Pets, Pets, Pets
A "Grim" but true feline fairy tale
If you are reincarnated as a feline, stay out of North Hempstead. The Town of North Hempstead Shelter in Port Washington does not accept cats and has not done so for at least ten years, merely because they don't have to by NYS law. To exclude cats from a town shelter is as absurd as a public school that won't admit boys. It's beyond belief that North Hempstead's educated and affluentresidents (household median income over $95,000) plus animal lovers everywhere continue to stand for this.
I usually defend Long Island municipal shelters because I see the progress they have made over the last thirty years. However, this criticism is long overdue, and two recent developments- a misleading 5/10 article in Newsday "Haven at last for unwanted cats" and North Hempstead's refusal last week to help Nassau SPCA shelter the 40 cats taken from an Albertson hoarder- force clarification. Bottom line: North Hempstead's cat policies lack common sense and compassion.
Let me start by saying I've only been to N. Hempstead Shelter once, last year for a planning meeting of the Pit Bull Symposium. I saw the hole in the ground that for ten years was supposed to become the cat shelter, but for this query no one at the Town except for the "public information officer" would speak to me. I've yet to receive the answers to my questions- only a vague response that they might begin working on getting new bids at the end of 2009. Bottom line: The Town is stalling and placating. They don't need a separate cat shelter. They could start small by resurrecting their old cat room or converting space within the kennels/ garage to take in cats for adoption or to reunite with guardians like N. Hempstead used to do.
Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman's statement in Newsday "We don't want to become the euthanasia center for cats….That's usually the primary function of cat shelters" is rubbish. Any cat advocate who buys into this bogus claim is helping the Supervisor to delay.
As a wise lady who knows more about running an animal shelter than I ever will said, "We need solidarity in the cat community. Otherwise officials shirk their responsibilities and hold us hostage to our love of animals." Other LI towns are sheltering, medicating, spay/neutering and placing hundreds of adoptable cats. Due to space, intake is selective and staggered. Brookhaven is pre-vaccinating waiting cats before admission. Most towns also have a TNR (Trap Neuter Return) plan for ferals.
It is kitten season so numbers fluctuate daily but I conducted an unofficial cat/kitten census. As of June 17th the totals in Nassau and Suffolk town shelters ranged from 39 to 125. "Despite our small size, the Animal Lovers League (ALL) , the municipal shelter for the City of Glen Cove, not only shelters cats but has for years provided free feral cat spay/neuter clinics in-house to address rampant breeding," stated Joan Philips, ALL co-founder. Bottom line: While dog intake is tied to socio- economics; cat overpopulation is ubiquitous, even outside mansions, even behind Town Hall. Somehow N. Hempstead Shelter doesn't see them and still has zero cats.
Since 2003 North Hempstead's only cat service has been a perfunctory, mutating TNR program. Their total amount sterilized is a drop in the bucket. They hired a part-time TNR program coordinator (why?) and contracted for trapping and altering cats with two private rescues -HUGS and Last Hope (which like the construction company is in a dispute for thousands of dollars' surgical reimbursement). Newsday claims N. Hempstead held TNR clinics but that never happened.
Hoarder situations, like the Albertson cat house, are common and complex. The SPCA seized 40 cats that N. Hempstead flatly refused to take. The SPCA investigates and removes the animals, but it is the Town shelter's responsibility to house the seized animals as a triage center while they are evaluated for disease, age and sociability. Then they can reach out to private rescues for some assistance. Meanwhile the Town, social work agencies, SPCA, and Board of Health must monitor the home and former owner for the sake of the neighbors and to keep the offender from repeating this cycle of animal abuse.
N. Hempstead's shelter director, Sue Hassett, has been there about 30 years. She prides herself on her Shelter Connection (volunteer) program for her minimal dog population. However, during her tenure she has allowed the eyesore of a hole to suffice as a cat shelter. She could have appealed to the Town and Supervisor Kaiman for a change of feline policy. They could have instituted a Cat Shelter Connection. She and the Supervisor chose not to do so. Instead they chose to treat cats as pariahs.
It's an election year. Cats don't vote, yet animal lovers do. Let Supervisor Kaiman (516- 869-6311 or firstname.lastname@example.org) know that. Keep reminding him. Bottom line: Maybe he'll open the slammed doors to cats before the polls open.
For Adoption at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset: Cats: "Hazel" # 016 a sweet tabby in the lobby is one of several feline siblings at the shelter a long time. Her silver sister "Alice" #018 was featured here several weeks ago.
Dogs: "Rusty"- yellow Lab; "Gypsy"-Cattle Dog mix.
Special Dog Plea: "Spot" a Lab/Beagle mix about 8 years old (shown here) was adopted from Hempstead Shelter 4 years ago. He desperately needs re-homing because his guardian is on a respirator and headed for a nursing home. "Spot" instantly makes friends with new people. Visit www.wagodon.com/spot/ or call 516-662-2903 to inquire about "Spot".