Gurney's Inn
May 09, 2007

Shelter Stories

Sweetie (click for larger version)
I have some troubling news about the one-and-a-half-year-old Terrier mix Sweetie, whom I reported to you about last week. She's at Riverhead Shelter on a 10-day quarantine which ends this week. Town officials and the police who oversee that shelter haven't returned my calls.

As I told you last week, Sweetie was adopted out by the shelter to a family. The shelter supervisor says they were told she was to be in a one dog home. Nevertheless, the family introduced another dog into that home. No incident occurred, but Sweetie was returned to the pound. Why the family put the dog in harm's way, I don't know.

Socialization would correct Sweetie's problem with other dogs, says Dr. Peter Borschelt, one of the top animal behaviorists in the country. But Sweetie's not being given that chance. She's caught in a controversy between the town, the shelter staff, the volunteers and the police, who oversee the shelter.

Volunteers aren't able to see Sweetie, or walk her in the small outside pen they have to use because they're not permitted to. Some suspect the police and shelter officials don't want a volunteer program and have been engaged in an ongoing controversy that's been covered in the Riverhead News Review for weeks. This is bad for the animals, readers. Volunteers make the difference between a dog being adopted or killed. Sweetie is/was the only dog in that shelter run by four civil service workers.

What did Sweetie do to bring on this situation? This is what I can verify. A volunteer was playing tug of war in Sweetie's pen, and Sweetie scratched her during rough play. The volunteer wasn't bitten, didn't press charges, and Sweetie had a rabies shot. Nevertheless, the powers that be put Sweetie in isolation. According to an animal rights attorney, they could have "used their discretion" and moved on to get the dog a good home. Instead, they chose to quarantine her. By the time you read this article, Sweetie could be dead. She's the shelter's "property" to do with as they see fit. Meanwhile, the volunteers are toothless tigers – unable to do anything, not that they haven't tried.

A wealthy dog lover let the Riverhead police chief's office know she will pay to board Sweetie at Riverhead Hospital and give her training until she's adopted. She also will pay for a behavior assessment, although this dog doesn't need one. Sweetie loves people. She has no bad history. A rescue organization or private citizen should make an effort to adopt her. The town can say no if it wants to. (I've never heard of such an anti-volunteer, anti-dog attitude, readers.) This is not a liability issue. It's a living being's life we're talking about.

I just want Sweetie to be given the fair shake she deserves in a loving home without other animals. She's had no life for a year and a half. That's cruel and inhumane. Call RSVP and find out how volunteers feel about Sweetie. Their number is 728-3524. I hope someone steps in and does the right thing.

Last week Riverhead Town Supervisor Phil Cardinale did step in on Sweetie's behalf. He told me on a local radio show that the police chief who oversees the shelter was told not to euthanize Sweetie. Animal lover Gail Waller will pay for her boarding and training at Riverhead Hospital. I don't see that she needs much. She just needs a loving only-dog home. I hope this means a happy ending. Stay tuned.

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