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Animal Shelter

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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.

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.

A black dog at Kent Animal Shelter sits in one of the buildings closest to the Peconic River. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kent Animal Shelter has always been close to the Peconic Lake. Maybe too close.

The 47-year-old facility was built on River Road in Calverton less than 50 feet from Peconic Lake, which leads to Peconic River. As the lake flows into the river, so does the Shelter’s wastewater.

In 2012, the shelter began its process to get a waiver to expand its five-building facility and install a new septic system to avoid contaminating the Peconic’s surface water. According to Pamela Green, executive director of the shelter, the shelter also wants to tear down two of its building and construct one, approximately 10,000 square foot building closer to River Road. The hope is that relocating these buildings will put 300 feet between the shelter and the water, which will limit the amount of wastewater dumped into the Peconic Lake and river.

But Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said the shelter doesn’t qualify for the waiver for its prospective projects. Although Amper said the society doesn’t oppose the shelter’s projects, he said the facility’s desire to move closer to River Road infringes on Long Island Pine Barrens’ core preservation area. According to Amper, construction is not permitted by law in that area to help “protect the Island’s purest source of water.”

“The only way anyone can get a waiver is to demonstrate that they have no beneficial use of the property absent the waiver, or that public health and safety depends upon the construction occurring in the Pine Barrens core,” Amper said. “Kent does not meet that requirement, and if the waiver were granted, it would create a dangerous precedent for others who want to develop in the Pine Barrens core.”

Amper claimed that the shelter’s new proposed septic system would discharge 2,700 gallons of wastewater daily into the land’s underground aquifer. However, Green said the wastewater isn’t in close proximity to the aquifer for drinking water, as the wastewater goes into the Peconic.

Peconic Lake is located several feet from two of Kent Animal Shelters’ buildings. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Peconic Lake is located several feet from two of Kent Animal Shelters’ buildings. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Currently, the shelter wants to demolish its kennel, which rests on the river bank, as well as the small cottage located across from the kennel. The shelter also wants to relocate its clinic and include it into the nearly 10,000 square foot building, alongside a new kennel and cat facilities. One of the cat facilities, also on the bank of the Peconic, houses senior cats that will live out their lives at the shelter.

Thus far, the shelter has received permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Health Department.

“The last hurdle is the Pine Barrens commission,” Green said, about Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission.

Where the commission differs from the Pine Barrens Society is that the commission decides whether the shelter will receive the waiver to expand its facility and upgrade its septic system. The commission is comprised of County Executive Steve Bellone (D); Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R); Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter (R) and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (D). A fifth individual will be added at a later date.

Amper said the society reached out to these supervisors, who are in the Pine Barrens towns, hoping that at least one of these officials will help provide the shelter with two to three acres of property for the shelter to expand and install a new septic system.

Green added that the Pine Barrens Society is threatening the commission with a lawsuit if the commission grants the shelter a hardship permit, which Green believes the shelter is eligible for as parts of the shelter are dilapidated and won’t be useful once the shelter cannot use the facility.

But Amper said this is a standard procedure. He also said even if the commission likes the shelter’s proposal, they can’t legally grant a waiver to the shelter to build on the area.

“If the commission is allowed to say, ‘We don’t care what the law says; we just like this project,’ then there’s no protection of the core area and the underground water supply,” Amper said. “The commission can’t make the law nor can they make decisions that contradict the law. It’s not that any of us dislike what they’re proposing; it’s not the value of the project, it’s where they’re proposing to build it.”

Romaine denied to comment on the issues and process the shelter is experiencing.

“As a member of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, it is not appropriate for me to comment at this time regarding an issue which is still under consideration,” Romaine said in an email.

The commission will vote on whether the shelter will receive a waiver on Oct. 21, at the Pine Barrens Commission meeting at Brookhaven Town Hall, according to Amper. The shelter will need three out of five votes to acquire the waiver to go through with its reconstruction plan, including the installation of a new septic system.

“We’re trying to prevent [surface water contamination] from happening by putting a new septic system and removing the channel off the river and abandoning the leaching field,” Green said. “This would be an upgrade for the environment.”

