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Pine barrens wrong for pet shelter

Executive director Pam Green holds Frodo at the

Executive director Pam Green holds Frodo at the Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

We like puppies. Honest, we do. And kittens. And agencies that rescue them and find them homes. But we do not like a plan by one animal shelter to expand its facility in the pine barrens in Calverton.

The Kent Animal Shelter has been operating for more than 40 years. By all accounts, it does good work. Now it's pitching a $2.5 million expansion that would allow it to take care of even more animals.

But the shelter sits in the core preservation area of the pine barrens, where virtually all development is banned. The shelter is seeking a waiver because it serves "an essential health or safety need," one exception allowed by the 1993 state law that protected this tract of land critical to our aquifer. Previous waivers were granted for such things as an emergency transmission tower. Helping pets does not qualify. And granting the waiver would set a bad precedent for proposals for the other nearly 2,000 acres of the pine barrens still privately owned.

The shelter says its new facility will help the environment because its inefficient septic system just feet from the Peconic River will be relocated and improved. That sounds good, because the point of protecting the pine barrens was to preserve the quality of the drinking water that lies underneath, the purest on Long Island. But here's a better option: Move the entire facility and its septic system out of the zone.

Town supervisors Sean Walter of Riverhead, Edward Romaine of Brookhaven and Anna Throne-Holst of Southampton are three of the four current members of the Pine Barrens Commission who will vote on the expansion proposal.

Each of their towns owns land suitable to place a new shelter. If they support its work, they should reject the proposal and help find the shelter a new home.


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