dog lovers but for anyone who has ever been touched by a pet (and, this would most likely encompass just about everyone). Shellbee makes us reflect on ourselves as keepers of these innocent souls — the pleasures and the joys of companionship but also the deeper responsibility. It is about unconditional love on both sides or, in Shellbee’s words, it is “the story of my heartfelt love festival on earth.”

From the get-go, the “Hi, it’s me — Shellbee” that opens each letter captures the voice we imagine our canine companions to have. It celebrates the “it’s-me-it’s-you-I’m-so-glad-your-here” enthusiasm that dogs project.

We are treated to her earliest memories and the routines that root her life. Everything — from parties to pools and canoeing on the lake to staying in hotels — is described in childlike wonderment and appreciation. Shellbee compares country life with city living and ponders with puzzlement her first snow. She vividly relates the terror of getting lost and the relief of being found. 

And, of course, at the heart of her thoughts is food, food and food. Food, needless to say, is the focus and center of Shellbee’s life, but it is presented in a manner both humorous and believable. (Even the success of a wedding is measured by how much food is dropped on the ground.)  

The Labrador retriever details her training (most notably under the person she refers to as “Dogman”). She does have concern that she wants to maintain her individuality and not become a “Stepford Dog” (which she most certainly does not). She frames the “training” as “companion connection” and “obedience” as “comfort connection.” Shellbee (Flynn-Campbell) has clear ideas about how dogs should live and be educated. She even does work as a therapy dog, here described from her appropriately simple perspective.

The cover of Shelbee’s book

Shellbee imparts her responses to all of the creatures she comes across — both human and animal, viewing them as one world — all her “littermates.” She even assigns humans to different dog breeds, categorizing them on looks and personality including a hilarious description of her first visit to Santa: “The first time I saw him I was creeped out: a big, fluffy, hairy-faced human yelping, ‘Ho Ho Ho!’” It is an accurate assessment from an outside point of view.  

Shellbee also likes galleries because she has “plenty of room to wag [her] tail while viewing the artwork.”  

Flynn-Campbell also introduces some interesting references to studies that have been done — most notably about “declarative memories” and how and why dogs remember the people with whom they’ve crossed paths. In addition, she writes about scientist Rupert Sheldrake’s work on “morphic resonance,” which explains how dogs are aware when their people are coming home. These small digressions further enhance an overall perspective on what it is to have these dogs so present in our lives.

The book deals with serious health issues — both of Shellbee’s as well as both of her human parents. How they support each other in these difficult times is related in tender and touching passages, showing the pain and emotional confusion, and the pure happiness of being reunited. Furthermore, the important topic of animal abuse and the responsibility we have to end it, is highlighted briefly but pointedly: “Humans put a lot of work into helping heal animals who have been hurt on earth.” It is a statement, but, more importantly, a reminder.  

There are many photos of Shellbee with her family in various places. They are not portraits but snapshots that capture her in all her day-to-day adventures. Credited to Ariana Boroumand, they make a welcome addition to the narrative.  

Shellbee continually comes back to the fact that love will conquer all. Ultimately, it comes down to family. “Knowing you can trust someone is a wonderful feeling.” The book builds to a powerful and inevitable conclusion. While you know it is coming, you cannot help but be moved. Shades of the Rainbow Bridge and spiritual connections are present but are neither saccharine nor maudlin: They are a celebration of all Shellbee was. The ending is one that transmutes grief to hope, loss to recovery.  

In the final letter, the sole written by the humans, there is genuine expression of complete appreciation: “Your presence in our lives enriched us in ways that only Shellbee Ann Campbell’s unique soul could. You found a way to break through the struggles we face as humans. Somehow, you always knew just the right thing to do to bring smiles and comfort to everyone you met. Your gift to make tears stop flowing and erase fears from hearts seemed to come naturally to you. You faced each day with effortless happiness, excited for any and all possibilities.”

“Shellbee’s Story” gives a true and poignant meaning to “a dog’s life.”

“Shellbee’s Story” has been featured in Modern Dog magazine as one of its picks for Best Reads and is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Shellbee posthumously appears weekly in her own blog: www.doggyletters.com and has a popular Twitter account, Facebook page as well as an Instagram account.

Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

MEET CARLOS!

Carlos

This handsome boy is Carlos! A one-year-old Chihuahua mix who looks a bit like a baby deer with his long legs, Carlos is very sweet, affectionate and playful and is patiently waiting at Kent Animal Shelter for that perfect someone with a nice warm lap for him to curl up on. Could that be with you? Carlos comes neutered, microchipped and is up to date on all his vaccines. 

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. For more information on Carlos and other adoptable pets at Kent, visit www.kentanimalshelter.com or call 631-727-5731. 

Update: Carlos has been adopted!

MEET ROCKY!

