Animal shelter says “Adopt, don’t buy” | Herald Community Newspapers

Looking for a new four-legged member of the family? Hempstead town officials say you need look no further than its Wantagh based animal shelter.

City officials have picked up and sheltered animals from the streets since Woodrow Wilson was president, now housing dogs and cats at 3320 Beltagh Ave. It boasts one of the highest adoption rates of any animal shelter, despite being the only one inside the nation’s largest township. .

“Our main concern is strays – most of our calls indicate that a dog is on the loose,” said Ashley Behrens, the shelter’s assistant manager. “But the other thing is if someone has to move and can’t get the animal to where they’re moving, or if a family member becomes allergic.”

However, the animals do not spend all their time at the shelter. Very often animals are sent to loving foster homes where they live the kind of carefree existence we all envy while awaiting adoption.

“Sometimes these animals can get sick in the shelter,” Behrens said. “Cats are particularly susceptible to upper respiratory infections, sometimes due to the stress of being in a shelter. And it’s good to send them to foster care to recover.

The animals are nonetheless apparently well cared for at the facility, with dedicated staff and volunteers caring for them on a daily basis. Dogs are brought outside to a yard for social interaction and are also walked.

“We have volunteers who do a lot of hands-on training with them,” Behrens said. “We do an enrichment program for the dogs, and we always treat them with toys filled with peanut butter and such.”

Cats enjoy a similar offering, although their days are more focused on social interaction with human volunteers. And while the dogs and cats are busy, their cages are cleaned.

What sets the city’s shelter apart from the rest is its “trap, neuter, return” — or TNR — program for cats. Many of these felines are feral and just too wild to be welcomed into a family home. But through trapping and neutering, the shelter can return these animals to the familiar territory where they found them, while ensuring they won’t increase the exploding wild population.

“Because we’re a government agency, we can’t choose the animals we bring in like private shelters do,” Behrens said. “But we have a great TNR program.”

Trapping, neutering and returning cats likely plays a small role in curbing the puppy and kitten mill outbreak, shelter officials said. These “mills” are usually not very reputable breeders who, it seems, do not treat their pedigree animals with as much esteem as they should. They tend to be known for caring more about profit than animals, and always attract a lot of support from various pet stores looking to stay well-stocked.

But even with high adoption rates, finding homes for many of the dogs and cats at the city’s shelter isn’t easy. Stigma is partly to blame, with many believing that shelter animals are there because they are dangerous or for some other nefarious reason.

Yet the vast majority of the animals that take up residence at the city’s shelter are there simply because they have nowhere to go. Shelter staff routinely assess dogs and cats to determine their aggressiveness toward food, their reaction to strangers, and how well they get along with their pet companions.

“We give full information to adopters on how these animals passed the tests,” Behrens said. “Of course, shelter behavior doesn’t always translate into the home. That’s why we recommend a foster period for potential adopters on a trial basis.”

Anyone looking to try can do so for just $25 by visiting the shelter at 3320 Beltagh Ave, anytime Sunday through Saturday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

To learn more, visit HempsteadNY.gov/179/Animal-Shelter.

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