Over the last few years, the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter has completely reshaped its image.
"We can no longer be considered a pound or a jail for dogs," said Susie Trenkle-Pokalsky, a town spokeswoman, of the shelter.
The shelter was once a location where stray or unwanted animals were housed. However, once space ran out in the shelter, the animals were euthanized.
But now the shelter has increased the space allotted for animals, as well as improved the living conditions for its inhabitants. The shelter is currently acquiring new cages for one of the two kennels that hold dogs to get rid of the older, less attractive ones.
According to Charles S. Milone, executive director of the shelter, the shelter holds as many as 120 dogs and 60 cats during the summer, its busiest season. In addition, the shelter coordinates approximately 1,600 adoptions ech year of both cats and dogs.
Generally, adoptions for dogs cost $85 and $75 for cats. Included in the fees are vaccines, spaying and neutering, and micro-chipping. An electronic chip is placed between the shoulder blades of the animal to help locate the animal if it gets lost so that it can be returned to its owner. The shelter also provides a room where potential owners can interact with their possible pet-to-be.
However, from November 15 to January 15 and from June 15 to September 15, the adoptions are free and include the same benefits included in the regular costs.
During one day in October, the shelter also offers discounted rabies vaccines and micro-chipping to residents. According to Milone, the aim is to form relationships with past clients so that they can return and potentially take home other animals.
"We want to be a viable place to adopt your next pet," Milone said.
Milone, who has worked at the shelter for the last seven years, mentioned the biggest changes occurred at the shelter when Kate Murray became town supervisor in 2003.
"She has been a big supporter of the shelter," Milone said of Murray. "She is always throwing out ideas on how to improve and expand the services that we offer. "
Every Wednesday morning, Murray goes on the KJOY radio station to introduce animals to the public. Every animal that is introduced to the public on the radio usually gets adopted that same day, Milone said.
The shelter's does plenty more than just offer animals for adoption. Through its new Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) program, residents are entitled to bring in feral cats to have them sprayed and neutered free of charge and then return the cats back to where they were found.
The goal is control the control the population of feral cat, which Milone said not only helps out residents, but is also a humane action toward the animals.
In addition to the TNR program, the shelter is also involved in taking care of any animal related problems in the community.
For example, about two years ago, shelter workers assisted police in trapping an alligator in Hempstead and they also helped catch an escaped goat in Uniondale during Easter weekend in 2008.
The shelter provides educational opportunities for children in the area to become better acquainted with pet care and treatment. The shelter has four therapy dogs that are brought to nursing homes and schools to educate children and provide therapy to seniors.
The four dogs include two Pomeranians, a black Labrador and a Golden Retriever. The seniors usually enjoy being able to pet the dogs and play with them, Trenkle-Pokalsky said.
"The therapy dogs brighten up the seniors' day," she said.