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Animal Advocates Fear For Shelter Dogs; 2 Slated For Euthanization

With staff leaving, some say dogs suffer from cage rage; councilman said new director could be hired and shelter taken out of police department's hands.

Animal advocates worried about the dogs in the Riverhead Animal Shelter are becoming increasingly more concerned about their health and safety -- two dogs are slated to be euthanized Monday.

On Sunday, as volunteers bid good-bye to shelter employee Maureen Schneider, who left to take a job in Brookhaven Town, Vince Taldone, vice-president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Civic Association said he has been concerned since  to visit a dog and found that no one had been to the shelter to feed and walk the dogs for 24 hours.

Despite the fact that Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said someone checks on the dogs every day, Taldone has countered that animals should not be left alone for a span of 24 hours. Hegermiller said the department has been short-staffed since animal control officer Jessica Eibs-Stankaitis was mauled by a pit bull in November.

Taldone said he has stopped by the shelter and found no animals in the pens, although the gates were open. He has expressed concerns that the dogs are not getting enough fresh air or exercise. The Riverhead Police department, he said, "is not exactly the most compassionate caretaker of dogs."

Pat Lynch, an ardent advocate of animal rights who told Patch she was banned from the shelter after a dog named Bruno was euthanized for biting a child -- Lynch said the dog never bit a child -- said on Saturday that the Riverhead Shelter is scheduled to euthanize two more dogs, Cooper and Maggie, this week.

Lynch said Noreen LeCann, chair of the town's animal shelter advisory committee, asked her to pass along the word in case someone could step up and save the dogs.

"I am afraid that the continued neglect by a shrinking staff will lead to more cage rage and more excuses to kill more dogs," Lynch said.

According to an email provided by Lynch, both dogs, Cooper and Maggie, have been negatively evaluated by the shelter staff and the veterinarian.

Riverhead Town Councilman Jim Wooten confirmed Sunday night that both dogs were slated to be euthanized Monday. Wooten said both dogs had been evaluated by shelter staff and a veterinarian and found to be "bad dogs." Town policy, Wooten said, states that if the staff and a vet both independently find a dog aggressive, the animal can be euthanized.

Wooten agreed additional staff is necessary at the shelter. In addition to Schneider, another member left on Friday. Currently, only one full-time kennel attendant, Vicky Kane, is on staff.

ACO Eibs-Stankaitis, he said, is still recovering from her injury and is expected back to work in another week.

When asked if there is truth to a fear expressed by animal advocates who are suspicious that the town might be euthanizing dogs due to limited staff, Wooten said, "That's not the case. We have room for the dogs. It's not overcrowded." Currently, he said, 14 dogs are housed at the shelter. "It's not like we're picking and choosing," he said. Instead, dogs that show aggression and are unadoptable are euthanized, according to town policy.

At the last town board meeting, Councilman John Dunleavy asked what was happening at the shelter and said more staff was critical. Wooten and Town Supervisor Sean Walter agreed and agreed to hire a kennel attendant.

Wooten said he would be working on that hire first thing Monday morning, and would be setting up interviews immediately.

In addition, he said, one idea he'd like to explore is hiring a full time director at the shelter. The director, Wooten said, would report directly to Walter and the town board and would not have to go through the Riverhead Police department in the future.

"The chief doesn't really have a handle on it, and I don't think he's really gung ho," Wooten said. "If we can get it out of his hands, the director would have the right credentials."

In the meantime, animal lovers are desperate to help the dogs. "I am so ashamed of my town and will be taking up the fight at the town board starting at the next meeting," Taldone said. 

He added that the dogs are left locked up, and then, the decision is made to euthanize the dogs because they are aggressive. "Of course they are aggressive," Taldone said. "It is called cage rage, and it can be corrected in most dogs. Surely, there are some who must be euthanized for a variety of reasons and I have no argument about that. But to kill the animals because they are going crazy from lack of attention is just wrong."

Lynch agreed. "You can’t leave dogs looking at four walls barking all day going kennel crazy. It's driving them into kennel rage."

State law, Lynch said, mandates the need for additional employees at the shelter. "They need more staff, and they need to obey the law," she said. "You have dogs in that shelter sitting in their own feces, with no water and no food."

Hegermiller did not immediately return a call for comment.



