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Smithtown plans dog run for canines housed at animal shelter

Sue Hansen, Town of Smithtown Animal Shelter director,

Sue Hansen, Town of Smithtown Animal Shelter director, says an area on town land behind the East Main Street facility is being considered as a run where dogs can play and exercise. Nov. 30, 2016 Credit: Ed Betz

Conditions for dogs awaiting adoption at the Town of Smithtown Animal Shelter may soon improve with construction of a dog run.

Shelter director Sue Hansen said town officials and volunteers recently toured a possible location, a shrubby area on town land behind the East Main Street shelter.

“It looks like the town is supporting it,” Hansen said, adding that in coming weeks a plan for the dog run will go before the town board.

With the board’s support, the run could be ready before spring, Hansen said.

Supporters have said the run will dramatically improve the lives of about a dozen dogs who spend months or years at the shelter awaiting adoption.

“As much as we try to provide them with exercise and enrichment activities, there’s no place in particular where they can go to just run,” Hansen said. “This would be an enclosed area where they could really just basically run and be dogs.”

An existing outdoor area connected to the shelter’s kennel is about 15 feet by 5 feet, she said. The planned dog run’s dimensions have not been set, but supporters envision a space as large as 100 feet by 150 feet. Town workers would clear the scrub but leave the trees, said Parks, Buildings and Grounds director Joseph Arico.

Shelter volunteer Victoria Feuerstein said she and other supporters will pay for the fencing. She said she raised the possibility of a run with the Town Board early this year, but saw little progress until she appealed to Supervisor Patrick Vecchio at a recent board meeting.

The recent history of the animal shelter, parts of which date to 1963, is contentious. An engineering report commissioned by shelter management in 2015, before Hansen’s arrival, recommended major renovations to bring the building “to animal care industry norms.”

Animal odors pervaded the entire building and lighting was inadequate, the report found. Outdoor caging for dogs was “in very poor condition and engenders stress reactions, cage fighting and barking,” the report said.

Animal advocates alleged that then-shelter director George Beatty failed to enforce cleanliness and allowed cats to suffer from infections. Beatty, who retired in 2015, vigorously denied those claims.

Also in 2015, the three appointed members of a shelter advisory council resigned, citing the town board’s failure to act on their recommendations.

Councilwoman Lynne C. Nowick said this week that conditions have dramatically improved, partly because of Hansen’s leadership. “We have flipped that shelter around to a model shelter,” she said in an interview.

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