Maddie is a 7-year-old lab/collie mix who loves kids and is a laid-back couch potato. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

He’s gentle and kind and loving, Valerie Sanks, of Rocky Point, explains. He’s got a Frank Sinatra debonair-style class, he’s well mannered, good in the car and loves people, especially children. His name is Bravo and, sorry, ladies, he’s not human. But, he’s still a great catch — or should we say fetch — with the capacity to love unconditionally.  He also isn’t taken, and he could be yours.

Brookhaven Town will be waiving its animal shelter fees on Saturday, Aug. 15, in honor of a Clear the Shelter event that seeks to encourage adoptions of the shelter’s many dogs and cats.

Joe, a volunteer, hangs out with pit bull/lab mix Huckleberry. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Joe, a volunteer, hangs out with pit bull/lab mix Huckleberry. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Sanks, a Brookhaven animal shelter volunteer and dog owner, said dogs like Bravo who have lived in the shelter for extended periods of time often have trouble getting adopted because of factors beyond their control, like age, injury and appearance. 

Bravo, a terrier mix, is estimated to be between 7 and 9 years old and has cropped ears.  He was originally adopted from the shelter in 2011, but when his owners fell on hard times in 2014, he was brought back and is now in need of a new home.  “He has every odd against him for getting a home,” Sanks said, but despite this, “he’s very sweet and very mellow.”

Sanks also volunteers at the Riverhead and Southold towns’ animal shelters and described herself as “a firm believer in town shelters.” She referred to the staff at the Brookhaven shelter as “an incredible group of workers.”

“When a dog needs something, people use their own money to buy it for them,” she said. “Town workers, on their day off, come down to the shelter just to walk the dogs.”

While the town and volunteers are trying to get more people to adopt the animals, Sanks said additional volunteers are always needed.

Bravo, a sweet pit bull/terrier mix, enjoys the outdoors. He was adopted but came back to the shelter when his owners fell on hard times. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Bravo, a sweet pit bull/terrier mix, enjoys the outdoors. He was adopted but came back to the shelter when his owners fell on hard times. Photo by Talia Amorosano

“Volunteering is needed immensely,” she said. “Especially when you have a shelter that could hold 80-plus dogs.”

Volunteers spend outdoor time with the dogs, take them on walks and give them treats, but helping out is not limited to direct interaction with the animals.  Sanks noted that even things as simple as dropping off a jar of peanut butter, a toy or a warm blanket or towel can do a great deal to ensure that these animals remain happy and healthy.

“The most exciting day is when we have a volunteer meeting,” she said. “After the meeting is over, everybody goes to get their dogs and I stand in the parking lot and watch all the volunteers come out. It is the most beautiful thing anyone could ever see.”

Brookhaven’s Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is located at 300 Horseblock Road, Brookhaven. For more information, visit the center online at brookhaven.org/animalshelter or call 631-451-6950.

Smithtown Animal Shelter. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

After a tumultuous year at the Smithtown Animal Shelter, a new director has been appointed and a fresh start seems certain.

The Smithtown Town Board has voted in Susan Hansen, of Rocky Point, and she began her new post on Wednesday, Aug. 5.   

“I’ve been an animal advocate for as long as I can remember, and I want to make a difference,” Hansen said in a phone interview.

Hansen has volunteered at multiple animal shelters including Manhattan Shelter, Brookhaven Municipal Animal Shelter, the Riverhead Municipal Animal Shelter and the North Fork Animal Welfare League.

But she has done more than just volunteer; she is also the founder of a nonprofit animal welfare organization that promotes shelter reform.

A Better Shelter Inc. provides assistance to local animal welfare organizations, shelters and communities through fundraising, adoption efforts and TNR, or trap, neuter, return. TNR is a proven method to help control the feral cat population.

Sue Hansen works with one of the many pets she has helped throughout her career. Photo from Sue Hansen
Sue Hansen works with one of the many pets she has helped throughout her career. Photo from Sue Hansen

Hansen’s expertise goes beyond animal advocacy; she has been a computer programmer for more than 20 years and hopes to bring her understanding of computer programs to the animal shelter, to update record keeping.

