Former Nassau County District Attorney and U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice...

Former Nassau County District Attorney and U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice with her dog Pearl in 2011 in Garden City. Credit: Howard Schnapp

After eight years of representing Nassau's South Shore in Congress, Kathleen Rice has a new constituency that barks orders at her all day.

The former 4th District representative has made a career pivot from politics to pooches — and cats, and the like. Rice, a Democrat who retired in 2022 after serving four terms in the House, will lead the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation as its chief strategy and transformation officer.

The Hampton Bays nonprofit operates a no-kill, open-admissions shelter that takes in homeless pets and seeks to place them with permanent parents. The foundation took the shelter over in 2010 after Southampton Town eliminated most funding for it.

Rice said pet ownership is a core part of her identity. An animal lover and mother to a 13-year-old Yorkie-Maltese mix named Pearl Elizabeth, Rice grew up with Chesapeake Bay Retrievers — plus their litters of 10 puppies. "There were always dogs running around," she recalled. 

Rice said she will focus on finding business opportunities for the shelter. The nonprofit declined to provide salary details.

"Animals are my first love," she said. Pets are "nature's gift to human beings, and we owe it to them to take care of them and enable them to find their forever homes." 

Rice, 59, of Garden City, was Nassau's district attorney from 2006 until 2014. Since last year she's served as of counsel to a Manhattan law firm, Perry Law. Firm founder Danya Perry served with Rice on New York's Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, launched by former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2013 before it was disbanded less than a year later. 

Rice declined to run for reelection to a fifth congressional term in 2022. Republicans won all four House seats on Long Island that year, and Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park) succeeded Rice.

Rice spoke of the partisan rancor and frustrations she faced on the job. Since retiring, she said she was "actually enjoying a life of not having to be on a plane every week."

"I think change is good," she said. "Washington was a very frustrating place."

In her new role, Rice said she looked forward to helping "the most vulnerable creatures" by promoting pet ownership.

"When you're in such a difficult environment as we are right now, politically, it's really nice to be able to come home to someone who's not going to talk back to you," Rice said. "She might bark and ask for a treat, but they're just going to jump up and be so happy to see you — no questions asked."

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