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Shelter gets new van to transport animals

A cat up for adoption at the Town

A cat up for adoption at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter in Wantagh. (Nov. 15, 2010) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

After launching a state-of-the-art pet rehabilitation facility in Wantagh in April, the Bideawee animal rescue organization this month debuted a customized animal transport van — complete with temperature controls, stretchers and floor drains — so it can transfer animals to and from its adoption shelters in Westhampton and Manhattan and the new Wantagh center.

“Almost universally, when pets come out of municipal shelters, they’re sick,” Bideawee chief executive Nancy Taylor said. “We’re trying to have the animals that we put out for adoption be as healthy as they can possibly be.”

That means stays of at least 14 days at the Wantagh location. With the new facilities, said Taylor, “We have much better control over air exchange, temperature, humidity — all things that we can help minimize the spread of disease.”

The minimum two-week stay is mandatory, even for pets that don’t appear to be sick. “Even if they look healthy on Day 1, it’s not uncommon for them to break with some kind of illness on Day 3 or Day 4.”

Heather Bialy, director of shelter services for the Humane Society of the United States, says that an extended stay can often weaken an animal’s immune systems. “If it’s not showing any signs of disease, we would recommend that the animal be placed for adoption as soon as possible,” she said. “By vaccinating them right away, and getting them out of the shelter as soon as possible for adoption, it’s going to reduce the risk of them contacting diseases and spreading it to other animals as well.”

Taylor said she doesn’t anticipate any problems. “We think that given the space we have to work with them, to socialize them, to walk them outside if they’re healthy enough, it’s in their best interest to spend that time with them ,” she said. “They can go immediately to the adoption floor and be adopted very quickly, and not all shelters can afford the time or the space or the staff to do it that way.”

But, she added, “It’s an experiment. We will know in a few months if we’ve decreased our infection rate, and been able to adopt more healthy animals.”

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