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Animals

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

In the Aug. 13 article we focused on the causes of chronic otitis externa (external ear infections). This article will focus on treatment. First, relieve yourself of the guilt that you did not treat the “infection” correctly. If your pet has chronic ear infections, that usually indicates some predisposing factor (usually genetic in origin). Second, get over the frustration of assuming that because we veterinarians use the term “ear infection” that if treated once, it will never return. 

Chronic otitis externa is a problem that can be managed, not cured.  Therefore, general maintenance of the ear is much better than waiting for things to get out of control. Talk to your veterinarian about ear cleaners, or if you look for an ear cleaner at the pet store make sure it states that it is a cleaner and a drying agent. This means it will have some isopropyl alcohol and usually propylene glycol to not only break up the wax but also to dry the lining of the ear canal.

Those dogs (or cats) that produce excessive wax should have their ears cleaned regularly (once to twice weekly).  If your pet’s ears are really inflamed/infected, you will need medication from your veterinarian to get things under control. However, once the infection clears up, maintenance cleaning is imperative. I have many a pet owner tell me how guilty they feel about cleaning their pet’s ears because they know it hurts and the pet runs away.

However, these same owners usually wait until there is a full-blown infection. Therefore, it is much easier to clean the ears when there is no infection, as compared to waiting until the lining of the ear canal is inflamed and sensitive.  Remember, “an ounce of prevention…”

There are some cases that get so out of hand that your veterinarian may suggest sedating your pet to obtain samples for testing (ear cultures, etc.), as well as a deep ear flush to evaluate the ear drum and the middle ear behind it. Although the problem may originate in the external ear canal, it can progress to a middle ear infection (otitis media) and systemic medication may be indicated. 

Talk to your veterinarian about exploring the underlying causes of the ear infection. As we discussed in the previous article, it is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of recurrent ear infections are secondary to allergies. Newer, more accurate blood tests can diagnose food allergies, seasonal allergies or both. Avoiding certain foods (including treats), as well as managing seasonal allergies can decrease (or sometimes eliminate altogether) the need for cleaning the ears at all. 

As a last resort, there are two surgical procedures that can be performed in severe cases. The first is called a lateral ear canal ablation. This procedure reconstructs a portion of the external ear canal so it more resembles a human ear canal. This allows better airflow and makes cleaning and treatment easier.

The second procedure is called a total ear canal ablation and bulla osteotomy, or TECA-BO (pronounced, “teeka-boo”) for short. This is reserved for end-stage ear canals where over the years so much scar tissue has developed, no medication can be introduced into the canal. This procedure involves removing the entire external ear canal and part of the middle ear as well.

A percentage of patients lose their hearing, but it will eliminate a significant source of chronic pain. The good news is that in almost every case, the patient is deaf before the surgery secondary to chronic disease. 

I hope this sheds a little light on a confusing (and sometimes frustrating) disease in pets. 

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

‘The Joy Keeper,’ self-portrait by Christopher Reisman

By Melissa Arnold

Some people say they see the world through rose-colored glasses. Contemporary artist Christopher Reisman sees the world in technicolor.

‘Think Tall' by Christopher Reisman
‘Think Tall’ by Christopher Reisman

His acrylic and mixed-media paintings mostly showcase people and animals with a whimsical, kaleidoscope-like color palette. Some of his paintings are abstract, but for the Rocky Point resident, it’s all about experimentation and play.

A selection of his abstracts and animal portraits will be on display throughout the month of September in an exhibit titled “Paintings by Christopher: All Things Sacred” at the North Shore Public Library in Shoreham. The art show will feature paintings, some as large as 48 inches wide by 60 inches high, and several prints.

This is Reisman’s second appearance at the library, says art coordinator Hildegard Kroeger. He had an exhibit there six years ago. “He’s doing a lot more freestyle work now,” Kroeger says. “He’s very colorful and people really pay attention to his work when they stop by.”

Reisman’s talents — which also include sculpture, music and sewing — are more than just hobbies. They have been his lifeblood since he was a toddler.

“I drew on the walls as a child and was always getting big pads of drawing paper from my parents, who were very encouraging,” says Reisman.

His creative streak would lead to an art-intensive high school education and some study at what is now Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, but Reisman’s mostly self-taught. He spent more than 40 years as an art educator in a variety of settings before an illness led him to retire in 2000.

‘The Visit’ by Christopher Reisman
‘The Visit’ by Christopher Reisman

Since then, Reisman has been able to focus fully on enjoying and sharing his gifts, which have healed him inside and out. “Even in the darkest times in my life — and I’ve been through plenty, trust me ­— I was drawing and playing the piano,” Reisman explains. “[Through my illness and later recovery] I’ve learned that we need to learn to let go — whether that’s of a bad habit or an old way of thinking — and if we can do that, we can come to a place of healing. I hope to reach as many people as possible with that.”

Today, Reisman enjoys long hours painting at his home, which he calls the “sanctuary.” The property, which he shares with his partner Robert McDonald and their two cats, Dolly and Joey,  is also home to hundreds of birds, fish and other animals.

The artwork he creates is for more than display. Anywhere from 10 percent to the full value of each sold painting supports charitable interests close to his heart.

Reisman and McDonald have worked together to support a number of animal shelters on Long Island, including SAVES, Inc. (Spay Alter Vaccinate Every Stray) of Riverhead, Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington and Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue & Adoption in Port Jefferson Station, among others.

They are also big supporters of the global Wildlife Conservation Society, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and many cancer benefits that cross their path.

McDonald, who does not have an art background, loves to sit back and watch Reisman’s creative process, which usually begins with several days of research, drafting and prayer.

“It’s like miracle work to me, that [Christopher] can start with a blank canvas and in the course of a few hours or a day have it completely drawn out and ready to be painted,” says McDonald, who has been with Reisman for 16 years. “He’ll say to me, ‘Today I’m going to paint a tiger,’ and the next day it appears. I would never be able to do something like what he does.”

‘Wake Up’ by Christopher Reisman
‘Wake Up’ by Christopher Reisman

Some paintings have specific stories — like his chimpanzees,“The Visit,” inspired by the work of famed primatologist Jane Goodall, or his self-portrait, “The Joy Keeper,” painted at home in his hall of mirrors over an old abstract painting ‘to show the joy we can all feel if we allow it’ — but others are just subjects Reisman or his family members enjoy.

For abstract pieces, Reisman says that he likes “staying spontaneous and moving color around that excites me, without judging.”

The couple believes that sharing their gifts, both physical and emotional, is just the first step toward a healthier, more peaceful world. They are currently searching for a publisher to get the art to a wider audience.

Reisman has gained many fans through the years and  has received rave reviews from his past art exhibits. Newsday art critic Jeanne Paris wrote that his artwork projects “unspoken eloquence in visual imagery that is not to be forgotten,” and “I Had It All the Time” author Alan Cohen stated “Christopher Reisman creates with passion, power and purpose. His heart is in his art. If you look deeply you will see much.” Even “Good Day New York’s” Rosanna Scotto has purchased one of his paintings.

“When people see my work, they’ll see lots of bright, happy colors and find they feel a joy and peacefulness that’s very powerful,” Reisman explains. “I believe that power comes from within each of us. It’s been my mission to turn as many people as possible onto their own innate creativity. I find that it’s very healing.”

Explore some of Christopher Reisman’s artwork from Sept. 1 through Sept. 29 at the North Shore Public Library, 250 Route 25A, Shoreham.

An artist reception, hosted by the Friends of the Library, featuring a larger selection of Reisman’s art, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at the library. All are welcome.

For more information about the exhibit, call 631-929-4488. To learn more about Reisman or to purchase his art, visit www.artbychristopher.org.

The dangerous reptile sits on a table at Thursday's press conference. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Victoria Espinoza

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.

A 25-pound alligator snapping turtle was found this past weekend in the stream opposite the Smithtown Bull on Route 25 in Smithtown, with enough power to bite off someone’s finger or toe, officials said.

“We’re just lucky the gentleman who found it knew how to handle it, and knew to contact us,” said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “This reptile is capable of taking toes and part of a foot clean off. People are constantly walking by this area barefoot, including children.”

A father and son, both Suffolk County residents, found the reptile while they were preparing to go kayaking, officials said. Gross said that this freshwater reptile is not indigenous to this area, and is mainly found from eastern Texas to the Florida panhandle.

SPCA Chief Roy Gross handles the alligator snapping turtle on Thursday, Aug. 27. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
SPCA Chief Roy Gross handles the alligator snapping turtle on Thursday, Aug. 27. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Gross and Dan Losquadro, highway superintendent for Brookhaven Town, both said that this is another example of people dumping reptiles in public places, creating a serious threat and risk to the public.

“This is a dangerous animal. We don’t want animals abandoned. But we don’t want to endanger the public,” Losquadro said.

According to Losquadro, the turtle will be transported to the Holtsville Ecology Center, where it will be given shelter and a veterinarian will make sure it is physically healthy, and identify what gender it is.

The ecology center is a refuge for all abandoned animals. Gross said that over the years there have been many incidents of animals being released to the public, and that someone guilty of this can be faced with multiple charges and prosecuted.

Gross suspected this was originally someone’s pet, but stressed that this is not the kind of pet you want to have.

“I can’t imagine curled up on the couch watching television with this guy,” Gross said.

When transporting the turtle to the SPCA’s office, he said the turtle was able to make a hole in the container he was being kept in, and was trying to escape.

By Rachel Siford & Heidi Sutton

Thirteen-year-old Jessica Finger has loved dolphins all her life. Now, in celebration of International Dolphin Day, which is held every year in September, she is giving back by organizing a unique fundraising event on Sunday, Aug. 30, to help them. Titled Dogs for Dolphins, the event is part of her Bat Mitzvah community service project.

Jessica Finger. Photo from Beth Finger
Jessica Finger. Photo from Beth Finger

It is customary for a community service project to go hand in hand with a Bat Mitzvah, along with Hebrew school and learning about the Jewish faith. Her Bat Mitzvah is scheduled for October.

Jessica has a very strong stance on anti-captivity of these beautiful sea creatures. “I’ve been passionate about helping dolphins and whales since I was really little,” said Jessica. “I started to like them because of SeaWorld, but then I realized the truth and now I am an activist against [SeaWorld].”

“[Dolphins] are just more intelligent than other mammals … they live with their families for their entire lives and they are very interesting,” said Jessica, adding that killer whales (orcas) have a special place in her heart. Her favorite book is “Behind the Dolphin Smile” by former dolphin trainer Richard O’Barry.

Her mother Beth said that Jessica became even more passionate about saving dolphins after watching “The Cove.” The 2009 documentary shows O’Barry exposing Japan’s massive dolphin slaughter that takes place in the town of Taiji by local fisherman annually from September through April. The group Whale and Dolphin Conservation has stated that, since 2000, more than 18,000 dolphins from seven different species have been either killed or taken into captivity during the Taiji hunt.

According to the teenager, “it changed my life ever since. I now use Instagram to be an activist for dolphins in captivity and for giving updates about the infamous ‘Cove’ in Japan,” she said.

Barry went on to found The Dolphin Project, which aims to stop the murder and exploitation of dolphins around the world. Jessica found out about this organization about a year ago through social media and decided to raise money to support this noble cause. With a goal of $750, she has already raised $336.

Jessica and her mother completed a six-hour training course at the Long Island Aquarium this summer and now volunteer at the Riverhead tourist attraction where they interact with guests and provide them with interesting facts about the animals there. Jessica’s favorite job is working at the touch tank where visitors can have a hands-on encounter with sea stars, clams, whelks, hermit crabs and horseshoe crabs.

“I agreed to volunteer with Jessica since it’s something that she desperately wanted. I have to admit that I am enjoying it very much and look forward to it as much as she does. I am constantly amazed at how knowledgeable she is about marine life. We are excited to volunteer at a seal release on Monday, Aug. 31, at Cedar Beach in Mt. Sinai,” said her mother, adding “It’s also a great way for us to have some meaningful mother-daughter time.” Members of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation will be at the event to speak about how they rehabilitate marine life.

