11/27/14 2:00pm
11/27/2014 2:00 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOOliver is awake (briefly).Before Oliver, a 2-year-old tabby, was adopted in 2012, he was a stray kitten doing his best to survive in an old barn behind a Southold church.

Now, the blue-eyed beauty is Mr. August 2015 in North Fork Animal Welfare League’s first calendar.

Photographed by volunteer photographer Katharine Schroeder of Cutchogue, the “Adopt Love!” calendar features portraits of cats and dogs that have been adopted from or are still waiting at NFAWL, which operates shelters in Riverhead and Peconic.

NFAWL director Gillian Wood-Pultz said the calendar, which is available for purchase at both shelters and at three local businesses, is selling well. All proceeds benefit the nonprofit group.

“They’re great gifts for Christmas,” she said. “Everybody needs a calendar.”KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOCamo caught in mid-yawn.

Ms. Schroeder, a freelance photographer for Times Review Media Group, said photographing the animals, who were chosen using a lottery system after interested owners sent in pictures of their pets, was “very challenging but lots of fun.”

“Most of the dogs were so friendly they charged right at the camera, trying to lick either me or the lens,” she said. “I used treats and sound effects to get good expressions from them.”

Ms. Schroeder said one dog, a beagle named Bailey, liked having her picture taken so much that she led the photographer to various locations throughout the house and “posed and posed and posed. I never saw anything like it.”

Not surprisingly, getting the cats to cooperate was a bit trickier.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOLayney.“Oliver falls asleep when he gets stressed or loses interest in something,” Ms. Schroeder said. “After taking only a handful of shots of him, he nodded off and there was nothing we could do to wake him up. Luckily, one of the shots was perfect.”

“Adopt Love!” is available for $10 at NFAWL’s Riverhead and Peconic shelters and at Groom and Gear in Mattituck, Dog Town in Southold and Harbor Pets in Greenport.

The calendar is also available for $15 (price includes shipping costs) at nfawl.org.

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Emme, a 2-year-old Griffon/Brittany spaniel mix, loves to steal socks and shoes. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Emme, a 2-year-old Griffon/Brittany spaniel mix, loves to steal socks and shoes. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Captions: One-year-old Camo (top, right) was adopted by the Schoenstein family in 2013 and is much more canine than feline, his owners say. Layney (middle, left), a 3-year-old pit bull mix, loves playing with the dogs in her neighborhood.

02/10/14 4:16pm
02/10/2014 4:16 PM
FEral Cats in Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter holds his new puppy, ‘Bandit,’ alongside Pam Green of Kent and Al LaFrance of SAVES, a North Fork feline humane organization.

The times are a-changin’ at North Fork animal rescue nonprofit Spay, Alter, Vaccinate, Every Stray — more commonly known as SAVES — as the organization announced a new president recently and will soon hand over operation of its adoption center at the Riverhead Petco.

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07/26/11 3:46pm
07/26/2011 3:46 PM

COURTESY PHOTO

The reward for information leading to the capture of whomever shot an arrow through a swan found in Riverhead last week has swelled from $1,000 to $11,000, authorities said.

The Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has also increased the kitty in the probe of a box turtle found with a nail through its shell in Sag Harbor July 5 to $12,500.

The previous award amounts for the turtle award was $1,500.

“Due to public outrage, donations have poured in,” SPCA officials said in a press release Tuesday. The surge in donations allowed the agency to up the reward amounts.

The swan was found by a kayaker near Indian Island County Park on Friday, July 22. It is recovering at the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays.

That center also holds a box turtle found in East Hampton last week with a nail hammered through its shell.

The hunting arrow was removed, but the bird is unable walk due to possible nerve damage, said Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross.
“It was not a toy by any means,” he said of the weapon.

He called the attack “very disturbing. This was somebody going out of their way to hurt and animal. And it’s been proven that people who hurt animals hurt people.”

Chief Gross said the SPCA will pursue charges against whomever shot the swan, and added that animal cruelty is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. The reward money will be given to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

Call the Suffolk County SPCA at 631-382-7722.  All calls will be kept confidential.

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06/22/11 1:01pm
06/22/2011 1:01 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Puppy Experience on the Main Road in Aquebogue.

Animal rights advocates and pet store owners clashed Tuesday over a proposed Suffolk County law to ban the retail sale of puppies unless pet store owners get the animals from shelters, rescue groups or local breeders.

Legislator Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor), who sponsored the resolution, said the ban is needed because the majority of puppies sold in pet stores are purchased from large-scale commercial breeding operations, known as “puppy mills,” in other parts of the country.

According to the proposed bill, which was subject to a public hearing at Tuesday’s county Legislature meeting in Riverhead, puppy mills breed dogs “like livestock” and sell them as young as five weeks old, despite federal regulations banning the sale of puppies less than eight weeks old.

