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Pet Matters… aka Pets Matter



Smithtown Animal Shelter Update

The Smithtown Animal Shelter is currently home to eighty cats and eight dogs looking for families. 

The shelter has been the subject of headlines lately with the suspension and arrest of its director Sue Hansen. Ms. Hansen was suspended earlier this year and ordered not to return to the shelter. She was arrested after returning to the shelter for a volunteer training session.  The management of the Smithtown Animal Shelter is currently the responsibility of Smithtown Department of Public Safety officer James Garcia. Mr. Garcia is a good fit for the animal shelter having previous experience as the assistant director of the A.S.P.C.A.

The shelter has had its share of controversy over the years. Sue Hansen replaced George Beatty as director of the shelter. The hiring of Ms. Hamsen was the result of Councilwoman Nowick’s creating a committee of animal advocates who were vocal in their opposition to the way Mr. Beatty ran the shelter. Ms.Hansen’s hiring was expected to end the controversy, but it didn’t. Most recently photos and reports of unsanitary and unsafe conditions at the shelter led to an investigation and the suspension of the Ms. Hansen. The photos depicted a shelter disorganized with items being stored haphazardly. Sources say the town reacted to the photos by having public safety investigate. The investigation revealed areas of serious concern. Public Safety investigated rumors of maggot infestations, delays in calling for the pick-up of deceased animals and unsafe conditions.

A recent unannounced visit to the shelter revealed that the Town Board is taking immediate action to address conditions. The shelter has been somewhat transformed. Upon entering the shelter one of the first things noticed is a clean scent. Walls have been painted, animal stalls and rooms are clean. There was a volunteer (Kit Kat Karen) visiting the cats and giving them treats. 

Space that housed the director’s office has been transformed into an area where people can interact with the animal they are considering adopting. Cages are clean, signs on the cages provide information about the age and wellbeing of the animal. All the dogs had beds and the cats had ample space to just be cats.

An area has been created for a veterinarian and vet tech who will be making regular visits to the shelter . There is a renewed commitment to ensuring that the animals receive health care, not just shots and spaying or neutering services. 

A trailer has been set up outside the shelter which will house the adminstative office and all administrative activities.  Earlier this year Town Board members awarded a $240,000 contract to L.K. McLean Associated to evaluate how to proceed in remediating or constructing a new facility. Supervisor Vecchio has alloted $2.4 million in the capitol budget for the Animal Shelter.

Things are improving at the shelter and that is a good thing. It is surprising how many animals go through the shelter. The staff can only do so much with dogs and cats as they transition from being part of a family to being a shelter dog in need of a family. Kathy and Monica, staff at the shelter (and animal lovers) ask that people who need to turn their pets over to the shelter provide as much information about the animal as possible. Providing information about shots, surgeries, injuries and even likes and dislikes go along way in helping to make the animal adjust and find a forever home.

As for James Garcia, he says he is just doing his job. When asked if he would like to stay on, he was noncomittal and refered me to his “boss” Director of Public Safety John Valentine.

The Smithtown Animal Shelter is located at 410 E. Main St. Smithtown. It is open seven days a week #631-360-7575.