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Center Moriches shelter in danger of closing

Wendy Culkin, center, and her family run Katie's

Wendy Culkin, center, and her family run Katie's Critters Rescue out of their home in Center Moriches. (July 1, 2010) Photo Credit: Jacqueline Connor

A Center Moriches animal shelter devoted to guinea pigs, ferrets and other tiny animal companions is in danger of shutting down, after its owners say their home is facing foreclosure.

Wendy Culkin, who along with her husband, John, runs the nonprofit Katie's Critters Small Animal Rescue out of her home, said she's been behind in paying the mortgage since John lost his job driving a fuel oil truck in April.

While the couple and their daughter, Katie, 11, can move into an apartment, Culkin said, moving the 65 animals in the shelter with them is not an option.

"We're really scared," Culkin said. "They're going to start the foreclosure process. It takes awhile. In the meantime, we gotta find these animals a home. I don't want to have the police here saying 'Get out,' and we have a whole bunch of animals here."

She said she'll try to place some of the animals in shelters in New Jersey or upstate New York, but she's hoping the public will come forward wanting to adopt some of the animals, or donate money toward rent for a shelter building.

"If we can get enough donations in, we could possibly rent a commercial building," Culkin said.

Culkin said she's been involved in animal rescue for years, but started Katie's Critters as a nonprofit in 2008 after taking in dozens of guinea pigs rescued by the Nassau County SPCA.

Animal shelters devoted to small animals are necessary, especially since many shelters won't take them, said Dori Scofield, executive director of the nonprofit Save-a-Pet shelter in Port Jefferson Station, which deals chiefly with dogs and cats, but also takes in rabbits and the occasional small critter.

"There's definitely such a need for those little companion animals in rescue," Scofield said. "People just buy them and they don't give them the time and attention they deserve. And the novelty wears off very quickly and they look to discard them."

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