The facility on Church Lane in Aquebogue purchased by NFAWL in October 2018, was the former Scoshire Kennels site. File photo: Denise Civiletti

The North Fork Animal Welfare League has been awarded $500,000 from the New York State Companion Animal Capital Fund, the organization announced in a press release this afternoon.

The funding will go directly toward phase one of the $2.8 million project underway at the newly purchased facility in Aquebogue to install high-volume shelter industry standards like isolation care units and adoption suites. The major renovations include readying the shelter to rescue cats – a first for the Town of Riverhead, NFAWL said. 

“Receiving this grant is a huge vote of confidence from New York State regarding the level of quality care provided by the North Fork Animal Welfare League to the homeless animals of Riverhead,” NFAWL executive director Gillian Pultz said. NFAWL has held the Town of Riverhead’s animal control contract since 2013. The new facility for the Riverhead Animal Shelter was purchased by NFAWL in October.

Only six municipal shelters in the state have been granted $500,000 from the fund which is overseen by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. The fund was originally championed by New York State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and State Senator Phil Boyle.

“We believe in saving more animals’ lives in Riverhead, our elected officials believe in saving more lives, and our community believes in it too,” says Pultz. “In addition to creating a safer and healthier environment to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home more dogs, we’re committed to working more closely with the area’s community cat caregivers – in the last month alone we have been alerted to two separate unmanaged feral cat colonies with over 350 intact cats. The funding will go a long way towards solving the issues some of Riverhead’s most underserved communities are facing.”

“The North Fork Animal Welfare League sponsors an indispensable local Trap-Neuter-Return program that’s been running successfully for over a decade,” says Donna Baldridge, a community cat caregiver. “The fact that the Riverhead Animal Shelter will be able to act as a community resource for the un-owned cats of the area is paramount to realizing our goal of no more homeless cats on the North Fork. This money will ensure that the stray cats will continue to get the same quality care as owned cats, while we work on diminishing the numbers of unwanted litters born on the streets.”

The multi-tiered application process was assisted by the experts who are instrumental in keeping the herculean renovation project on track: Glynis Berry and Hideaki Ariizumi of Studio a/b Architects and Tom Lagomarsino, CPA.

“Studio a/b has provided invaluable direction on physically improving the structure with health and safety at the forefront and Mr. Lagomarsino has lent his expertise to ensure the project is fiscally responsible and remains on budget.”

“The Companion Animal Capital Fund is the first state-funded program of its kind in the nation,” says Post. “Our goal is to create a permanent funding stream to assist shelters across New York improve their existing buildings or build new ones. Better facilities equal more community support and more adoptions. We see this funding as essential to moving the state’s animal shelters forward,” said Libby Post, executive director of New York State Animal Protection Federation.

As one of the founding members of the NYSAPF, Pultz sees the grant as a continuation of the major strides being made in the state regarding companion animal welfare.

“The Riverhead Animal Shelter was once a few makeshift trailers behind the waste transfer station, today it is in a new building quickly on its way to being a state-of-the-art facility, saving cats for the first time, and serving both the animals and the people who love them with quality care,” Pultz said.

“We are elated that our local and state elected officials recognize that companion animals are a growing priority to their constituents and this grant reflects their commitment.”

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