A true animal lover, Jessica lives in Nesconset with her parents, two younger brothers, a dog named Summer, two rabbits, three tortoises, a frog and tropical fish. Jessica said her goal in life is to “be either a marine biologist or a member of The Dolphin Project.”

“I am very proud of Jessica for her compassion for all animals. She has deep integrity at such a young age. Her love for animals led her to become a vegetarian when she was only eight years old — she will not wear leather or even enjoy marshmallows and S’mores with her friends because there is gelatin [an animal product] in them,” said Jessica’s mom. Her stance has “inspired several of her friends to become vegetarians too,” she added.

“It is appropriate that the occasion of her Bat Mitzvah, when she takes on the role of being a responsible young adult, was the impetus for Jessica to bring the community together to help make the world a better place. In Judaism, we call that Tikkun Olam, and I can’t think of a better way for Jessica to launch this next chapter of her life as a Bat Mitzvah,” said her mother proudly.

On Aug. 30, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Jessica invites the community to bring their dogs along with friends and family to the Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard, 2114 Sound Ave., Calverton, for a walk through the trails of the vineyard to support a great cause.

The walk will be followed by lunch, a pie tasting, activities for kids and dogs, crafts and wine. Patrons will be able to decorate bandanas for their dogs and play games. Massage gift certificates, gift cards to restaurants and cooking classes at Sur la Table will be raffled off during the afternoon.

The event is sponsored by Animal Health and Wellness Veterinary Care in Setauket, Pet Supplies Plus and Long Island Iced Tea, and patrons can expect an endless supply of free ice tea and pet treats.

There is a $10 per person suggested donation at the door (includes lunch) with 100 percent of the proceeds going to support The Dolphin Project (www.dolphinproject.net). There is no rain date. Advance registration is available by  visiting www.crowdrise.com/dogsfordolphins. For more information, please call 917-414-4526.

Eugene the hedgehog is enjoying a new diet to help him lose weight. Photo by Rachel Siford

By Rachel Siford

Even hedgehogs need to watch their calories.

Nesconset native Brianna Stiklickas went from being an extreme soccer player with recruitment offers from 40 different colleges to starting her own business to benefit her beloved exotic pet. The 22-year-old college sophomore and The Stony Brook School graduate recently celebrated a successful Kickstarter campaign in which she raised more than $12,000 to boost her new business, Meet Eugene, named after her hedgehog.

A severe leg injury forced her to the sidelines, but it was a blessing in disguise as Stiklickas found a new passion: to save Eugene from what his veterinarian diagnosed as severe obesity in the 3-year-old African pygmy hedgehog.

“Once I stopped being so heavy-duty with the sports, I really started to get into my academics,” Stiklickas said. “That’s when I first came up with the idea of Meet Eugene, an exotic pet food company.”

Her breeder originally said to feed Eugene high-quality cat food, as most hedgehog owners do, but through a lot of research, Stiklickas said she realized that it causes issues like obesity — one of the top health problems in hedgehogs. Hedgehogs typically live about four to six years, but if fed properly and taken care of, can live to up to nine. And with hopes of pushing that number, Stiklickas started an Instagram account called Meet Eugene months before she even decided to start her own company. All of a sudden, she found herself with 700 followers and counting; thus the name of her company was born. Today she has more than 1,200 followers.

She formulated HealthHog, a grain-free hedgehog food fortified with vitamins and minerals to support the hedgehog’s digestive and immune system, rather than a cat or dog’s.

“Just because something is a premium price, doesn’t mean it is a premium product,” Stiklickas said. “And I found that out the hard way.”

Stiklickas went to Babson College, one of the top schools in the country for entrepreneurship, where she learned to develop her company in class with the help of her professors and classmates.

