Dispute over how animal shelter money should be spent

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | A pair of dogs at the shelter.

Under pressure from the IRS to prove their nonprofit status, a group of animal advocates in Southold needs to spend nearly $180,000 raised over the past eight years to help the town care for stray animals.

The town had initially proposed that the money, collected by the Southold Raynor Animal Shelter Foundation, be used to pay off the town’s debt on its animal shelter, which opened in 2006 and cost more than $2.6 million. But the current chairman of the fund says no, the money should be spent on things to benefit the animals more directly.

The fund was created with a bequest from Southold resident Elliot Raynor, who died in 2002. When Ken Morrelly, chairman of the fund, died in 2009, his wife, Catherine, took over. She balked at using the money to pay the town’s debt, saying that after years of conflict among different groups associated with the shelter over how best to house the town’s stray and abandoned animals, she wanted the money used to help them directly.

“I don’t want it paying for bricks. I want it paying for animals,” Ms. Morrelly said. “I want to get things moving. If I can get a handshake before Christmas, that would be good, but I really don’t want to wait until January or February.”

In the face of her refusal, the town is now proposing that the money be spent on a new police car outfitted for use by a K9 officer and dog, and to create covers for several outdoor pens at the town’s animal shelter, which are too hot in the middle of the summer without shading.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell estimated this week that the K9 car would cost approximately $25,000 plus $3,000 to install caging and equipment for the dog. The town is getting estimates on the cost of covering the outdoor pens at the animal shelter.

“We are developing a list of other items,” said Mr. Russell. “Some are simple, such as steel hanging buckets for the dog runs. Others are more expensive, like a new commercial-size dryer for the utility room. We will be sure to utilize this generosity to the greatest extent possible.”

“I need to spend the money or answer to the IRS,” said Ms. Morrelly, who said she believes that both the K9 car and the roofs over the pens would be in keeping with the goals of those who donated to the foundation. She added that she would need the approval of the foundation’s board before agreeing to let the town spend the money.

Ms. Morrelly said she also would be happy if some of the money went to buy veterinary medicine or purchase oxygen masks for animals for fire departments within the town.

While Ms. Morrelly and her husband were both animal lovers, the foundation was his pet project, she said. “I don’t need the burden. He knew how to get things done. I’m not in his class,” she said.

[email protected]