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Shelter hopes to stem pit bull overbreeding

Two year old Pit Bull

Two year old Pit Bull "King Kong" in front of the Town of Islip animal shelter. (July 5, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Officials at the Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton hope to spay or neuter 120 pit bulls and mixed breed pit bulls next month, in what it is calling a "Primp your Pit(bull)" promotion.

The special, low-cost clinic for what is widely considered a dangerous dog is one answer to a problem of overbreeding that officials say has filled many of Long Island's animal shelters with pit bulls or pit bull mixed breeds.

In Huntington, 30 of the 40 dogs in the shelter are pit bulls, while in Islip 60 of the 75 dogs are pit bulls. In North Hempstead, about half the dogs in the town shelter are pit bulls.

The Riverhead town board tries to get dogs adopted from its shelter once a month by bringing one to town hall and showing it on the local cable broadcast of the town board meeting. For the past year, almost every dog has been identified as an American Staffordshire terrier.

While breeders differ as to whether pit bulls and Staffordshire terriers are the same or related breeds, the population explosion of the animals has led an informal sharing of kennel space among towns, where -- if one shelter is filled -- pit bulls that cannot easily be accommodated are given temporary shelter by another town kennel.

"We're like one big family, said Islip spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia.

Pam Green, executive director of the not-for-profit Kent Animal Shelter, says pit bulls are being singled out for spaying because they are being overbred and abandoned, ending up in municipal shelters more than other breeds. "People get them for the wrong reasons . . . it's like the 80s and 90s when the shelters were filled with shepherds and shepherd mix dogs," she said.

Owners will be charged $20, and the rest of the $60 cost will be paid through a grant from Petsmart Charities, the only such grant on Long Island, according to Green. The program runs for the month of August.

The $9,000 given to Kent is actually the second part of the grant. The first $10,000 went to cover the costs of a free "beat the heat" spay/neuter program in February that treated 240 cats, she said.

Several town animal shelters have low-cost spay/neuter programs for their animals, and North Hempstead plans to hold a free one-day rabies shot and spay/neuter program on Sept. 12 in New Cassel.

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