Brianna Stiklickas and her pet, Eugene, spend quality time together. Photo by Rachel Siford
Brianna Stiklickas and her pet, Eugene, spend quality time together. Photo by Rachel Siford

“Throughout college, I worked five jobs, was on two sports teams, was a full-time student and was starting a business, so being able to use my company in class really benefitted me,” Stiklickas said.

She researched hedgehogs for two years with veterinarians, then moved on to market research when she sent out surveys to hedgehog communities online and to breeders. Stiklickas started looking on the market for hedgehog foods, and the few she found had ingredients that were not healthy, like blood meal, which is indigestible by most animals.

She made Eugene’s food from scratch and saw what he did well on, then worked with a food scientist to see if she could get it ready to manufacture. Since she put her hedgehog on this new diet, he started shedding the weight.

Stiklickas recently achieved her goal of $12,000 from her Kickstarter campaign, so she can manufacture and sell HealthHog, which she hopes to have ready in about four months.

“I want a food that’s actually made for them and not just made for profit,” Stiklickas said. “I realized how much of an issue it really was across the nation.”

With help from her classes as well as two start-up incubators, WIN Lab and Babson Summer Venture Program, she developed three parts to her company.

First, she has “For the Pet,” which includes the HealthHog food, accessories, cages and toys she is developing currently. Then, she has “For the Owner,” which will be a lifestyle brand for owners. And lastly, she has the “Education” section, which includes Meet and Greets, educational programing, and 4 children’s books she also wrote while at Babson.

She said she plans to host educational programs at libraries and schools to teach children and their parents how exotic animals, like hedgehogs, sugar gliders, chinchillas and prairie dogs, are as pets.

“A huge part of my company is not just trying to improve the lives of these animals, but is also trying to educate people so they know how to treat the animals,” Stiklickas said.

Stiklickas reminisced back to when she was little and used to make up companies. At first, she said, she wanted to do marketing, then finance. She later realized that entrepreneurship combined all the things she loved to do.

Working for five different startups throughout college also encouraged her that she had what it took.

“As much as I thought about starting my own company, I never thought I’d do it,” Stiklickas said.

Stiklickas’ dream, she said, is to do this full time and open the next exotic pet brand, but unfortunately she might have to take a job eventually because of college loans.

“Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle; it definitely takes a special type of person to work everyday on a company that may or may not be successful,” Stiklickas said.

Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center hosts 18th annual Pet-A-Palooza

The Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington held its 18th annual Pet-A-Palooza event over the weekend, featuring cats, dogs, a Chinese auction, live entertainment, face-painting and more. The weekend-long event at the Warner Road shelter is a celebration of all things furry and friendly.

 

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.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

“Ooooooh … those itchy ears. My dog or cat is constantly scratching or shaking its head. I feel terrible for them and it sometimes keeps me up at night. My vet calls it an ear infection. It clears up on the medication but once finished it keeps coming back. Why does this happen?”

That is the million dollar question (actually, I’m sure millions of dollars are spent on ear infections every year).  To call every dog or cat that comes in with itchy ears an ear infection is misleading. 

These pets have otitis externa, and “otitis externa” literally means inflammation (not infection) of the external ear canal. Although we veterinarians commonly dispense medications with antibiotics and antifungals in them, the bacteria and yeast we are treating are considered natural flora (in the ear canal at all times in lower numbers).

So why do we get “flora gone wild”?  Usually some other primary trigger is involved and the infection is secondary overgrowth. Examples are parasitic infections (ear mites), pets that swim or get baths and get water (and shampoo) in their ears, ear tumors (both benign polyps and cancerous tumors) etc.  However, the most common cause of recurrent otitis externa is allergies. I consulted with a veterinary dermatologist, and she estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of all recurrent otitis externa in dogs is related to allergies. 

To understand why an allergy would cause such problems in the canine and feline ear canal we first have to describe the anatomy. Unlike a human ear canal, which has a shorter external component in a horizontal direction only, the canine and feline external ear canal is much longer and has both a vertical and horizontal component. Therefore, there is a much greater distance from the opening of the ear canal to the ear drum. This shape and extra distance plays a critical role in otitis externa.

