Cats have been felines non gratae at North Hempstead's
municipal animal shelter for at least nine years. And the lack of options has
feline lovers hissing.
But the town board gave an indication the no-cat stance could change when,
in a March vote, it authorized itself to seek bids for completion of an
extension to the animal shelter that would enable the town to accept cats.
In an interview this month, Supervisor Jon Kaiman said the town will seek
bids for the project "sometime soon" and have a cat program in place by 2010.
In the meantime, residents are mulling the fate of unwanted felines in North
Though the practice is not required by law, most of Long Island's town
shelters accept cats. North Hempstead is one of the few that does not.
The practice of not welcoming cats into the dog-only shelter hinged on an
ethical dilemma, town officials said.
"We don't want to become the euthanasia center for cats," Kaiman said.
"That's usually the primary function of cat shelters, and that would be
disturbing to us."
While Dr. Gay Senk, a veterinarian who oversees the Farmingdale-based Long
Island Cat Program, said it is "quite rare and unacceptable" for a municipal
shelter not to accept cats, she added that dealing with stray and unwanted cats
is a touchy situation.
Shelters provide potential havens, but many end up euthanizing animals due
to lack of space, Senk said. "It's a real complex dilemma."
Officials say they don't remember cats ever being formally accepted at the
North Hempstead Town shelter on Marino Avenue in Port Washington, even though a
Newsday story in 2000 said the shelter stopped accepting felines altogether
after advocates complained the animals were being euthanized instead of put up
Then, in his 2004 state of the town address, Kaiman said the animal shelter
would "begin accepting cats sometime this year." A few months later, the town
board voted to hire Bohemia-based Kenstar Construction to build a shelter
The project never got far off the ground. Kenstar Construction sued the
town last year - before the project's completion - alleging the town had not
paid for the work. The town board last month authorized a settlement of the
case for about $130,000, Kaiman said.
Today, five years after the plan for the shelter extension was launched,
the only sign of it is a concrete foundation with weeds growing through it.
Kaiman said he hopes construction will resume this summer and be done in
about four months. The remaining cost of the 20-by-40-foot shelter has not been
determined, said town spokesman Collin Nash.
Meanwhile, feline advocates and some local residents say the absence of a
shelter has left a damaging void.
Linda Stuurman of Last Hope Inc. in Syosset said her nonprofit, which
rehabilitates cats and adopts them out, has been picking up the slack where
North Hempstead services are lacking, adding that a cat shelter in the town is
"long overdue." Last Hope is currently in a dispute with the town regarding
payment for some feral cat services last year, Stuurman said.
"Who's suffering while this is being all hashed out?" she said. "The
One resident who has advocated on behalf of feral cat programs, Linda
Marasco, 54, of Mineola said she wished the town had provided an "interim"
Town officials insist they have offered alternatives. In a statement, Nash
pointed to the town's investment in spay and neuter programs "as an alternative
to taking cats into the town shelter."
Specifically, the town has contracted with private and nonprofit
organizations since 2002 to run feral cat clinics in the town to trap, spay or
neuter, inoculate and release cats to their original colonies, officials said.
One admirer of the town's efforts is Nancy Vogt, president of the Long
Beach nonprofit Long Island Cat Kittens Solution, who lauded North Hempstead
for instituting the clinics. She said some municipalities opt against feral cat
programs for fear they would be perceived as compounding the problem of
overpopulation by advocating the feeding of the animals.
"You really have to give North Hempstead a kudo for at least trying," she
But Kathy Trukafka, a Last Hope volunteer, said she found the program
In January, Trukafka said she discovered a feral cat colony, including two
severely injured felines, near an apartment building in Mineola and alerted the
town. Trukafka said she waited weeks for direction from the town about what to
do about the colony but received no guidance.
"As far as they're concerned," she said, "these ... animals are waiting."
Eventually, Last Hope rehabilitated two injured cats at a cost of about
$700, Stuurman said. One cat has been adopted out, and the second is going into
an adoption program, she said.
Nash said because the cats were found in the Village of Mineola they were
outside the town's jurisdiction.