“This resolution has to do with the horrific conditions in which mother dogs are bred in puppy mills,” Mr. Cooper explained at the meeting, adding that he believes every pet store in the county sells puppies obtained from puppy mills.

A  woman who answered the phone at Puppy Experience in Aquebogue, the North Fork’s only pet store, said the proposed law wouldn’t affect her business because she doesn’t “sell dogs from puppy mills.” When asked where the dogs were obtained from she replied, “No comment. Thank you,” and hung up.

Other pet stores in eastern Suffolk did not return calls seeking comment.

Nearly 30 people expressed their opinions on the proposal Tuesday.

While many pet store owners admitted to purchasing their puppies from Missouri — a state Mr. Cooper said is notorious for puppy mills — they denied their breeders were unprofessional.

Huntington resident Al Selmer, who has owned a pet store for 45 years, said he purchases puppies from the Midwest because local breeders won’t do business with him.

“People that breed dogs here do not want to sell to me because they have a market of their own,” Mr. Selmer said. “What this bill will do is have more people selling dogs out of their homes.”

In addition to discouraging puppy mill sales, the law aims to promote animal shelters, rescue organizations and Suffolk County breeders. A breeder is required to register with the state if it breeds more than nine dogs a year, officials said.

Sara Davison, executive director of the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons in Wainscott, said she’s pleased the ban would discourage consumers from purchasing from pet shops.

“The pitiful state that puppies are displayed in local stores plays to the heartstrings of the unsuspecting public,” Ms. Davison said. “It’s time Suffolk County joins a national trend and bans these businesses that support the puppy mill industry.”

About 2 million puppies are either purchased, sold or adopted across the country each year, Mr. Cooper said, but nearly 5 million dogs die in shelters each year.

Bambi Nicole Osborne, a spokeswoman for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, a trade group based in Washington, D.C., said in a statement that the bill “falls well short” of reducing the population of unwanted animals.

“Breeders, shelters and rescues in Suffolk County do not have the capacity to provide pet owners with all breeds of dogs desired,” Ms. Osborne said. “Banning importation of dogs from outside the county will not stop pet owners from going elsewhere [for] their companion animal of choice.”

Ms. Davison added that the county doesn’t have legal authority to adopt the proposed bill because the state supersedes all regulations related to pet sales.

But Mr. Cooper said he’s confident the bill will pass and be upheld, citing recent bans in New Mexico and Texas.

In addition, Suffolk County became the first municipality in the nation to create an animal abuse registry as a way to shame abusers. In May, the Legislature unanimously approved a new law requiring pet stores, breeders and animal shelters to check the animal abuse registry before allowing the purchase or adoption of animals by prospective pet owners. Mr. Cooper sponsored both bills.

If the puppy ban is approved, the Suffolk County Department of Consumer Affairs would be responsible for enforcement. First-time violators will face a $500 penalty per puppy and a $1,000 penalty per puppy for subsequent offensives.

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05/22/11 10:42am
05/22/2011 10:42 AM

The second annual Long Island Fleece & Fiber Fair was held at Hallockville Museum Farm on Sound Avenue in Riverhead Saturday. Demonstrations and workshops include spinning, sheep herding by border collies, weaving, wool and fleece dyeing, sheep, llama and alpaca shearing, needle felting and more.

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BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Emma Babbino, 8, of Smithtown, enjoys petting a sheep named "TT" from the L.I. Livestock Company in Yaphank.

03/18/11 6:00am
03/18/2011 6:00 AM

DONNA ANN LYNN PHOTO | Two feral cats wait to be fed outside a Cutchogue home Wednesday

North Fork’s feral cat colonies rely solely on big-hearted volunteers to survive the colder months. And this winter — which saw record snowfalls — has been a particularly harsh one for the felines, according to volunteers who care for them. Several feet of snow that persisted from late December well into February buried kittens and cats in their own shelters or blocked the strays from reaching feeding stations.

To help the cats eat and keep warm, volunteers shoveled long pathways through the snow, tossed hot water over thick ice on feeding stations and scrambled to rebuild plow-damaged shelters in biting cold.

Despite their efforts, several cats and kittens died.

“It’s been brutally sad when we find dead cats and kittens,” said Rosalie Basile of Wading River, a volunteer who cares for feral colonies. “It’s especially sad when it’s a cat or a kitten you have been feeding for a long time. It’s the cold and wet combination too. If the cats can’t get dry, they will freeze like a Popsicle.”

