by Nancy E. Hassel, LIPetPlace.com
If you are in the pet industry or just someone who is passionate about dogs, you may have your inbox or Facebook wall inundated with dogs and cats up for adoption. Most of us have seen the horrible conditions of puppymills, dogs that need homes desperately and those pictures and stories pull at our heart strings. I, as most people would agree, we wish there were homes for every single homeless dog or cat on the face of the planet. I do as much as a can as someone in the pet industry, just like many others, but I am not a shelter director or volunteer of a rescue group. While every picture may pull at your heart strings, it’s the ones that have been languishing in our own backyard in the town municipal shelters that really get me. Go to ANY Long Island municipal shelter and you will find them packed full of amazing dogs desperate for homes.
Two years ago a wonderful thing happened at the Town of Brookhaven Animal Shelter, the old shelter director who was there and seemingly not as passionate about the animals, retired, and Dori Scofield the Founder of Save-A-Pet animal rescue took over as the new shelter director. I have been to the Brookhaven shelter 2 times. The first time was 3 years ago in July to evaluate a Doberman, Jordan, who was forced to lie on a concrete kennel for 4 months, who also had a back injury. Another great shelter director from another town convinced the former shelter director to let her be adopted out. I don’t know why she was not being allowed to be adopted, but she wasn’t. So I went there, not knowing what to expect and was greeted by Jonnie one of the shelter employees, and she was fantastic and really cared very much for Jordan. After meeting Jordan and wanting her for myself, I posted her info and pictures to the Special Needs Doberman FB page, and within a week she was adopted by a lovely lady, Karen in Deer Park. Karen took such good care of Miss Jordan and loved her so much, sadly Jordan died of cancer about a year after her adoption, but I was so thankful to Karen for giving her a loving and princess home.
The day I met Jordan outside of the shelter, I asked Jonnie if I could go inside and have a tour of the shelter, she said absolutely. And someone from the staff took me on a tour. It was heartbreaking, dogs were double and triple in their runs, it was very warm inside, and the dogs seemed so depressed that they would barely get up to greet you. I saw this with my own eyes and couldn’t believe it as I have been to many other LI shelters and never saw dogs just lay there. I had to squat down to get the dog’s attention and some would then get up and say hello others wouldn’t. It was really draining. We got Jordan out into a loving home and a Cane Corso who was there out about two weeks later into a rescue group, but what about all the other dogs? I knew nothing would change until the former shelter director was out of there.
So I am happy to report that I went there recently and met with Dori, and what a difference, it’s unbelievable. Not only did the shelter look so much cleaner, the runs were cool with the new AC unit that was installed, and the dogs were very active, and most were very, very happy to see you. Their tails wagged so much they were a blur!
Dori has, along with Jonnie and Mary Ann, established a new volunteer program, have some trainers in working with the dogs, painted the shelter so it looks less drab and more cheery. The dogs have their own kennels – and a few big differences are that they established a volunteer program for volunteers to exercise and work with the animals there and Dori put the dogs on a healthier food – Natural Balance Chicken & Sweet Potato. Instead of just getting whatever brand of food and constantly switching the foods as many other shelters have to do. The same food daily helps the dogs from getting sick.
They also have a 501 c 3 non-for-profit group called Help the Animals Fund, and they pay for everything the town does not like: cat traps for spaying and neutering feral strays around the Town of Brookhaven; surgeries for the pets in the shelter; healthier food, micro chipping; and more. From January 1, of this year to July 1st of this year Help the Animals Fund already has spent $28,000 for the shelter animals. Amazing! Amazing yes, but they could always use more, as pets sadly are always coming in. Help the Animals Fund is also always applying for grants, so if you are someone from a corporation reading this and can help, please contact them at their information below.
