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Oct 28, 2009 12:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Animal shelter supervisor dispels rumors, focuses on adoptions

Oct 28, 2009 12:18 PM

The Town of Southampton Animal Shelter was deluged with phone calls last Thursday—the result of an internet rumor that the facility was going to euthanize all of its 130 cats and 30 dogs within seven days.

The rumor—which spread on websites including Facebook, Craigslist and Twitter—was apparently sparked by uncertainty surrounding the fate of the shelter, which Southampton Town is preparing to hand over to a private group, the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, in January. Negotiations between the town and the foundation are ongoing. Privatizing the shelter by 2010 is a key component of Town Supervisor Linda Kabot’s proposed budget, which includes no direct appropriations for shelter operations next year.

“Southampton Animal Shelter is closing,” wrote one Twitter user, Sumaya Hamam, whose alias on the site is LaChatteBleue. “All pets must be adopted this week or they [will] be put to sleep.”

But Assistant Animal Shelter Supervisor Christine Russell said the rumor is just plain “craziness”—the shelter has a no-kill policy and is still adopting animals—and Ms. Kabot confirmed this week that “no animals will be put down” for budget-related reasons. Ms. Russell, who hopes to find new homes for most of the shelter’s animals by December 31, posted a statement on Craigslist on Thursday to dispel the nasty rumor.

“The animals will NOT be put down in seven days,” Ms. Russell wrote. “A transition of the current shelter will be happening at the end of the year ... Active negotiations are in effect as we speak. Please come adopt!”

On Friday, Ms. Russell said she fielded more than 200 phone calls from people as far away as Florida voicing concern that the shelter was killing its animals.

Not one of the callers offered to adopt an animal, she said.

“People in the animal field know this is dumb,” Ms. Russell said of the rumor. “Why couldn’t you be calling because you want this one special dog or one special cat?”

The town budget Ms. Kabot is proposing for 2010 calls for zero direct appropriations to the shelter. It costs about $1 million a year to run the facility and there are nine full-time employees there.

Town officials began soliciting bids to privatize the operation in September. It received two bids, the more favorable from the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, a group chaired by philanthropist Susan Allen, who has long been a shelter supporter and helped fund its creation. The foundation first proposed to take over the shelter and add two new positions in exchange for $1.5 million over three years from the town. Since then, Ms. Kabot and 
Town Board liaison to the shelter Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst have been negotiating with the group and the foundation is expected to submit a revised proposal to the town next week.

“I’m confident that it will go forward,” Ms. Kabot said “Rest assured, these animals are not going to be homeless.”

Though the original bid calls for the town to spend $500,000 a year on the shelter, Ms. Kabot said the town is unwilling to spend more than $200,000 in the first year of the three-year contract. That money would cover utilities and building insurance costs, she said.

If an agreement is not reached with the foundation, the supervisor said the town would spend no more than $200,000 to keep the shelter open and care for the remaining animals in some manner next year. She said the town is not considering closing the shelter altogether, but the details of any contingency plans have not yet been settled.

“What’s on the table is $200,000,” 
Ms. Kabot said. “Any more than that 
requires us to make cuts in other areas.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Russell said adoption rates have been “steady” at the shelter, despite the recent euthanasia scare. In an effort to boost adoptions, Ms. Russell launched a Facebook page late last month to showcase the shelter’s cats and dogs and continues to operate an adoption program with 
Petco in Hampton Bays. Videos of adoptable pets are also posted on YouTube.com.

According to shelter records, there were 373 adoptions from January through September this year compared to 531 adoptions during the same period last year.

To adopt a pet, interested owners must fill out an application at the shelter, carry some kind of official identification and show an ability to care for the pet.

Ms. Russell said she is hopeful that all the animals will be adopted, but acknowledged some are not likely to find new homes—on average it takes 103 days for a cat to be adopted and 30 days for a dog.

“We’ve got very adoptable dogs,” she said. “The cats always take a little longer.”

Ms. Russell said the shelter stopped accepting owner-surrendered pets beginning in September in order to empty the shelter of animals by December.

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Funny how "rumors" spread like wild fire just before an election. That is just how desparate Linda Kabot has become. First saddle Anna Throne-Holst with the most unwanted and thankless job in the whole world (Anna's done a great job in spite of the task) and then spread the heartless rumor that the Animal Center will murder the pets under their care. How low can Kabot, Nuzzi and Malone sink just to win an election? The answer: just look at your tax bills...there's more on the way. Wake up ...more
By Dodger (161), Southampton Village on Oct 29, 09 2:50 PM
What a boneheaded move. The problem of abandoned animals isn't going away, so why would a town even consider backing out of this important public obligation?
We adopted our beloved mutt, Gibson, from there in June. Gibson was frightened, snappy, emaciated, riddled with parasites and utterly unadoptable when they found him wandering the streets. But the terrific staff at the shelter worked with Gibson patiently and persistently and taught him to be an affectionate, obedient companion. I'm so ...more
By easthamptoner (34), easy hampton on Oct 29, 09 6:12 PM
What are both of you talking about.
Kabot did spread any rumors who knows how this horrible rumor got started. I do think that the media may be spinning the facts. The animal shelter is not closing it's door's read the facts. The town put out an Request for Proposal (RFP) to privatize the shelter. I think two people replied. One being a very lovely woman who was the one that donated $1.5 million to build this wonderful facility. She will most likely be the one running the animal shelter. I could ...more
By golfbuddy (180), hampton bays on Oct 29, 09 7:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sorry Correction for above
Kabot did NOT Spread any rumors
By golfbuddy (180), hampton bays on Oct 29, 09 11:02 PM
No, Golfbuddy, the rumors are being spread by Dodger.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Oct 30, 09 12:57 AM
maybe the Town can bill dodger directly for the costs of operating a 1 million dollar animal shelter. or maybe a special tax district for him and like minded people.

Hey heres a better idea...privatize it. i wish i could take credit for that one but that was Linda Kabot's idea.
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Oct 30, 09 4:19 PM
I understand that a resolution was passed today by the Town Board for that lovely lady to take over the Animal Shelter. It's a done deal. Our 4 legged friends will be fine under her care. The woman was the one who donated $1.5 million dollars to build this nice facility. Thanks to Linda Kabot.l
By golfbuddy (180), hampton bays on Oct 30, 09 8:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
It's very obvious what group started the rumour.
It's unfortunate that this shelter will be privatized- while Susan Allen sounds like an extraordinarily wonderful person, I hope she realizes that running an animal shelter is a herculean task- I sincerely hope the people she appoints to run the shelter can do as capable and as wonderful a job as Christine Russell has.

Gina Lewis
Suffolk County Unleashed
By gina (5), Patchogue on Oct 31, 09 4:26 PM
Just like Linda Kabot to pick on those that cannot fight back - its also typical that she would look to close a town facility that is run well by caring, non- political personnel.
A community such as ours with a large number of summer residents traditionally has a large number of abandoned pets; people think its great to have a cat or dog for the summer, then, when they return to the city the pet is put up for adoption. It is the responsibility of an affluent, compassionate community such as ...more
By sunshine (47), southampton on Nov 1, 09 5:12 PM
The animal shelter will be taken over by a very compassionate woman who donated $1.5 million to help build the shelter. The deal is done, it is not closing its doors. All dogs and cats will be in good hands with this woman.
Thanks to Linda Kabot for making sure this happened.
By golfbuddy (180), hampton bays on Nov 1, 09 10:01 PM