There are two animal rescue groups in Southold and Riverhead towns. Workers from SAVES Inc. (Volunteers with Spay, Alter, Vaccinate Every Stray) say they feed about 40 colonies each day, 500 cats in all. Those with RSVP (Responsible Solutions for Valued Pets, Inc.) care for about 10 colonies every day, about 200 cats, across the North Fork. They also get support from the Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton and the North Fork Animal Welfare League in Southold.

The volunteers are reluctant to identify where colonies live, fearing that people will harm them.

Aside from muscling through a persistent snowcover, volunteers have had to make more than their usual twice-daily trips this winter to feed and hydrate the cats, which for the most part live in wooden shelters or plastic tubs supplied by the organizations. During one of several snowstorms that made January the snowiest on record, a snowplow overran and destroyed one colony’s shelters and feeding stations.

No matter the season, the life of a feral cat is hard, say the volunteers. “The average life of a feral cat is five years because they are subject to all the dangers of the environment” said Ms. Basile, who works with RSVP.

The cats can contract internal and external parasites and diseases such as feline aids and leukemia, she said. They have fights with raccoons and other animals living in the wild. Extreme weather conditions will make it especially hard for them to defend themselves or hunt for food — if they’re not being fed by rescue organizations. Hawks can carry them away in the daytime while owls prey on them at night.

The volunteer groups face constant financial pressures.

If a person can prove he or she has been feeding a colony, or is trying to maintain it by providing shelter, feeding stations and medical care, the North Fork Animal Welfare league will supply food for the cats. It costs the league $1,500 to $2,000 a month.
RSVP volunteers must each supply food for the colonies. The cost depends on how many cats they feed. If a volunteer can’t afford to feed the cats, they must ask another volunteer for help. Pet stores will sometime donate food that has been returned, or packages that have been opened or damaged.

For the most part, abandoned pets start feral colonies. Unless the females cats are spayed and males neutered, their populations will skyrocket if well intentioned people feed them.

Debbie Corsair of Southampton, the volunteer coordinator at the Kent Animal Shelter, recalled the case of a woman who was feeding an abandoned cat but did not try to capture it and have it spayed. In less than a year, the cat had five female kittens that each produced about five more. The woman moved away and left the landlord with several cats living on his property. SAVES volunteers and the Kent shelter got involved. The cats were trapped, spayed and neutered.

“Without intervention there would perhaps have been another 50 cats,” Ms. Corsai said. “Picture yourself the woman’s neighbor with 50 cats running through your backyard. In no time there is dissension.”

Tom Scheibel of Brookhaven, a veterinarian for Kent for more than a decade, said people are not very well informed about to the necessity of spaying and neutering a cat. Educating the public is just as important as the work of volunteers who try to feed the animals, he said.

“Every cat you spay takes away the potential for that cat having six or seven litters during its life span,” Dr. Scheibel said.

A certain amount of animal psychology goes into caring for feral cats, which first must come to trust whoever is trying to care for them. Once that barrier is crossed, the volunteers can trap the cats and have all of them spayed and neutered. All are vaccinated for rabies. Young kittens are taken out of the wild so they can be socialized and put up for adoption.

Mary Johnson, a SAVES volunteer from Mattituck, said kittens born to feral mothers must be taken out of the wild when they are no older than four weeks, or they risk becoming too feral to tame. Aside from their work in the field, volunteers also work with rescued kittens that need exposure to human touch to socialize them and prepare them for adoption.

02/24/11 8:00am
02/24/2011 8:00 AM

TIM PERRY PHOTO | A group of bird watchers claim they saw the their earliest-ever osprey returnee. North Fork Bob (pictured here ) is still in Venezuela.

Nature’s calendar brings most ospreys back to Long Island waters just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, but on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday nearly two weeks ago, a group of experienced bird-watchers believe they saw their earliest-ever osprey returnee.

Longtime Audubon Society birding group leaders Rick and Linda Kedenburg of Peconic took a group of 12 teenagers on a excursion to look for birds south of Cutchogue on the morning of Feb. 12. As they drove down New Suffolk Avenue, they saw the distinct form of an osprey resting its talons on a nest on a pole just east of the entrance to Downs Creek.

Linda said that she saw what birders call the distinctive osprey “headlight” of the bird’s white forehead when it turned to them head-on. She and Rick were certain it was an osprey after they watched it through their spotting scope for several minutes.

“He was just sitting there quite upright looking around,” she said. “We thought he was holding his territory, but he hasn’t been seen there again. He probably just found it a handy perch. Usually these birds go very far south for the winter. They’re known to go as far south as Brazil, but he probably wasn’t that far south.”

“He looked pretty bedraggled,” added Rick.

After about ten minutes during which Rick and Linda let the novice birders take a look at their strange sighting through the spotting scope, the bird took off and flew east along the coastline.

“And nobody’s seen it since,” said Linda.