The day I called Dori for an interview, she said 18 dogs came into the shelter. In one day. Really people of Brookhaven? Sigh. The Town of Brookhaven, if you didn’t know is larger than all of Nassau County, maybe not as many people as Nassau, but it is a lot of responsibly for one shelter to cover so much territory. As of the time of publishing this article there are about 200 dogs and puppies at the shelter and 100 cats and kittens. I would personally love to see all the private rescue groups that help out only out of state dogs, start helping a couple of dogs a month from our town shelters. Think about the dogs sitting there for a year or year and half with seemingly no hope of a home. I know Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton, Little Shelter and Last Hope has been helping them out by taking many of the dogs and Dori’s own Save A Pet does too – but the need is very high for all private rescue groups to help our local animals too.
I asked Dori what she would like to see at the shelter to help to continue to improve it and she said, “For less dogs to enter into the shelter and owners taking more responsibility when owning a pet, for example: spaying and neutering them – we have a low cost spay clinic right here on our grounds that can help with that. I would love to work together with more rescue groups, and we always need volunteers to walk the dogs, spend time with them, etc. and of course please put licenses, updated identification on your pets as well as registered micro chips. It is so important for their safe return.”
They have three large dog runs in the back of the shelter and when I was there they both had a dog in them each, bounding around with happiness that they were getting their brief time outside. One is fully equipped with agility equipment too made by a volunteer. There are also newly built outdoor runs, and they are covered by a large awing, so that when dogs cages are being cleaned they can spend some time in the fresh air too. Dori would like more of these runs built as well as a walking trail and more exercise pens.
“This job is 24/7 and almost daily my heart is broken but I consider it an honor and a privilege to be serving the animals of the Town of Brookhaven. This is where I grew up and have been living me whole life,” said Dori Scofield.
Another great thing about the shelter is they are open Sundays, as most municipal shelters are not. They also have Furry Friday’s at the town of Brookhaven town hall from 11 to 3 where they have adoptable pets from the shelter there – out of the shelter environment for you too meet. The dogs and cats also go to offsite adoption events such as Petco fairs and other community events. And Dori also initiated a training program complete with a graduation ceremony for the dogs that pass – how cute is that? It’s their ‘Trainabulls’ program. The shelter has always been populated by the many orphaned Bully breeds so Dori decided to get them some basic obedience to help make their adjustment to a new home easier. Just getting them out and about does so much for their well being.
Behind every animal is a person you are helping. The Brookhaven Animal Shelter helps people in need who sometimes just need a bag of food or perhaps some training advice to help them keep their dog or cat in their home. And nothing heals a broken heart better than a new companion. Helping people find that new furry family member it very special.
So a lot of very positive things have changed at the shelter over the past 2 years while Dori has been running it, but the one thing that has not changed is how many dogs still get abandoned at the shelter. It is an uphill battle as there may be a great adoption day, but the next day 18 dogs could come in. So if you are thinking about getting a dog, please visit the shelter. A suggestion too – if you see a dog you like ask them to take the dog out of the noisy shelter and spend some time with it in their outdoor meet and greet area – you never know the dog may just be the love you have been missing! And if you have lost a dog or cat, please go to the shelter. Chances are he/she will be there as the Animal Control Officers answer calls all day for stray and injured dogs and cats.
To become a volunteer at the shelter, you have to fill out a town application and if you qualify you will be given a safety and education class prior to starting your volunteering. To apply you can go to the animal shelter or go online to www.brookhaven.org/animalshelter.
The shelter also has a wish list, so please see below and donate what you can!
Natural Balance dog food will run out on September 1st. Now the town of course will feed the animals, but like most municipalities do not have the budget to pay for better quality food. So if you would like to donate a bag or more of Natural Balance Chicken & Sweet Potato dog food to the town they would very much appreciate it.
- Large Kuranda Beds – always in need of them.
- Real Paper Towels – you know the durable kind.
- Clothe Towels and blankets
- Cat food-dry and canned
- Toys, leashes, collars
- And most of all we wish for a loving home for all our orphaned companion animals!
Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center was established in1994. Dori kept the animals at her house until she and a friend raised enough money to open up the only other existing shelter in Brookhaven Town. It is a non-profit 501c3 organization that rescues, rehabilitates and adopts out dogs and cats. It relies solely on donations and is located at 608 Route 112, Port Jefferson Station 11776. www.saveapetli.org.
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