All creatures great and small hurt by bad economy


North Fork Animal Welfare League executive director Gillian Wood-Pultz holds Cleo, an abandoned boa constrictor found near the league’s shelter on Peconic Lane. Boa constrictors, native to Central and South America, can grow to lengths of up to 13 feet.

The Great Recession has hit hard at animals as well as people as the number of abandoned pets on the North Fork rises, according to North Fork Animal Welfare League shelter director Gillian Wood-Pultz.

“With the economy, the animals go first,” Ms. Wood-Pultz said. Sometimes it’s the result of owners being evicted from their homes. Other times, the owners just can’t afford to continue to feed the animals.

“Just call us,” she said. “We will figure out what to do with them,” she said. Don’t leave animals unattended in apartments or outside the shelter, as they may not live to find new homes, she said.

Dogs and cats that typically populate the shelter in Peconic have some exotic company these days, including a red-tailed boa, now named Cleopatra; a bearded dragon named Gertrude; and four chinchillas.

People are abandoning these animals and that could have led to their deaths before she and shelter staff members could rescue them, Ms. Wood-Pultz said.

Even the snake, found slithering near the shelter, might well have been attacked overnight before anyone arrived at the shelter, she said. The chinchillas were left in a cage outside the shelter with an anonymous note about their care and feeding. But they might have made a meal for a larger animal roaming the area, she said.

The bearded dragon was found by a local veterinarian and a friend who were walking their dogs in Mattituck. Today, she dines on crickets and lettuce in a cage at the shelter. But she might instead have become another animal’s dinner. That she was someone’s pet is evident to Ms. Wood-Pultz, who cuddled her and demonstrated how she loves being petted.

Two horses boarded at a local stable were abandoned because the owner could no longer afford to feed and care for them. The stable owner in Cutchogue is allowing the horses to stay until homes can be found for them but shelter staff have to handle their care and feeding.

Two dogs were found abandoned in a garbage-strewn Greenport apartment where the smell of feces and urine was overpowering, Ms. Wood-Pultz said. They were dehydrated and starving, but have regained their lost weight and one has already found a new home while the other is ready for adoption.

Seven puppies are recovering from ringworm and other parasitic diseases after they were abandoned outside an assisted living facility. There were nine, but two died, Ms. Wood-Pultz said. The other seven are being nursed back to health and should be ready for adoption in several weeks, she said. The mother wasn’t on site and Ms. Wood-Pultz speculated that she may have died from infections similar to those the puppies had.

As for the bearded dragon, the snake and the chinchillas, they are the most exotic animals the shelter has had at one time, Ms. Wood-Pultz said. She said she was grateful to Dr. Robert Pisciotta at the North Fork Animal Hospital for his guidance in caring for them. As a local expert on exotic animals, he has been able to provide advice about what’s normal and what’s not for animals like Gertrude, the bearded dragon, Ms. Wood-Pultz said.

In a 10-year study, Ms. Wood-Pultz has determined that most animals get dumped in January, after Christmas, when new owners determine they don’t want them. But the bad economy is resulting in a more steady stream of abandonments throughout the year, she said.

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