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Private foundation now runs Southampton animal shelter

While all of Southampton's town offices were closed Monday until noon because of the need to clear away the weekend's snow, the town animal shelter in Hampton Bays was open for business at 9 a.m.

It was, in a way, symbolic.

The town no longer runs the shelter, which was taken over by a private group on Jan. 1, and no longer has to follow the town's schedule.

The private, not-for-profit Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation took charge after the town, in an effort to save money, eliminated shelter workers' jobs from the 2010 budget.

Susan Kelly, the foundation secretary, said that after the town adopted the budget in late November, the eight shelter staffers began using up their remaining vacation and sick time.

"It was a disaster," she said. Because the veterinarian the town had used was no longer visiting the shelter, she said, dogs could not be spayed or neutered for adoption - and the dog population grew from about 15 or 20 to 52.

The foundation brought in its own paid staff and volunteers and offered to hire the former shelter workers. Now 15 people are working there, some on a part-time basis.

Kelly credited shelter supervisor Donald Bambrick with maintaining the facility during the interim and getting it cleaned up, repainted and back on schedule.

The cleanup took three days, she said, and volunteers spent their own money to buy dog food until it could be reordered by the town, Kelly said. An anonymous benefactor gave the town $650,000 in 2002 to cover the cost of completing the $1.9-million shelter, in Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays.Southampton now pays the foundation $200,000 a year to operate the shelter. Heating costs alone will eat up most of that money, Kelly said, and the foundation is beginning a fundraising drive.

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