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Activists decry new Oyster Bay policy that would euthanize dogs deemed unadoptable

Lori Prisand, of Plainview, is among the animal

Lori Prisand, of Plainview, is among the animal rights activists who had pressed Oyster Bay Town officials for more than a year to change policies so that aggressive dogs would be trained rather than killed. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Dogs entering the Oyster Bay animal shelter will be evaluated for possible adoption or euthanization under a new policy passed Tuesday by the town board at its regular meeting.

Shelter staff will look at dogs’ history of biting, aggression and guarding behaviors to determine whether the animals are suitable for adoption. Under the new policy, dogs whose bites have punctured skin would generally be classified as unadoptable unless the bite was not severe and considered a fluke.

Those determined to be unadoptable will be euthanized under the new policy.

The policy drew fire from animal welfare activists who have been pressing the town for more than a year to change its policies so that aggressive dogs would be trained rather than killed.

“There should be information in there regarding training before any animal is deemed unadoptable,” said Lori Prisand, 49, of Plainview, who runs a dog walking business. “It’s just saying if they failed their evaluation they can be euthanized. We just went back to where we started.”

Prisand and Kate Cifarelli, an attorney from Oyster Bay, emailed the town board before Tuesday’s meeting to urge members not to adopt the policy in its current form. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the public was not allowed to attend the meeting, which was streamed live on the internet.

Prisand and Cifarelli said afterward that they had expected their emails to be read aloud into the record so that the public watching the meeting could hear their complaints, but they were not. Town Clerk Richard LaMarca passed out hard copies of the emails and the board read them silently for about three minutes before proceeding to vote. In the past, former town clerk James Altadonna Jr. had sometimes read letters and emails into the record at meetings.

Cifarelli’s email, which Prisand provided to Newsday, said the policy was a “step backward.”

“The new policy does not provide for any training for dogs that are ‘deemed unadoptable’ and permits the shelter to once again arbitrarily kill dogs,” Cifarelli wrote. “Your community has over and over again asked that a policy be put in place to provide for adequate training and re-evaluations of the dogs before a decision to kill a dog is made.”

After reading the emails silently at the meeting, Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said they would be put into the record but did not discuss their content.

“Obviously we’ve had time to meet with these folks, these residents and listen to them on numerous occasions,” Saladino said before the vote.

The board adopted the new regulations in a 7-0 vote without discussion, though Councilman Steven Labriola said in explaining his vote that the board should consider including training as part of the policy in the future “to see if there’s a possibility that some of these dogs can be rehabilitated.”

Town spokesman Brian Nevin, asked about the absence of training in the new policy, wrote in an email, “The town employs a certified dog behavior consultant who works directly with the animals to properly evaluate and identify adoptable pets.”

Canine behaviors

Dogs will be considered unadoptable if they:

  • Have bitten and punctured skin, unless it was not severe and considered a fluke
  • Show food aggression
  • Have a history of biting children
  • Show aggression toward children
  • Exhibit “uninterruptible aggression” toward another dog through a fence

Source: Town of Oyster Bay