Both birders were fascinated by the sighting of the bird they dubbed “Abe” in honor of Abraham Lincoln, and they began to research other winter osprey sightings on Long Island.

Rick said that the only other winter sighting he found was one reported in western Long Island on a Christmas bird count.

“They figured he was old and didn’t migrate south and was just trying to make it through the winter,” said Rick.

Though Abe’s whereabouts are now a mystery, North Fork Bob, an osprey tagged at another nest on Downs Creek last August, is still enjoying the late summer sun of Venezuela, where he’s spent the past three months fishing along the Ventuari River.

Rob Bierregaard, the ornithologist with the University of North Carolina who tagged Bob last year, said Abe will likely fare all right as long as he has access to open water for fishing.

“Occasionally, there are some real early birds,” he said. “The risk is that they can run into bad weather, but they get good first picks on territory.”

Mr. Bierregaard said that the biggest risk that early ospreys face is the possibility that the water where they fish at their summer grounds is frozen over. The risk is much greater for inland birds than for coastal species. He added that birds seem to time their returns based on an evolutionary instinct that tells them when the waters are frozen.

He guesses that the bird that the Kedenburgs saw was a male, since males usually return to their summer grounds to scope out nesting sites about a week before female birds return.

Mr. Bierregaard expects North Fork Bob to begin his trip home any day now, in time to return to Cutchogue for St. Patrick’s Day.
Bob’s return voyage is being chronicled at Mr. Bierregaard’s website: http://www.bioweb.uncc.edu/Bierregaard/maps11/bob2011.htm

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01/10/11 5:09pm
01/10/2011 5:09 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Dawn Bennett (background) is part of a group of Southold dog lovers pushing for a bigger dog park in town so pooches like Dougal (foreground) can play.

Dog lovers in Southold are forming a pack to prod the Town Board into creating a new, larger dog park.

There’s one small dog park now in Southold, created nearly a decade ago behind the town Recreation Center on Peconic Lane. But dog trainer Dawn Bennett thinks it’s too small to call a park.

“It’s really more of a dog run,” said Ms. Bennett, co-owner of North Fork School for Dogs, who has circulated a petition to gather support for a new park. As of last Friday, she said, more than 350 people had signed it.

She said she had heard from dog owners that the park has been underused, in part because many owners worry about sharing it with dogs from the animal shelter across the street. They might have behavior problems, she explained.

“We’re at the real beginning stages and we’re causing a little stir,” she said. “But we want input. We can’t ask for something until we know there’s a need … Are we a large enough community to support a dog park?”

Ms. Bennett and other dog lovers recently formed a group called the North Fork Canine Council, which is advocating for the park. She had felt initially that an ideal site would have at least three acres, but said the group now would be willing to work with the town on any size site. “We need to be realistic,” she said. “We’re not Holtsville. We’re not Brookhaven. We’re a small town.”

She said dog owners would like the town to consider using some of the four acres behind the Peconic School building, recently acquired for use as a new community center. It could be used for a park for larger dogs, Ms. Bennett said, if small dogs continued to use the park behind the Recreation Center next door.

Supervisor Scott Russell said this week that he and the Town Board were willing to discuss the concept with Ms. Bennett and her group at an upcoming work session. But three acres behind the Peconic School, he said, may be more than the town can spare, due primarily to restrictions on the uses allowed on properties purchased with public money. Also, that land is currently used for a Boy Scout car show and other public events.

“We’d like to keep it in the public realm,” Mr. Russell said.

Some other potential sites, he said, were problematic because they were purchased in partnership with other government agencies that would need to sign off on the plan. Some were bought by the town through its Community Preservation Fund and might not be available for a dog park, depending on the reason they were acquired.

The supervisor said that once potential sites were identified, he would likely ask the town’s land preservation committee for feedback on whether or not a dog park would be an appropriate use.

In the meantime, he said, dog lovers can use the town’s hiking trails, which he said are pet-friendly.

Ms. Bennett said she hoped to arouse enough interest to help fund fencing and beautification for a new park or perhaps to help to upgrade the park behind the recreation Center.

She suggested that dog owners could apply for “Pooch Passes” from the town that would certify their dogs were licensed and their shots up to date. She said the fee for the pass could pay for the maintenance of the park. A park that uses that model has been successful in Middle Island, she added.

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11/30/10 3:57pm
11/30/2010 3:57 PM

TRACY O'LEAR PHOTO

Tracy O’Lear snapped this photo of a red fox at Corey Creek in Southold Saturday.The red fox, the largest of all foxes, is found throughout the northern hemisphere and feeds on small rodents.

“I don’t know about you, but it  has been a long time since I have seen a fox,” said Ms. O’Lear’s husband Les Gazzola.