2016-04-07 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Last week when Brookhaven Town closed the questionable animal rescue, Friends of Freddie (FOF) in Middle Island, and ordered all 147 dogs and cats moved by April 1 at 5 p.m. because of numerous fire and safety violations, in an overcrowded store, many people felt sorry for the director, as if she were a victim. They donated thousands of dollars to her online plea. Unfortunately, the animals in Friends of Freddie’s (FOF) care are the real victims.

This isn’t the first time a pseudo-rescue preyed on people’s sympathies for money so they could stay in business. There have been others across the US; some on Long Island. The hope is Brookhaven Town and other government agencies continue to see through the FOF charade.

The NYS Attorney General ordered Precious Pups in Calverton closed in August 2014 after numerous complaints from customers about dogs who were ill or died because of lack of proper health care. The term “dog flippers” became synonymous with those at facilities, opened under the guise of being a shelter, but really a canine marketplace, operating at the new owners’ financial and emotional expense and at the poor dogs’ physical expense. These shady groups may even have non-profit 501(c)(3) status (which is a tax designation, not a guarantee of ethical practices). Anyone, even a hoarder, can apply for 501(c)(3) status.

Reputable rescues would vet, spay/neuter, screen adopters and perform other tasks before adopting this Pom into a new home. Reputable rescues would vet, spay/neuter, screen adopters and perform other tasks before adopting this Pom into a new home. Let’s examine the criteria for a reputable rescue:

1.) A reputable rescue holds dogs and cats in a healthy environment, and only cares for as many as animals as they can safely house, clean, exercise, socialize, get to know and afford at any given time.

FOF has been at this Middle Island location three years, and squeezed 121 dogs and 26 cats into cages and crates in a small store where disease easily spread. Pets saved from other situations are placed in harm’s way in this cramped shop with fire code violations and blocked exits. The March fire in the Coram pet store where 14 dogs died in the middle of the night should have been a wake-up call. FOF was notified by the fire marshal in December, yet instead of fixing the problem, crammed more animals into the same space. Blaming their landlord is absurd. Someone who manages a feral colony nearby says she’s never seen a dog walked at FOF. Linda Stuurman, president of Last Hope, visited FOF several times, and wrote a letter in 2015 to the Town building inspector with concerns about conditions there. She didn’t receive a reply. FOF closes at 5 p.m. and opens again at 8am. In contrast, Last Hope in Wantagh has no more than 20 dogs at once in a spacious kennel, manned by over 250 volunteers from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

2.) A reputable shelter does complete veterinary work-ups on all animals, and adopters receive copies of these medical records. LI municipal shelters do so also. New entrants get intake exams by the vet, receive vaccines, tests (heartworm for dogs; FeLV/FIV for cats) and are put on meds for existing conditions like skin and ear infections or kennel cough. Meds including heartworm pills go home with adopters. For an agreed amount of time, the rescue is responsible for any ailments that persist or surface. Many people report incomplete vetting of FOF dogs, and sick pups making their dogs ill. Allegedly, FOF sends Southern transport puppies right off the truck to off-site adoption events where they can be adopted on the spot.

3.) A reputable rescue spay/ neuters all pets BEFORE adopting them into new homes. This method is the only way to have 100% compliance to end pet overpopulation. LI municipal shelters spay/neuter before adopting. FOF does not. They leave this task to the owners’ discretion which means their puppies grow up intact and can breed.

4.) A reputable rescue screens personal and veterinary references, and conducts a home-check before placing a dog or cat. It’s also best to meet everyone in the household. All these steps take time and diligence. At FOF, it’s cash and carry. Even if FOF says they were screening references during their evacuation marathon, unless they had a huge staff, they could not be doing so properly at the rate they were giving dogs/cats away. Did FOF keep records of where each pet went?

5.) A reputable rescue does dog temperament tests, meet n’ greets with their dogs and dogs in the potential home before placement, as well as cat-testing dogs going into homes with cats.

A temperament test is a snapshot in time; dog behavior can change due to many factors. It’s safer to know if a dog is food aggressive, toy possessive, afraid of strangers and kid-friendly before placement. Same for how a dog reacts to the other pets in his new home. Last Hope has a volunteer family who tests dogs on a leash at their home with their two dog-savvy felines.

6.) A reputable rescue does not charge exorbitant adoption fees for pets, especially if vetting is incomplete. People report FOF charges $400-600 to adopt a puppy. I compiled a chart of other organizations’ adoption fees, if any reader is interested.

7.) A reputable rescue does not take puppies from puppy mills unless the rescue is involved in shutting that puppy mill down forever. Barbara Sanelli, director of FOF, owned two Suffolk puppy stores. Both were closed. Her name is on the attendees list of a 2011 Suffolk Legislature meeting where pet store owners protested a bill to close puppy stores in the County. Sanelli told Newsday on April 1 that up until a year ago, FOF was still taking dogs from puppy mills. Reshaping FOF as a “rescue” seems merely a marketing ploy to continue to profit from pups.

8.) A reputable rescue takes their animals back.

FOF doesn’t, claiming they have no space. I’ve been asked to help re-home FOF dogs. In contrast, Last

Hope just took back sister calicos after seven years because the owners were moving where no pets were allowed.

9.) A reputable rescue would not decline help from other reputable rescues when facing a deadline.

The directors of Kent in Calverton and ARF in the Hamptons went to FOF but their assistance was refused. Is it better to hand pets off to strangers without proper screening than to give them to ethical shelters that will have the animals’ welfare at heart?

10.) You can be fortunate enough to get a wonderful pet anywhere. Some will continue to defend FOF because they adopted a dog there which turned out to be the love of their life. Dogs are forgiving and resilient. You can find a dog in the gutter, and she can turn out to be a treasure. Both my Afghan and Toy Spaniel came from horrible hoarders.

To help close Friends of Freddie for good, please make three phone calls. Regulation of the sale, care or adoption of animals is under Suffolk Co. Dept. of Labor, Licensing & Consumer Affairs (631-853-4600) and NYS Dept. of Agriculture & Markets (1-800-554-4501). Concerns regarding allegations of fraud by any organization are referred to the NYS Attorney General (1-800-771-7755). Also, please email Supervisor Ed Romaine (eromaine@brookhaven.org) asking him to forbid FOF from reopening or relocating in Brookhaven.

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