Also, the healthy ear canal is lined with three types of cells: epithelial cells (those similar to skin), ceruminous cells and apocrine cells (cells that produce earwax).  Just like the epithelial cells of the skin, these cells will be replaced every few days. The new cells push the old (dead) cells out to the entrance of the canal, and the small amount of earwax produced in the healthy ear migrates out with the dead epithelial cells.

However, if the lining of the ear canal becomes inflamed, it narrows due to swelling and excessive earwax is produced. This not only overwhelms the ability to clear the wax, it also leads to a warm, dark and moist environment and allows the normal bacteria and yeast to overgrow and a true ear infection is produced.

This will clear up with medication but, if your pet is exposed to the same trigger, it will come back again. Certain breeds such as Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, shar-peis and many others may have complicating factors such as hair in the ear canal, floppy ears, narrow ear canals or a combination of these things. Now, this does not mean that every member of these breeds is guaranteed to have chronic ear infections, rather it means that if you have a member of these breeds and they have even low-grade allergies the ears can spiral out of control quickly.

In my next article I will describe how to manage chronic or recurrent otitis externa.

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

Deer rutting season means more of the animals running out on local roads. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The Huntington Town Board is taking a shot at regulating what some say is an uptick in deer by hosting a public hearing on a plan to allow seasonal bow hunting on Eaton’s Neck.

Residents who are interested in weighing in on the plan can get a better understanding of what changes would be made to hunting laws at the hearing on Aug. 11 at 2 p.m.

The proposal would amend the town code to allow long bow hunting during hunting season on private properties to anyone who has a hunting license issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

A survey of the area’s residents shows support for the proposal, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter,

“Our major concern is safety, traveling our roads at night is hazardous and using our property has become impossible,” Ken Kraska, a resident of Eaton’s Neck said at the July 14 Town Board meeting.

Kraska said himself and many other residents own several acres of “virgin, wooded, undeveloped land,” and the deer population is starting to overrun it. He also described the deer as aggressive, especially during mating season.

The issue of Lyme disease also has residents worried.

“The number of deer has doubled and then tripled, people have had to hire companies to spray for ticks, and you have to do it constantly to stay on top of it,” Joe DeRosa, another Eaton’s Neck resident said at the meeting.

DeRosa has several grandchildren, and says he’s constantly on alert with them as well.

Mel Ettinger, trustee and police commissioner of Asharoken Village, said that an increased deer population has been a problem for years there, too.

“Every year there are more accidents involving deer and automobiles,” Ettinger said.

Animal activists don’t support this method of dealing with the issue and believe that there are more humane ways to reduce the number of deer.

“Bow hunting is one of the cruelest forms of hunting,” Kristin DeJournett, cruelty casework manager for PETA said.

DeJournett described alternative methods to keep deer away, including targeting food supply by cutting back on edible plants.

An increase in native plants, or plants that grow naturally in a particular region, without direct or indirect human intervention, will help reduce interest from deer, since native plants have grown over time and have a natural resistance to local deer, she said.

DeJournett said that scarecrows could work against deer, as well as placing soap or pepper spray on your property, because the smell deters the animals.

“Lethal methods don’t work to control animal populations in the long-term,” she said. “When animals are killed, more animals move in to replace them, and it creates a temporary increased food supply, which causes the remaining does to breed at an accelerated rate.”

Wendy Chamberlin, president of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, also shares the belief that bow hunting is a cruel and ineffective option.

“For sentience animals, that have thoughts and feelings, it is particularly cruel…it is a long, drawn out, agonizing death,” she said.

Members of the Town Board offered mixed thoughts on the proposal in interviews this week.

“I do think it’s a complicated and sensitive issue,” Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said. “Any time lives of wildlife are taken we have to be very clear on what we’re doing and why.”

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) seemed a bit more decided against the proposal.

“I know that there is a problem with the deer population, but I believe there is a probably a more humane way to deal with it.”

Councilman Gene Cook (I) indicated that he would be voting against the measure.

“I don’t like it, I think it is a cruel way to handle this, and it’s dangerous. It is bad for the residents and bad for the deer.”

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.”