| by Robert Kimmel |
Pets Alive Westchester’s no-kill animal shelter is no longer operational in Elmsford despite community efforts to keep it from closing. As of mid-September the last of 61 dogs and cats had been transferred to Pets Alive’s Middletown shelter, and the animal sanctuary shut its doors.
Pets Alive is prepared to transfer ownership of the facility to a non-profit, animal organization that is capable of continuing no-kill shelter activities at the location on Warehouse Lane South. It had been running the animal refuge since it took over the facility from the Elmsford Animal Shelter in 2010.
The cost of operating the shelter in a facility whose upkeep had become excessive caused Pets Alive earlier this year to announce it was closing the location. Expenditures at Pets Alive Westchester in 2014 exceeded its revenue by $130,000. During March of 2014 structural problems, including multiple cracks in the walls, required that the building be evacuated for several months. The price of the shutdown, repairs and placement of animals in foster homes and temporary boarding along with tests of the building and ground beneath it ran into the tens of thousands of dollars. Repairs to a loading dock alone cost $50,000.
An investigation determined that cracks in the walls of the 40,000 square foot structure were caused by the shifting of unsettled ground beneath it. While the building now is functional and passed town inspection, Pets Alive states that a local contractor last December gave it an estimate of more than $1 million to completely overhaul the building, including its existing foundation and walls.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner had led an effort to keep the facility operating, and public meetings directed toward that goal drew interested organizations; however, no accord had been reached by the end of last month for transfer of the facility. The Pets Alive Board had been in discussions with Feiner and Greenburgh officials over the past two months. The deed from the town that originally legalized the donation of the five acres to the Elmsford Shelter restricts its use for anything other than, “…solely and exclusively for park, recreational, or general municipal purposes, or an animal shelter in perpetuity.” Greenburgh declined last month to take over ownership of the property, an option that had been presented.
In addition to harboring the dogs and cats transferred from the Elmsford shelter, Pets Alive Middletown is continuing to support about 50 cats and dogs that are cared for by others as part of Westchester Pets Alive Forever Foster program. “These are animals that for one reason or another went into this program…special needs animals, or more senior animals, that may have been a little harder to adopt, and that families agree to take over care of, but that Pets Alive continues to pay for the animals’ upkeep for their lifetime,” explained Mary Ann Bopp, Development Director of Pets Alive. Apparently the upkeep involves mostly medical care costs. Many of the dogs transferred to Middletown are described as “legacy” dogs that had been at the shelter for many years.
Bopp noted that the Middletown facility in Orange County had about 320 cats, dogs and some farm animals such as horses, goats and pigs. The two Pets Alive shelters had the same Board of Directors; however, each had its own Executive Director and working staff and managed its own finances, while sharing some resources and personnel. About a dozen workers of the now closed shelter, are no longer employed by Pets Alive, according to Bopp.
Pets Alive has announced it is “…now accepting proposals from qualified animal rescues to acquire our former Westchester animal shelter.” The Elmsford location off Route 9A, it states, can hold 200 to 300 cats and has ample kennels, other rooms for cats, and inside and outside play areas. It has established specific criteria that must be met, including non-profit status, a successful track record of “companion animal rescue operations for at least two years,” a “no-kill philosophy,” and the finances to acquire and keep the shelter in operation. The deadline for the proposals is October 10.