By Carrie Ann Salvi
The Southampton Animal Shelter belongs to the community, and it is obligated to take in every animal that is homeless in the town. “That means 22 villages and hamlets,” said Jonathan McCann, the president of the no-kill shelter’s foundation, on Monday.
The only way to reduce the 6 to 8 million animals that enter shelters each year, and the 50 percent that end up killed, Mr. McCann said, is to spay and neuter. The shelter offers a low-cost spay and neuter clinic (free for all pit bull-type dogs) as well as a mobile van it runs throughout the state. Last year, the first year with the van, which was built with a grant from the American Society for the Presvation of Animals, “we did 1,200 spay and neuters,” he said.
“This shelter not only saves hundreds of animals, and gives them excellent first-rate care,” he said, but it partners with other foundations in the community to help humans. The Cleary School for the Deaf will bring a class next week, noting that the shelter began teaching sign language when its deaf dog population increased.
The training department also works with any bad behavior habits that may exist, to make the animals more adoptable. Adoptions went up 43-percent after their “playing for life” group began. Groups of dogs gathered in a yard to helps them to socialize and learn from each other. “It also reduces stress from being in a shelter,” Mr. McCann said.
“You have no idea how much we do,” Mr.McCann said. “Last night,” he said, “at 11 p.m. a delivery came from Missouri that involved five different rescue groups. The shelter also rescues animals from kill shelters and puppy mills when adoption rates are high. “We take them in, rehabilitate them, and find them homes,” he said. “Puppy mill dogs are beautiful specimens, he explained, but they have been so mistreated that they need a lot of care and medical intervention.”
Once rescued, the sheltered animals then help inner-city children with physical and mental challenges. They travel to retirement communities too, he said, or any place where people want to be around animals but cannot have them. The foundation’s outreach department works to arrange partnerships, as well as to enlist and train volunteers.
Volunteers help to socialize the animals, he said, “Some dogs have never been touched by humans.” The shelter, located in Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays, often runs into volunteer shortages in the off-season. That is its second biggest need. The biggest one? Money. Although the spay van was paid for with a grant, he said, it costs $1,500 per day to staff it with a veterinarian, a veterinary technician, a driver and a caretaker to assist with check-in and recovery of cats and dogs.
Volunteers to foster cats are also sought as part of a new initiative to improve the lives of the 150 long-term cat residents. The partnership could improve the farms and gardens of those who help out, too, he said, at no cost. Cats keep moles and voles away, which eat the roots of plants, bushes, trees and flowers. The cats scare them away, he said, along with mice or rats. It may take time for the cats to adjust to life outside the shelter, he said, but he hopes that farmers, those with stables, or serious gardeners will foster some for the summer if not for good. “We pay the expenses,” he said.
Even just to be fostered for a month, he said, is a great way to “get them out of here and show them a different life.” Sometimes they live their whole lives at the shelter. They do have time out of their cages, he said, and those who live well in groups are housed in a nice glassed-in cat patio.
For the month of July, the shelter is offering 50-percent off adoption fees on all cats and dogs that have been there over 90 days. Some of the available companions can be seen on the SASF’s website.
All of these important ventures rely on the the shelter’s largest fundraiser event, coming up on July 18. The sixth annual Unconditional Love Dinner Dance will be held at a Gin Lane home in Southampton, with festive Great Gatsby attire suggested. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m. and dinner follows at 7 p.m. at the benefit, chaired by Jean Shafiroff. The master of ceremonies will be Chuck Scarborough, the Emmy Award-winning NBC anchor and animal lover.
Mr. Scarborough will also host another animal life-saving event at his own Southampton home on Saturday, July 11, from 5 to 8 p.m. with his wife, Ellen. The Gimme Shelter Animal Rescue’s 4th annual summer benefit will raise money to save dogs on death row, locally and down South. With no physical shelter, the organization uses donations to spay or neuter rescued dogs, provide them any necessary medical care, and find foster families. Permanent homes are easier to find after fostering, according to Michelle Neufeld-Montak, GSAR’s founder and director. “You learn a lot about the dogs,” she said. She has rescued over 750, she said, explaining that every foster enables her to save another life or two.
In addition to the joy of supporting the cause, guests to the GSAR event will enjoy live music from the Lynn Blue Band and Hampton Jams, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a “Smooch the Pooch” open-air photo booth with Leo, a rescue dog. Tesla’s award-winning Model S will be displayed as will high-end silent auction items that include a personal tour of NBC studios by Chuck Scarborough, a night on the town in New York City with Broadway tickets and car service from Farrell Limousine, and red carpet designer gowns.
A more informal event was planned by the Animal Rescue Fund, on Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott, a 4th of July barbecue with hopes of giving some cats and dogs their independence. ARF also offers an open house and a low-cost vaccine clinic for spayed/neutered dogs and cats. Those who go home with a new animal friend will also bring a free ARF beach towel or umbrella.
Every year, ARF places over 1,000 cats and dogs into loving homes, most of which come from high-kill animal control centers, puppy mills, or those who can no longer care for their pets. Animals are admitted “by appointment only,” and must meet certain criteria. Funded entirely by private donations, their state-of-the-art adoption center is home to 150 cats and dogs at any given time.