Equal Time: No need for animal shelter rancor

We watched the Feb. 15 Town Board meeting, again and again. Unbelievable! Neighbors, including Town Board members, tried to discuss the required competition to seek an operator for the town animal shelter. It turned into a witch hunt.

Fear ruled. Fears singled out “outsiders” and fear said animals would be killed. All feared change. A witch was found: my wife, Carole. She wrote a letter, she had sued the North Fork Animal Welfare League. She interfered in town business, she wanted to rule. Chant, “kill the witch!”

Life is change, change is growth. Personal loss ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­— a pet, a spouse, your health, a job or business — forces us to adapt. Competition demands change. It’s what built America. Some insist on keeping the old ways. Both can exist, but in our current economic stress change will win out. Don’t you want the best for your children and their children? Learning changes us.

The Town Board said it wants the best for taxpayers and the animals it shelters. The angry citizens first want no change. The belief is that the North Fork Animal Welfare League does a great job, it has for 40 years, even our supervisor said so.

To change, to improve, we need to abandon belief and learn truths. One speaker said we need openness, transparency, we need to examine. We need that both for government and the shelter operator. Competition for the best service, the best care, requires seeing what is real and what is false. We need to work together, to cooperate, to understand reality and abandon fantasy. There is no witch.

How did the new shelter get built? Then-councilman William Moore and I made a presentation to the Town Board in July 2002. The board committed to building. The league found fault and obstructed each step ahead. Finally, building began in 2008.
Blankets make the dogs comfortable, but the Lighthouse for the Blind in Smithtown does not use blankets for its 80 dogs in training. They need to be ready for pavement, shop floors, any environment a service dog works on. Lint clogs washing machines and dryers and ventilation filters. Stop using blankets. Canvas slings on plastic frames are easily hosed off. No lint, no clogs, less work — but it requires change.

The “witch” sued. Why? To get the right for four other longtime Southolders and herself, all League members, to compete in an election for NFAWL directors. The real question is why did league officers spend around $150,000 to prevent that? The Town Clerk has their financials; the organizations’s 2010 assets total $861,889.46. Why did they change from a membership to a non-membership corporation?

Euthanasia evokes fear. The league operates a no-kill shelter. But check the shelter reports to the Town. Dogs and cats are euthanized. In 2000 it was 22 dogs out of about 58 sheltered. Murderous? Depends. False? No. Outsiders? No. Gillian Wood-Pultz was executive director, Therese McGuiness was vice president. Look at the census reports.

Is there a humane no-kill shelter? There are less-than-humane shelters that incarcerate animals for years.

The league needs to change. To respond to the town’s request, respond constructively and do the best they can.

Let’s work together. Let’s be more charitable to each other. Let’s cooperate, let’s be open, let’s talk. Let’s be creative, let’s find ways to make the care, training and service better. Let’s agree there is no witch and fear is unwarranted. Let’s shun the people spreading false rumors.

I’ve got 10 years invested in a better shelter. Now let’s get the animals adopted into good homes and the taxpayers served better.

Mr. Geiss is a Southold resident and former member of the town’s animal shelter committee.