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The Work We Do: Gina Lepine, North Fork Animal Welfare League

My name is Gina Lepine. I’m the executive director of animal behavior and training here at the North Fork Animal Welfare League.

The North Fork Animal Welfare League runs the Riverhead and Southold animal shelters, so I work between both facilities.

I started to do volunteer work with dogs in 2010, and that was it, I just got reeled in.

I wound up volunteering down at the local shelter after that, and there were some dogs there that they deemed aggressive, which I did not think they were. At that point, I was not allowed to handle them unless I became a certified dog trainer, So I became a one.

There’s no normal day here, which is part of what makes the job so cool. I do behavior assessments on dogs as they come in. We adjust and adapt how we handle each dog to whatever their specific behavior is, to what we want to change it to. We do group walks, play groups with dogs, we do agility with dogs. The list is just about endless with all the different things we can do with dogs.

We are very flexible here because the ultimate goal is to get dogs and cats into their forever homes. One of the great things about this organization is that we’re small enough that we can adapt to the people in the community. We also offer at-home follow-ups. Just because a dog gets adopted doesn’t mean we wash our hands; we’re here.

Gina Lepine. (Credit: Rachel Siford)

My favorite part about the job is getting to see a dog go into its new home and seeing the love on people’s faces before they even get out of our parking lot. It’s not just about the animals, it’s about the people the animals go to live with.

We do community service and go into the local schools and we also do Dog Day Fridays on some of the local news channels.

The great thing about my job is that it’s not a one person thing. All of the staff between both facilities work together to put dogs into their forever homes. I will create a behavior modification program for a dog, and the staff will help and follow up and we also get the volunteers involved so the behavior stays that way.

We have been able to place even some of the senior dogs. It’s just great because they all deserve a second chance, just like we do.

‘The Work We Do’ is a Suffolk Times multimedia project profiling workers on the North Fork. This weekly feature is made possible by Peconic Landing. See more photos on Instagram @thesuffolktimes. See the complete list of previous profiles here.

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