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Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation Innovates

In the six years since it was founded, the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation (SASF) has created one of the more innovative animal shelters in the industry. With a free food pantry distributing pet food to those who cannot afford to feed their pets, a safe-keep program to help locals temporarily house their pets, and a program to provide the elderly and ill with animal companionship, the Southampton Animal Shelter is a huge resource for the Hamptons community.

The SASF focuses on community. The shelter was originally formed by a group of locals who feared the municipal shelter’s closing in 2010. Since transitioning from a municipal shelter in 2010, the shelter’s adoption rate has increased by 43%. Foundation Board President Jonathan McCann attributes the shelter’s success to the “many new services provided since 2010,” including “a low cost veterinary clinic, a first rate training department and an outreach department to service the community.”

Of course, volunteer efforts of community members are also a major factor in the shelter’s success. “Our facility is a community based shelter,” says Volunteer Coordinator Regina Martini. “The SASF relies on the help of its many volunteers, who range in age from 8 to 80.” Volunteers work with dogs, cats, or both, and take a training class that teaches safety protocols and basic skills.

“The foundation works very hard to be open and inclusive to all members who believe in the healing powers of the communion with animals,” McCann says. For example, the SASF supports special needs volunteers, who are assessed on an individual basis and are given volunteer work according to their abilities.

One special volunteer program that has been developing over the past two years is SASF’s partnership with The Cleary School for the Deaf. Over the course of six summer weeks, students from The Cleary School work with the shelter’s training and behavior department to learn basic handling skills and commands—using sign language to communicate with the dogs.

“This program has proved to be very successful for both the children involved and the dogs,” Martini says. In addition to training the dogs, “the program has helped build the students’ self-esteem and self-awareness.”

Yet another notable effort by SASF to serve the community is their low/no-cost spay and neuter van. Made possible by a grant from the ASPCA, this mobile unit travels throughout New York State.

“Primarily underprivileged areas are serviced by this low-cost veterinary service, which provides microchipping, vaccines and spay/neutering,” McCann explains.

Last year, the van treated over 1,300 pets, 400 of which were feral cats. This year, the van is expected to be even busier. “The demand for our participation is ever growing,” McCann states.

In line with their commitment to lowering the frequency of euthanasia—currently, three to four million shelter animals are euthanized every year—SASF hopes to continue offering their many services, including their low cost spay/neutering. Veterinary services, however, are extremely costly.

“The foundation is able run this costly service by raising donations from our supporters,” McCann explains. “Therefore, many fundraisers are necessary and the largest one is a dinner dance called Unconditional Love.”

This summer marks the sixth year of the annual Unconditional Love Dinner Dance Gala. The SASF will host this year’s gala on Saturday, July 18, at a private oceanfront estate in Southampton. The evening will begin with cocktails at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner and dancing.

“This is a very beautiful evening, which was the sold-out event of last year’s summer season,” McCann says.

The night is Great Gatsby-themed, with music by the Alex Donner Orchestra and catering by Ken Wolff. Tickets begin at $500. The Unconditional Love Dinner Dance Gala is just one way to support the Southampton Animal Shelter Fund.

For more information about the shelter and to learn how to donate, visit southamptonanimalshelter.com.

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