This handsome man is Rocky, a 5½-year-old lab mix who is as friendly as can be. Rocky gives the best doggy kisses and he even gives hugs! Rescued from a high kill shelter in Texas, this sweetheart is now safe at Kent Animal Shelter and dreams of the day he will have a loving family. Could that be with you? Rocky comes neutered, microchipped and up to date on his vaccines. 

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. For more information on Rocky and other adoptable pets at Kent, visit www.kentanimalshelter.com or call 631-727-5731. 

Update: Rocky has been adopted!

One of Centerport's two mated American Bald eagles. Photo by Bruce Adams

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Two of Centerport’s biggest celebrities are safer thanks to quick action taken to protect these majestic winged beauties, much to the delight of their paparazzi.

PSEG Long Island announced in honor of the nation’s birthday, the 4th of July, it had answered the calls of Centerport residents asking the company to help protect a nesting pair of American bald eagles and their two eaglets from dangers posed by two nearby electrical poles. During the last week of June, PSEG crews wrapped bright orange insulation around the electrical wires and the transformers on top of two poles on Centershore Road near the intersection of Route 25A, according to Dan Wickstrom, a manager for PSEG.

PSEG Long Island has installed orange insulation on two poles closest to the eagles’ Centerport nest. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“We were so concerned when we found the eaglets were landing on the wires,” Bruce Adams, of Northport, said. “As you all know, when linesmen are up on wires they are exposed to tremendous danger and we did not want that danger to impact the birds.”

Adams is one of the thousands of local residents and bird watchers who have flocked to Centerport hoping to catch a glimpse of The Commodore and Mrs. Vanderbilt, as the mated pair of eagles is affectionately nicknamed. The names were chosen by a growing number of birdwatchers on the Facebook group “Bald Eagles of Centerport, NY,” which has more than 8,000 followers, some who give updates on the eaglets’ progress and photographers share their best images and videos.

“This is so phenomenal,” Adams said. “The presence of these birds has made birders out of those us who were not birders a year ago.”

The avid photographer said he first noticed the eagles’ arrival in November 2017 as they began constructing a nest in close proximity to Chalet Inn & Suites in Centerport. Shortly thereafter, two eggs appeared in the nest and a pair of fledglings hatched in April.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer, Bruce Adams, Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and Dan Wickstrom, of PSEG Long Island, show off eagle pins given to them by Adams to mark the occasion. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

As the young birds began to fly, Adams said he and other birdwatchers were alarmed to see the eaglets landing and perching on two power poles with transformers close to the nest. He said he reached out to Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) for help.

“Centerport is already a picturesque place and the presence of these birds only adds to its beauty,” Spencer said. “I was happy to play a role in the community effort to protect the eaglets that thousands of residents have come to treasure.”

Spencer said he contacted PSEG and received an affirmative response within hours that they were willing to take action to protect the birds.

“A part of our mission is to be engaged in the community and be good stewards of the environment,” Wickstrom said. “We were happy to get involved and take some corrective action to make things safer.”

Wickstrom said the animal protective caps should stay in place and last through the summer as the eaglets continue to grow and learn to fly. The utility company is looking to install similar protective features on six additional poles in the Centerport area in the coming weeks, according to Wickstrom.

Smithtown Guide Dog Foundation puppies get used to different smells, like various plants, at Suffolk County’s Association for Habilitation and Residential Care sensory garden in Shoreham June 13. Photo by Amanda Perelli

By Amanda Perelli

Guide Dog Foundation puppies were tested for their obedience at Suffolk County’s Association for Habilitation and Residential Care sensory garden in Shoreham June 13.

Dogs aged 4-to-11 months were invited to the garden, designed to stimulate children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to acclimate the animals to a place they may soon be visiting with new owners.

Smithtown Guide Dog Foundation puppies get used to different sounds, like drums, at Suffolk County’s Association for Habilitation and Residential Care sensory garden in Shoreham June 13. Photo by Amanda Perelli

Human guests of the garden can test their hearing by playing one of the giant instruments or smell the vertical hanging herbs like basil and mint.

The Smithtown-based nonprofit’s nine four-legged members did the same, as they became familiar with strange sounds, textures and smells and walked over pavers, asphalt, rocks, dirt, grass and puddles in the garden’s splash pad.

“We are here today to be able to give back to the community — to give our puppy raisers the opportunity to have their dogs experience all these different sights, sounds, smells and distractions,” said Jordan Biscardi, a puppy adviser in charge of the volunteer dog raisers who guided the event.

He tested each puppy on how well it could remain seated between its raiser’s legs under a table, seamlessly walk past another dog and react to its raiser with a “paw” shake.

“When you go out in the real world with a guide dog, they are going to come across everything,” Biscardi said, adding the owners raise the dogs from 8 weeks to between 1 and 2 years old.

This is the sensory garden’s second season, and the first time hosting the Smithtown-based Guide Dog Foundation.

