By Eric Santucci
RIVERHEAD- Dozens of pets were sheltered and cared for on Saturday, Aug. 27 at the Eastern Campus of Suffolk Community College during Hurricane Irene.
In the wake of the tropical storm that hammered away at the East Coast Riverhead residents avoided potential disaster by moving themselves and their pets into one of several buildings at the Eastern Riverhead Campus.
“Over 40 pets including; cats, dogs, birds, and hamsters were sheltered on the campus during the storm,” said Professor Marilyn McCall whose classroom was used to shelter the animals. She went on to state that all the pets had been cleared out by Monday morning.
McCall’s classroom, as well as the rest of the Woodlands Art Studio was used as the basis for the pet shelter itself. “The decision was made to use the art studio by administration because of the fact it was a free standing building and would not have an impact on other classrooms when filled with animals,” McCall explained.
While the 40 pets were being sheltered in the art studio, about 100 to 120 people, including many of the pet owners hunkered down at the nearby Peconic building on campus. Many of the pet owners cared for their respective pets during the hurricane.
In both buildings, Suffolk SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) representatives assisted in the containment of the pets during the worst parts of the hurricane as well as overseeing and administrating the pet shelter itself. In addition, the SPCA supplied various supplies to the shelter, including the crates that the pets were held in.
According to a related news article by the Riverhead News Review the SPCA’s Chief Roy Gross stated that those sheltering pets at the campus were required to wear an arm band with the pet’s name and a specific identification number in the event that the pets were separated from the owners during the storm for any reason.
Suffolk SPCA Operations Chief Stephen G. Laton stated that local Riverhead residents initially found out about the pet and human shelters at the campus through local news as well as the Suffolk County Emergency Operations Center.
“Pet owners cared for the animals themselves while we (SPCA) supplied crates for them. There were no complications with the pets or damage to the shelter,” Laton said.
By Tuesday, when classes officially started, the pets and owners had left the shelter with little to no complication. The maintenance staff at the college had cleaned the art studio by the time classes had taken place in the building. The pet shelter did not damage or affect any of the artwork or materials being housed within the studio.
The Suffolk SPCA is a nonprofit law enforcement agency located in Smithtown. Aside from establishing animal-friendly shelters the SPCA also provides veterinary and medical care to animals and enforces regular animal protection and anti-animal cruelty laws.
The Suffolk County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), one of the ways that residents found out about the shelter, is located in Yaphank. The center initiates regular storm watches and relays information about hurricanes and tropical storms to county residents and provides them with vital information. In the event of a more serious storm, they would also issue evacuation announcements if necessary.
The Suffolk County SPCA can be contacted at (631)-382-7722 and is located on 363 Route 111 Smithtown, NY. Its website, suffolkspca.org also provides more information on animal protection and adoption, as well as donations.