“I want to use my experience with computers and computer programs to help integrate old procedures and policies with new ones, and make the shelter a more welcoming and friendly environment,” Hansen said.

Smithtown Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R), who took on the role of animal shelter liaison earlier this year, was a part of the decision to bring in Hansen.

“She’s going to bring this shelter into the 21st century and set up new procedures and policies, including a new volunteer training program which will be much more intensive,” Nowick said in a phone interview.

The volunteer training program would help teach volunteers that aren’t familiar with certain animals how to interact with them and set certain age groups with certain hours to volunteer.

“Usually animals are kept separate, I want to introduce play groups, and make this a more progressive shelter,” Hansen said. She hopes that this new volunteer program would lead to an increase in adoption rates.

Nowick felt one of Hansen’s most unique skills she brings to the shelter is that she is a grant writer. If the shelter was able to apply for and receive grants, then new opportunities could be brought to the shelter, like getting a vet to visit the shelter two to three days a week, or having a behaviorist come to evaluate the animals and prepare them for adoption.

“Our mission isn’t to be a shelter, it’s to be a middle home, to get pets adopted,” Nowick said.

Hansen has worked with the Suffolk County Department of Public Works as a grant analyst, where she provided support for federal and state grants awarded to Suffolk County.

The previous director, George Beatty, 62, stepped down in June, after more than 30 years, following heavy criticism from Smithtown residents. Citizens deemed Beatty’s leadership role inadequate and the conditions animals lived in and were cared for at the shelter unacceptable.

“I was aware of what was happening with the shelter, and I recognized that there was a need for change there,” Hansen said.

She said she is looking forward to working with the staff and the community, and plans to give this new job “110 percent.”

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The Smithtown Animal Shelter is working toward a 100 percent adoption rate. File photo

The ongoing efforts to make Smithtown’s local animal shelter the best in Suffolk County continued this week when town officials announced a new partnership with another shelter.

The Smithtown Animal Shelter is partnering with The South Hampton Animal Shelter Foundation to offer low-cost spay and neuter services to the town’s community of pets.

Residents interested in participating can call 631-566-8870 to schedule appointments.

Town Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) signed on as the shelter’s government liaison in February and has since been working toward achieveing what she called one of her top priorities in making the Smithtown shelter reach a 100 percent adoption rate. She formed an advisory panel of animal experts soon after to help usher in change at the shelter.

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The memorial park on Port Jefferson Harbor was fluffier than usual on Saturday, during Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center’s annual Hounds on the Sound event. Tails were wagging and tongues were licking at the event until rain started to fall.

Supervisor Ed Romaine makes friends with a dog at the town animal shelter. Photo from Brookhaven Town

By Talia Amorosano

Brookhaven Town is reducing adoption costs at its animal shelter this month.

According to a recent town press release, the Brookhaven Animal Shelter and Adoption Center on Horseblock Road will offer discounted adoption fees through June. While the fees are normally $137 for a dog and $125 for a cat, they have been dropped to $60.

The lower fee includes a free neuter or spay for the animal as well as a free microchip, vaccinations, heartworm test and animal license.

The reduced price is partly the result of renovations that are currently taking place at the shelter.  The shelter’s website notes that “pet overpopulation is of great concern” and that it is especially important for some of the animals to be adopted during the next four to six weeks because kennels will be renovated during that timeframe.

The shelter has also invested in new air conditioners, freshly painted walls and new floors.

But Martin Haley, Brookhaven Town’s commissioner of general services, said adoption discounts like this one are common throughout the year regardless of special circumstances like construction and renovation, because the shelter staff is constantly trying to incentivize adoption.

As of Monday, there were 78 animals in the shelter.

Haley said the number fluctuates every day and the shelter’s goal is to keep the population manageable. He said the animals can become difficult to manage at numbers of 80 to 100, but it varies on a case-by-case basis with animals’ spatial and behavioral needs.

According to Haley, most of the animals currently housed at the shelter are dogs, but there are also about 30 cats and kittens available for adoption.

The shelter is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays; from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays; from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays; and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed on Wednesdays.

Anyone interested in adopting a pet may call the shelter at 631-451-6950 or visit www.brookhaven.org/animalshelter for more information.

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