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Feb 25, 2009 11:12 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Adoption applications on the rise at animal shelter

Feb 25, 2009 11:12 AM

Applications for pet adoptions have spiked in recent weeks and tours of the Southampton Town Animal Shelter are at an all-time high, according to Christine Russell, the shelter’s assistant supervisor.

She said the increase in activity is directly tied to last month’s arrival of 11 rescued puppies from a shelter in Darlington, South Carolina, and the publicity and attention the puppies helped bring to the Hampton Bays operation.

“We currently have 39 applications for adoption,” Ms. Russell said, adding that the town is the beneficiary of the $55 fee per application.

The 11 puppies in question were rescued by Last Chance Animal Rescue Fund, or LCARF, a Southampton organization dedicated to saving dogs from shelters with a high rate of euthanasia. Whitney Knowlton, the group’s founder, said the South Carolina shelter that formerly housed the dogs has a 90-percent euthanasia rate.

“In 2007, nearly 2,900 animals were killed in this shelter alone,” Ms. Knowlton said, adding that the method of euthanasia is often gas, which kills many dogs at once and, she said, causes them to suffer.

Although the town shelter has worked in the past with other rescue groups, such as the Animal Rescue Fund, or ARF, and Bideawee, those organizations have taken dogs from the town shelter in order to place them in permanent homes. This is the first time that the Hampton Bays shelter has worked with a group like LCARF, which brings dogs to the facility. It is also the first time, Ms. Russell said, that the shelter has taken dogs from out of state.

The town shelter has at times taken in dogs from neighboring towns. Last year, 35 dogs rescued in Hempstead were taken in and adopted out of the Hampton Bays shelter. “They had reached full capacity and reached out to us,” Ms. Russell said. “We’re paying the same electricity, the same heat and we have the same staff as before. It’s no skin off our nose.”

Ms. Russell said that no adult dogs from Southampton, or even neighboring towns, are being neglected because of the rescue operation.

Although the puppies have attracted more visitors and resulted in more applications, Ms. Knowlton said she has received criticism from some who question why the town shelter is taking in dogs from other parts of the country.

Bob McAlevy, a long-standing member and former president of the Hampton Bays Civic Association, said Southampton taxpayers should not being funding the care of dogs from other towns.

However, according to Ms. Russell, the dogs from South Carolina are not costing town taxpayers extra, as LCARF covers all the costs, including transport, food and medical care, of the out-of-town rescues.

The town shelter buys food by the pound, Ms. Russell said, and has a deal with Science Diet to purchase the food for 35 cents per pound. “We basically pay for the shipping,” she said. “LCARF buys the puppy food for the dogs they rescue.”

Mr. McAlevy, speaking as a town taxpayer and not a member of the civic group, said he had no problem with the shelter taking the dogs from out of state if a private group is paying the tab and if there is space for them.

“But those are small details,” Mr. McAlevy said. “The shelter should be privatized. Let the well-meaning people who care for the animals take care of them.”

Mr. McAlevy cited the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons in Hampton Bays and other non-profit groups that operate via the generosity of donors. “Get the town out of it,” he said.

Ms. Knowlton said the town shelter has been operating at 50-percent capacity for the last year, a claim substantiated by Ms. Russell’s numbers, and that her organization, not the town, foots the bill for the out-of-town rescues.

According to Ms. Russell, the town shelter has not been at full capacity since it housed dogs that were seized in a raid in Shirley in the spring of 2007. Ms. Russell said that the shelter would not accommodate the LCARF dogs if it meant neglecting or taking space away from dogs rescued in Southampton.

After the 11 Labrador mixes arrived, from Sunday through Saturday, February 1 to 7, 131 visitors toured the shelter, according to Ms. Russell. Another 135 visitors stopped by the shelter the following week. Ms. Russell said there were 54 visitors during one of the shelter’s busiest weeks in December. “Unfortunately, the rest of the weeks seem to be half that number,” she said.

Seven more puppies from Darlington—five male and two female beagle mixes, dubbed the “Muttley Crew”—arrived at the shelter last week. All the puppies from South Carolina will be available for adoption once they have been neutered and spayed. Bella, the mom of the Muttley Crew, has been adopted by a Southampton couple, according to Ms. Russell.

Ms. Knowlton said that a local pilot, based in Brookhaven, flies to pick up LCARF’s rescues and does so on his own dime. “All the dogs were issued certificates of health before being transported across state lines,” Ms. Knowlton said. “All the bills are being underwritten by LCARF, which relies on the generosity of our donors.”

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I hope the people who are motivated to come in to adopt puppies will realize that the older dogs also need homes, and in so many ways are an even better choice than a puppy . . . they all deserve to be loved!
By barnbabe (64), westhampton beach on Feb 24, 09 7:54 PM
Mr McAlvey is right on target when suggesting the shelter should be privatized. After all, Ms. Russell has been running it as if it were her own private enterprise. Taking puppies from out of state to boost your adoption numbers is a scam. "Safe-keep" sounds like free room and board with no owner responsibility and lots of Town liability. These practices are much better suited for the private rescue groups. Lest we forget, ours is a municipal shelter. It should not be turned into a warehouse ...more
By pupdaddy (12), North Sea on Feb 25, 09 10:13 AM
pupdaddy is right on target!

By local (106), north sea on Feb 25, 09 6:12 PM