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Babylon makes changes at shelter to help boost pet adoptions

Chris Elton, seen in 2018, is the director

Chris Elton, seen in 2018, is the director of the Babylon Town animal shelter in Amityville. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Babylon Town animal shelter is making some changes in the hope of increasing the number of adoptions.

The changes come as some volunteers at the shelter have voiced suggestions for improvements. Fiona Delgardio and Kim Kaler appeared at a recent town board meeting and Delgardio presented a list of recommendations. Among the issues brought up was that the hours the shelter is accessible — closing at 3:45 p.m. on weekdays and not open on Sundays — reduces adoptions. So far this year the shelter has had 536 dog and cat adoptions, officials said.

Officials said in April that the shelter in Amityville has the capacity to house 67 dogs and 60 cats.

Delgardio also spoke about the need to strengthen the volunteer program so that the animals get more interaction, thereby reducing their stress and increasing adoptability. The shelter has about 20 staff and 40 volunteers, officials said.

“We need more people being brought in, trained, shown what to do,” Delgardio said.

The shelter is working to address both of those concerns, director Chris Elton said, part of an assessment that began earlier this year. The shelter is currently trying a “pilot” program of keeping the facility open to the public until 6 p.m. on Thursday, he said. Opening on Sunday would have to be negotiated with the union, he said, but volunteers are at the shelter on Sundays.

“If the Thursday thing works out, then maybe we can do Tuesday too,” he said. “We have to take the budget into consideration and union rules as well.”

The shelter is also changing how it does volunteer orientations. Before, Elton said, the shelter would wait until it had received a certain number of inquiries and then schedule an orientation, with a couple happening per year. Now the shelter has already scheduled five volunteer orientations throughout 2020.

“Volunteers are such an important and integral part of what we do,” he said.

Delgardio, who said volunteers have been expressing concerns to shelter officials for more than a year, also said that the shelter provides too little information in animals’ online profiles.

“If you have someone who comes to look at a dog, and there’s no information — pet friendly, dog friendly, cat friendly, kid friendly — what are they going to do? They’re going to move on,” she said.

Elton said this is unlikely to change. Online profiles are intentionally limited, he said, because revealing some aspects of an animal’s behavior would turn people away. He said the shelter is “completely transparent” about an animal’s medical and behavioral issues if people call to inquire.

“The whole thing is to get people in the door,” he said. “If they’re coming in for dog A and leave with dog C, that’s a good thing.”

Delgardio said she’s glad some changes are happening but feels more can be done.

“We’re just trying to make things better,” she said.

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