Amy December 03, 2012 at 02:21 AM
I was not aware that the Town of Riverhead Shelter did not have a director. The police dept is in charge? that needs to change immediately. That shelter needs an animal lover to run it that understands what the dogs need while at the shelter. They need more runs and every dog needs to go out everyday that the weather is dry. There are qualified people ready to take that shelter over. I am one of them.
Greg Fischer December 03, 2012 at 03:06 AM
Amy: The Riverhead Town Supervisor is in charge of the Police Department since the Town Supervisor has a dual role of Commissioner of Police. However, recent Superviisors have been afraid of the Police. Why is that?
Anne Marie December 03, 2012 at 08:57 AM
Since finding out that my comments can be misconstrued by certain powers that be, I'm just going to keep my friggin' mouth shut. That should eliminate any whispers... if not, than it's not my problem any more.
judy kayton December 03, 2012 at 01:11 PM
big dogs and any dog needs excerise and attention otherswise they develop behavior issues, a well exercised and given loving attention and socialization is a well behaved and happy dog. take a look at the Best Friends .org web site which is where the Michael Vick dogs were placed and you will see how well it can be done. i volunteer in Utah with them and dogs are happy and friendly. caging makes dogs psychotic if left for long periods of time. why are my taxes being spent so thoughtlessly.
Vince Taldone December 03, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I hope that the town hires a director or administrator of some level to run the shelter. The police department has enough to do fighting crime on a shoe string budget. I know we are experiencing hard times economically and no one wants to spend more on any municipal service. But it is time to let the police do police work and let a civilian run a dog shelter. I'll pay the extra pennies on my tax bill for that!
Greg Fischer December 03, 2012 at 01:46 PM
It is rotten at the top. Likely, if there is an appointee (doubtful though), it will be sombbody in the "clique" and conspiracy expands so there is no whistleblowing of past transgressions.
Desiree Passantino December 03, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I can only speak for myself, but being an animal lover and animal advocate, I have, throughout the years considered volunteering at the Riverhead shelter. However, that being said, I emotionally could not bring myself to doing this because it is a kill shelter. Interestingly, 'kill and shelter' should not be in the same sentence, but I digress. My point is, I think a lot of people are staying away because of the negativity at the shelter. Policy needs to change here. Two dogs are currently on death row because someone said they are aggressive. There should be more emphasis on proving that these animals are deemed a threat and dangerous. Animals are in many ways like humans; They're judged on their behavior and sometimes improperly placed for services, or in this case, to be euthanized; Rather drastic. I agree with Amy (whom I do not know) the shelter should be run by an animal lover. Only someone who is 110% in support of animals; all animals, not just the adoptable ones, should be in charge. That person would be in a position to seek grants, assistance, and volunteers to bring the Riverhead shelter above ground level. We must start by changing the image of the shelter (and thanks to Denise Lucas for being the dynamo behind fundraising for a new place) and change starts by renaming it a NO-KILL place of SHELTER. Once the vibes become positive, the place will have enough volunteers to properly care for these animals.
Ann December 03, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I for one am heartbroken over Cooper and Maggie. Something has got to be done to make them more adoptable, this shelter should not be the end of the road for any of them. A town animal shelter is supposed to be a safe haven not a concentration camp. I am sorry but what is happening here is beyond sad. Every time I go the dogs appear thinner and thinner. What is the problem? What are they being fed? Are they not given enough? These dogs need proper care, they need training, exercise and to be show a kind hand.
James Burdock December 04, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Can the A.S.P.C.A. do anything about this obvious neglect situation? Perhaps the National Division ( the ones that get donation funds ) could help in some way?
Greg Fischer December 04, 2012 at 04:12 AM
We are all agreed on "no kill". We are all agreed on "volunteer staffed", All that is left is to organize. I believe I have a strategy that will work to provide for a more humane shelter. The Board meeting starts at 2 pm tomorrow (Dec 4). Can all meetup just before the Board meeting around 1:30? How about in front of Town Hall? FYI: my email is: perfect100@hotmail.com
Constance Wiley Lull December 04, 2012 at 06:50 AM
Animal control in Riverhead has been a miserable, inhumane failure since I can remember. It is blatently unfair to incarcerate animals only to neglect them, pay no attention to their needs, kill them without proof of the need to do so, or kill them for reasons that are themselves a disgrace. As someone that loves and respects every animal and is aware of the dangers inherent in this suggestion, if we can't do better than our past history and present failings in animal control, let's close up shop and stop picking up strays.
Judy Tarasek December 11, 2012 at 09:46 PM
I have just become aware of the situation at Riverhead Animal shelter and would liketo know how to apply for the director position. I am about to become a certified dog trainer (positive only training), and have been involved with animal rescue for over 20 years. I love animals much more than people! I'm also a college graduate with management experience who has managed teams of people as well as managed budgets. Please email to jatmentor@gmail.com if you can help me apply. Thanks
Judy Tarasek December 11, 2012 at 09:50 PM
I have just become aware of the situation at Riverhead Animal shelter and would liketo know how to apply for the director position. I am about to become a certified dog trainer (positive only training), and have been involved with animal rescue for over 20 years. I love animals much more than people! I'm also a college graduate with management experience who has managed teams of people as well as managed budgets. Please email to jatmentor@gmail.com if you can help me apply. Thanks
Judy Tarasek December 11, 2012 at 09:52 PM
I have just become aware of the situation at Riverhead Animal shelter and would liketo know how to apply for the director position. I am about to become a certified dog trainer (positive only training), and have been involved with animal rescue for over 20 years. I love animals much more than people! I'm also a college graduate with management experience who has managed teams of people as well as managed budgets. Please email to jatmentor@gmail.com if you can help me apply. Thanks
Megan Jones December 14, 2012 at 05:17 PM
It still is not up to the PD..IT FALLS under the town board...the people ya'll vote for...acccording to what I was told they have NO SAY ON ANYTHING BECAUSE ITS POLITICS...NOT ABOUT THE ANIMAL

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