Architectural renderings of the new kennel and quarantine/isolation buildings proposed by Kent Animal Shelter. Courtesy photo: Kent Animal Shelter.

Kent Animal Shelter is finally moving forward with plans for the construction of new kennel and quarantine facilities along with improvements to other buildings at its campus in Calverton.

The animal shelter plans to demolish and replace its current 55-year-old concrete kennel building with a state-of-the-art facility, which will include additional kennel space, meet-and-greet rooms and quiet rooms. Kent will also demolish an additional building and construct an isolation and quarantine facility, as well carry out renovations on three other buildings on its property.

A site plan for the demolition of the existing buildings and construction of new kennel and quarantine facilities will be the subject of a public hearing at the Planning Board’s meeting tomorrow at 6 p.m.

The project has been in the works for the last 20 years and is expected to cost roughly $2.5 million, according to the nonprofit’s executive director.

“The shelter has been here for 55 years and has saved or rescued tens of thousands of animals,” executive director Pam Green said. “We take a lot of pride in considering it the premier shelter on the North Fork.”

The reconstruction of the larger kennel building will allow the shelter to increase its kennel capacity by over 40%, from around 25 to 36 dogs, as well as create new rooms for puppies, Green said. The project will also include a meeting room, lockers, shower and luncheon area for staff members, as well as improvements to the campus’ parking, walkways and landscaping, according to a written proposal Green provided to RiverheadLOCAL.

“The intention is that it will increase our capacity to help more animals,” Green said. “The facility here is over 55-years old — it was built in 1968 — so everything’s pretty antiquated here.”

A dedicated isolation and quarantine facility, which will quarantine newly arrived animals and isolate sick animals from the shelter’s general population, will replace a former caretaker’s cottage on the property. The organization recently received a $200,000 grant from New York State to help fund the construction of the facility.

“We have very small isolation rooms. And in general, they’re not for dogs, but for smaller animals. So we really need that,” Green said. The quarantine building will cost roughly $500,000 to build, she said. 

The project proposal also includes the installation of a new septic system capable of reducing nitrogen from waste. Excess nitrogen from septic systems can damage water quality and inflict adverse environmental impacts — an important consideration given the shelter’s location in the Long Island Pine Barrens.

The animal shelter will also carry out complete renovations to its spay, neuter and wellness clinic — built in 1974 — and to the Snowball’s Place Cat Retirement Home, which houses cats in the event that their owners can no longer care for them. Plans are also in the works to equip the campus’ cat shelter with an ultraviolet disinfection system and an HVAC system.

The no-kill animal shelter, which operates out of several buildings on a 2.8-acre campus on River Road, has pursued plans for new facilities over the past two decades, but has hit numerous roadblocks along the way.

A major obstacle has been the campus’ location just within the pine barrens’ core preservation area, where development has since been prohibited after the shelter’s initial construction in 1968, which has prevented the shelter from expanding. Kent’s attempts to expand were opposed by the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, the environmental group which spearheaded the campaign to grant the area protected status as a nature preserve.

This led the animal shelter to review several alternative options in 2016, including moving to another property in the neighborhood outside of the preservation area, or moving to Shoreham

In 2021, the animal shelter demonstrated a rebuilding and upgrade project that did not increase the square footage as a “non-development,” and the Central Pine Barrens Commission determined that plans could go forward. The commission, which manages land use in the area, voted unanimously that the plans currently in front of the Riverhead Planning Board were consistent with the previous determination, according to meeting minutes. 

Green said the shelter hopes to break ground on construction this summer.

“This is needed to continue to operate, because the shelter is just very old and antiquated,” she said.

Kent will soon launch a fundraising campaign to raise money for the construction project, Green said. 

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: