The North Fork Animal Welfare League has been awarded $500,000 in grant funding from the New York State Companion Animal Capital Fund.
The grant, which is the highest amount awarded in the municipal shelter category, will help NFAWL enhance its new facility on Church Lane, according to the organization.
The organization purchased the property, which formerly housed Scoshire Kennels, in October 2018.
“Receiving this grant is a huge vote of confidence from New York State regarding the level of quality care provided by the North Fork Animal Welfare League to the homeless animals of Riverhead,” executive director Gillian Pultz said in a statement Tuesday.
NFAWL has run the Riverhead Town Animal Shelter since 2013, and also operates the shelter facility in Southold.
The six-acre site in Aquebogue came equipped with 24 interior kennel runs and 16 outdoor runs, along with exercise areas and showers for larger dogs.
A $2.8 million renovation that will create a cat adoption center, isolation care units and adoption suites is underway. The funding will go directly towards those projects, the organization announced in a press release Tuesday.
The former shelter, located on Youngs Avenue adjacent to the town landfill, could not accommodate cats.
“In addition to creating a safer and healthier environment to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home more dogs, we’re committed to working more closely with the area’s community cat caregivers,” Ms. Pultz said.
“In the last month alone we have been alerted to two separate unmanaged feral cat colonies with over 350 intact cats. The funding will go a long way towards solving the issues some of Riverhead’s most underserved communities are facing,” she added.
The organization sponsors a trap-neuter-return program to help keep the number of cat litters born at bay.
“The fact that the Riverhead Animal Shelter will be able to act as a community resource for the un-owned cats of the area is paramount to realizing our goal of no more homeless cats on the North Fork,” said Donna Baldridge, a community cat caregiver.
NFAWL is one of only six municipal shelters statewide that has been granted the top award, overseen by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Libby Post, executive director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation, said their goal is to assist shelters across New York to improve their buildings and ultimately, increase adoptions.
“Better facilities equal more community support and more adoptions. We see this funding as essential to moving the state’s animal shelters forward,” Ms. Post said in a statement.
Ms. Pultz expressed gratitude for how far they have come as an organization. “The Riverhead Animal Shelter was once a few makeshift trailers behind the waste transfer station, today it is in a new building quickly on its way to being a state-of-the-art facility, saving cats for the first time, and serving both the animals and the people who love them with quality care,” she said.