A trainer walks her dog around Suffolk County’s Association for Habilitation and Residential Care sensory garden in Shoreham June 13. Photo by Amanda Perelli

“It’s designed for the purpose of stimulating the senses,” said Leeana Costa, director of development of the nonprofit AHRC Suffolk. “We have some residential services here that we have for the individuals that we support, and this space is designed to be available to them and to their families — anyone in the community — and that way it is an integrated space, which is something that’s important to AHRC Suffolk.”

Residents of the campus Monica Marie Antonawich, Chrissy Koppel and Pam Siems enjoyed watching the
puppies, learning about the Guide Dog Foundation and later getting the chance to interact with them. They said they are big animal lovers and as members of AHRC Suffolk’s self-advocacy group, recently collected food, blankets and beds for the animals at the Smithtown Animal Shelter.

“I thought it was wonderful, I really did,” Siems said of the event. “I’ve had dogs all my life and I would love to take one home — I love them. We wanted to help the animals this year. We collected dog bones and some things for the cats, too, and we want to continue doing this for the summer.”

Inviting the Guide Dog Foundation felt like a natural tie-in, Costa said. It was an educational, interactive and engaging experience for everyone.

“We serve a different population of individuals with disabilities,” she said. “We thought that this would be a nice partnership between both organizations, so that we could build awareness for the great work that each organization is doing — and everybody loves puppies. It was a successful and productive partnership for all.”

Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

MEET MILA!

This long-haired beauty is Mila! A very sweet and affectionate 5-year-old, she is currently being taken care of at Kent Animal Shelter. This shelter life is not for her. She had a home once and is hoping that the next home she has is truly a forever home. Mila would make a wonderful companion and just dreams of the day she will once again have a nice warm lap to curl up on. Could that be with you? Mila comes spayed, microchipped and  up to date on her vaccines. 

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. For more information on Mila and other adoptable pets at Kent, visit www.kentanimalshelter.com or call 631-727-5731. 

 

July 4th can be a very stressful time for our pets. Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I commonly get this question around this time of year, “What can I give my pet (usually my dog) for all the fireworks before, during and after July 4th?” One point I tell pet owners to keep in mind is fear of loud noises is a natural, instinctive behavior in dogs and cats, telling them to seek shelter temporarily, alerting them to potential predators in the area, etc. However, I agree that when a pet is oversensitive to this noise stimulus to the point where they cower, shake, pace, urinate/defecate in the house, destroy furniture or even try to climb on your lap that becomes a big problem.     

Supplements: Alpha-casozepine, L-theanine (green tea extract) and aromatherapy (lavender, chamomile) are the safest and also have the widest range of efficacy in my opinion. I have had feedback from owners that report these supplements or homeopathic remedies are either “just what the doctor ordered” or are now of the opinion that I am more “snake-oil salesman” than veterinarian. My advice is it’s great to try these but have a backup plan.

Over-the-Counter Medications: The only over-the-counter medication that has been evaluated for sedation is diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Diphenhydramine can cause drowsiness, and I have heard a few owners tell me it is enough; but I have found that it is more effective for dogs that suffer from motion sickness during travel than sedating a dog climbing the walls from a noise phobia. My advice is the same. Have a backup plan.

Antidepressants and SSRIs: These medications can be quite effective; the mainstay of antidepressants in veterinary medicine is a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) called clomipramine (Clomicalm). The mainstay of selected serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) is fluoxetine (Prozac). The problem is these medications can take a minimum of three weeks and sometimes up to 8 weeks to get to steady therapeutic levels. That means starting before Memorial Day, and my experience has been that pet owners (myself included) do not think that far ahead.

Benzodiazepines: The mainstay of benzodiazepines in veterinary medicine is alprazolam (Xanax). This medication has been studied extensively for all sorts of anxiety and phobias in dogs. It is helpful, but I have to admit that I have been less than impressed with the results with the use of benzodiazepines by themselves. These medications are designed to be used in conjunction with a TCA or SSRI where the TCA/SSRI is a maintenance medication and the benzodiazepine is situational. The problem is what is described above: It takes one to two months of steady use of the TCA or SSRI for the addition of a benzodiazepine to be effective.

Phenothiazine: Phenothiazines are tranquilizers, and the most widely used phenothiazine tranquilizer in veterinary medicine is acepromazine. Using acepromazine to sedate a dog is wonderful if one is looking to keep them still (and not destroy the house), but it does not address phobias or anxiety. I do prescribe it routinely around the 4th of July because it works so well in a “real time” basis, but I do not recommend it as a long-term medication. 

Dexmedetomidine: This medication is the newest kid on the block. Initially used for sedation prior to procedures, dexmedetomidine (Sileo) is now used to treat anxiety on a short-term basis similar to acepromazine.  

There are several choices for sedating our dogs for noise phobias this July 4th. Please check with your veterinarian to determine which is both effective and safe for your dog. Have a happy and safe 4th of July.  

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

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