The Riverhead Animal Shelter at long last has a new home.
The North Fork Animal Welfare League, which has operated the town animal shelter since February 2013, has purchased the former Scoshire Kennels property on Church Lane in Aquebogue.
The league closed title on the property Wednesday and wasted no time moving in.
“Why would I want to spend one more minute in that other place?” NFAWL executive director Gillian Wood Pultz said this afternoon.
Wood Pultz, who was busy painting one of the rooms in the new facility Friday afternoon, was referring, of course, to the cement block building on Youngs Avenue that has housed the Riverhead Animal Shelter for decades. It dates back to a time when it wasn’t a shelter at all, but a dog pound, where animals were held for the required number of days before being put down if unclaimed.
NFAWL staff and volunteers have already, as of this afternoon, moved the shelter’s inhabitants and essential possessions to the new location.
“This is like paradise,” the ebullient shelter director said, grinning widely. The new building is a 7,500-square-foot facility on six wooded acres.
The two-story structure spacious enough to accommodate a veterinary care area, kennels, exercise pens, isolation rooms for new or sick animals, offices, a conference room and — drumroll, please — space for cats. The Riverhead shelter has not been able to house or care for cats at the town-owned facility on Youngs Avenue.
The new facility is on par with the group’s facility in Southold, Wood Pultz said. The NFAWL has operated the Southold Town animal shelter for years.
Wood Pultz and architects Studio a/b, which designed new space for NFAWL in Southold, have already scoped out interior renovations to the new space. Among them will be the reconfiguration of kennels so that dogs won’t be directly across from each other and the construction of dividing walls — both improvements will help keep dogs calm, she said.
Wood Pultz said while it can be tricky to renovate and remodel an occupied space, it’s worth the effort just to be there instead of on Youngs Avenue in Calverton, which was cramped, outdated and located between a recycling facility and a sump where the town highway department disposes of animal carcasses removed from local roads.
“In the summer, the smell of death is in the air,” Wood Pultz said. “It’s awful.”
Trucks rumbling past agitated the dogs, she said. The Youngs Avenue building, unlike the new building in Aquebogue, is not set back off the road.
“The dogs are already so at ease,” Wood Pultz said. They were indeed very quiet. “The air is fresh and clean — I think it settles them down,” she said.
The six-acre site has trails for walking the dogs, “so no more walking them on the road, contending with truck traffic,” Wood Pultz said.
She said when her volunteers first came through the door, they cried tears of joy.
Riverhead Town had been planning to move the animal shelter to the site of the Pfeiffer Community Center in Calverton, at the enterprise park where NFAWL was planning to erect a new building adjacent to the existing one. But the site is located within the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act boundary and is not served by a municipal wastewater treatment plant. Both of those circumstances greatly complicated prospects for the relocation. The town and NFAWL were working through it, but it was taking a long time dealing with the DEC and the county health department. Then, the Scoshire Kennels site became available.
The site has housed kennel facilities since 1963. Its most recent owners, Dwayne Early and David Borders, operated the facility, offering dog and cat boarding and grooming services there since 1998. Early and Borders have retired, Wood Pultz said.
There will be much less traffic in and out of the site, she said, with comings and goings limited to staff and volunteers.
“We will certainly be good neighbors,” Wood Pultz said.
The organization is looking for additional volunteers to help with general clean-up duties, unpacking, painting and settling in.
It is especially in need of people who know something about gardens and landscaping. The prior owners were avid gardeners and left behind a park-like setting in need of TLC by anyone who knows how to care for flowers and plants.
“I’m great with furry animals, but I kill anything green,” Wood Pultz said with a laugh. “So we could really use some help there.”
The new Riverhead Animal Shelter is located at 324 Church Lane Aquebogue.