In 1969, the Kent Animal Shelter opened its doors in Calverton to Long Island animals with nowhere to call home. From their first day of operation, Kent was a no-kill shelter, providing a safe space for healthy animals to find homes and treatable sick or injured animals a place to recover.
The private, nonprofit shelter was founded by a small group of humanitarians with a deep compassion for animals. The shelter was small and not well known outside the local community, and for several decades they struggled to avoid financial problems. The animal population was minimal and the staff didn’t have an executive director, either. In 1985, they hired Pamela Green for the job in a last-ditch effort to rejuvenate.
“I love being a part of the work we do, which ultimately helps both people and animals.”
— Linda MacDonald
Green, who went to college for pre-veterinary studies, grew up in a family that always encouraged compassion for animals. At home, they raised horses, chickens and ducks, among others. “It was always my intention to work with animals. They can’t speak for themselves so they need people to help them,” she said.
Under Green’s direction, Kent Animal Shelter has flourished. They now facilitate adoptions for nearly 700 dogs and cats every year, and are expecting to surpass that number by the end of 2019.
Included in the adoptions are a population of animals rescued from other places in the United States and even around the world.
“We have rescue partners around the country as well as internationally. Every 10 to 14 days, we do rescue transports from high-kill shelters in places that don’t place a lot of priority on adoption programs,” Green explained. “For many of the animals in those areas, there aren’t a lot of ways out of the shelter. We rescue them, bring them up here for medical care, vaccines and spaying or neutering, and then adopt them out.”
Many of the rescues Kent performs are in the South, where animals can become victims of homelessness or injury following natural disasters like hurricanes or floods. Some rescue dogs are flown to the United States from other countries where dog meat is consumed. Around 25 animals are rescued per trip, the majority of which are dogs because of Long Island’s ongoing problem with cat overpopulation.
One of the shelter’s biggest draws is their spay and neuter program. Two veterinarians work four days a week to spay and neuter local pets. Approximately 3,500 animals are spayed or neutered each year, Green said.
“Spaying and neutering is so important because if it’s left unchecked, a huge number of animals will be left without homes. You see this in areas of the country where spay and neuter programs aren’t as much of a priority. It leads to overbreeding and overpopulation.”
It takes a lot of work to keep the busy shelter running, and a regular staff of 22 makes it happen, along with volunteers who walk dogs, play with cats, and work fundraisers.
Office manager Linda MacDonald has been involved with animal care and rescue in various capacities for more than 20 years. These days, she keeps the business side of the shelter running smoothly while also helping to facilitate adoptions and surrenders.
“I love being a part of the work we do, which ultimately helps both people and animals,” MacDonald said. “I get to know the animals we have here very well, and it helps me to counsel customers on the right type of animal or breed for their lifestyle. We’re always looking to change and grow, whether it’s growing our social media presence, expanding our kennels or working with a trainer to help our customers introduce a pet to their home. A positive experience when a pet goes home can affect how they behave the rest of their lives.”
Eileen Striese of Bellport visited Kent for the first time 15 years ago. She had lost a dog a few years before and was eager to bring home a new pet. Her husband suggested they try Kent, and not long after, they welcomed home a black and white shih tzu named Lily.
Years later, as Striese approached retirement, she began to think about what she might do next. “I always knew that I wanted to volunteer and give back in some way,” she explained. “I love animals, but I had never worked with them before. So I went to the shelter and asked how I could get involved.”
Soon, Striese was walking dogs and socializing with the animals at Kent. She was also one of the volunteers responsible for transporting dogs to a local Petco for adoption.
“They warned me that I might fall in love with one of them, and there was a white bichon poodle mix that would just fall asleep in my arms. The bond formed instantly,” she recalled. “A few months later I brought him home. We renamed him Rocky.”
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine has a long-standing connection to the shelter that began when he adopted his first family dog in the 1970s. Since then, his family has gone on to raise two poodles who are now elderly.
“I thought that these two dogs were going to be the last for us, but sometimes life throws you a curveball,” Romaine said. “My wife was diagnosed with cancer, and she said to me at the time, ‘If I make it through this, I want to get a dog.’”
In March 2018, the Romaines welcomed a white bichon poodle mix into their family. Appropriately, they named him Lucky.
“They say you can judge a person by the way they treat animals — I’ve known Pam Green for a long time, and she’s a very special person who is so enthusiastic about her career,” he said. “The work Kent does for the community is incredible, and so important. It sets the shelter apart.”
Kent Animal Shelter’s funding is donor-based, and while most donations come from private donors, other funds come from foundations including the ASPCA and PetSmart. The shelter also holds several fundraising events throughout the year, all of them focused on having fun. In the past, they’ve held comedy nights, psychic readings, dog walking events, and recently celebrated its golden anniversary with a dinner/dance fundraiser at Stonewalls Restaurant in Riverhead.
At the end of the day, it’s all about doing as much good as they can, said Green. The shelter is looking to update and expand its facilities in the future to reach even more animals in need.
“It’s very rewarding work, but it’s also difficult and sometimes disheartening. The reward is to see an animal taken out of a terrible situation and have its life saved. To see them go to a loving home makes it all worth the effort,” she said.
Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Rd, Calverton, and is open seven days a week. To learn more about the shelter or to find your perfect pet, visit www.kentanimalshelter.com or call 631-727-5731.