2014-01-08 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

The letter below comes from Chris Elton, director of Babylon Town Shelter:

Happy New Year! Now that we have wrapped up 2013 and move into the new year, it’s a good time to reflect on our year here at the shelter.

In 2013, 599 cats and 781 dogs passed through our humble shelter. About 50 dogs and 30 cats are in residence at this time. The staff and volunteers here continue to amaze me with their dedication and perseverance. Shelter work is both physically and mentally exhausting. We all deal with the very best and very worst of the human race, to say nothing of the dangerous situations we find ourselves in all too frequently. Our crew is here, working hard, 365 days a year and they deserve a rousing round of applause!

In 2013, the level of care our pets received was outstanding. Prior to adoption, each pet is examined by one of our excellent, in-house veterinarians and treated right here at the shelter. All cats and kittens up for adoption are tested for FELV, given all appropriate vaccines and are spayed/neutered at a local hospital. All dogs are heartworm tested, vaccinated appropriately and spayed/neutered. All pets adopted from the shelter are micro-chipped. On the day of adoption, shelter staff registers the micro-chip to the adoptees. It’s no surprise that we enjoy a 100% registration rate!

“Nikki” - current shelter office dog “Nikki” - current shelter office dog Our TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) program for community or feral cats, in place since 2007, continues to be refined and 2013 promises to be the most successful year yet. The kitten neonatal foster care program we initiated this year has greatly increased the number of kittens we are able to save and adopt. A big thank you to all our foster moms, dads and children!

We are well into the engineering and design phase for our new shelter and should have a firm floor plan and idea of the building’s style in the very near future. While the new facility will be state of the art in many respects, holding the line on cost is a very high priority. The new shelter will be very functional, not very fancy. We can’t wait to break ground!

Finally, if you haven’t visited our Facebook page yet you should check it out! It is a super-positive page, with postings of all our adoptions, shelter news and donations. We are the only shelter in the area that posts a picture of every found/stray dog on arrival at the shelter. Much of the work on the page is done by a couple of employees, on their own time. Check out how many midnight postings we have! Even if you’re not necessarily an animal lover you might help a friend, family member or neighbor find a pet by “liking” and sharing our page with all your Facebook friends. Find us @ https://www.facebook.com/BabylonAnimalShelter.

Thank you for all your support and best wishes to all of you and your families for 2014!

Chris Elton, director, BAARC (Babylon Animal Adoption and Rescue Center)

And now some Peanut Gallery remarks from me. The intake number is significant because municipal shelters, unlike private rescues that can be choosy, are governed by NYS law. They must take in ALL stray dogs. Owner surrender dogs now go on a waiting list when there is no room because dogs are staying indefinitely which is different from the old days when strays were put down after a week (owner surrenders sooner) to make space. Since Babylon, like most Town shelters, now is at least 85% Pit Bulls competing with each other for few available homes, cage space opens slowly. Several months ago Last Hope took “Drake,” a Pit who had been at Babylon Shelter over three years. We still have him even though he shows up better in a private rescue setting.

Town shelters in NY do not have to take in cats. (North Hempstead still doesn’t.) Babylon does its best to organize intake during busy kitten season to ensure the health and adoptability of resident felines. Every nook and cranny (lobby, hallway, garage) is used to house cats during kitten season. The foster program boasts volunteers, plus current and retired staff who do a terrific job of bottle-feeding and socializing orphan kittens.

This is the hardest of jobs. The public tends to forget that a huge portion of Town shelter work is animal control. Because of gangs, drugs, crime, dog fighting and owner indifference, situations have become more unsafe for the shelter staff out in the field. At times they are in the midst of violent scenarios. We need dangerous dog statutes that are more clearly written for the safety of the public and their pets because much staff time is spent in court testifying in vain about these cases. In addition, at times the shelter has no legal choice but to return neglected pets to owners. Our SPCA tends to work against the shelter’s best intentions for such unfortunate creatures.

Nowadays shelter medicine at Babylon is amazing. Besides Chris Elton’s list of veterinary services, dogs get heartworm preventive while at the shelter. Ailing pets are sent out for special diagnostics and surgeries performed- even orthopedic procedures. A Pit puppy that entered in distress recently had rocks removed from his stomach. The new shelter that will be built on the New Horizons property will have better isolation, clean air circulation and more clinic space. Looking forward, the best is yet to come.

Poster Pets: Showcasing two harder-to-place pets at Babylon Shelter (631-643-9270) 51 Lamar St, W. Babylon: “Piglet,” a friendly Pomeranian 13- 734, has a slightly collapsed trachea and makes some coughing sounds while “Yang” 3-578, is one of several black cats at the shelter who were staying with a homeless person evicted from an empty property.

Dogs: “Jake,” easy going Pit/Pointer; “Happy,” black Field Spaniel mix pup; “Titus,” Sharpei/Lab; “Luke,” brindle Pit mix; “Nikki” Pit mix and current office dog.

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