National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day: Adopt on the North Fork

North Fork Animal Welfare League
Gillian Pultz and Princess. Courtesy North Fork Animal Welfare League

Who doesn’t love a cuddly, loyal, obedient, best-friendly dog? Well, “cat-people,” maybe. But even they’re in luck at The North Fork Animal Welfare League (NFAWL). They have both. In fact, when we visited Executive Director Gillian Pultz, the shelter was housing two pigs and a litter of baby rats.

We spoke specifically about senior pets—any cat or dog over the age of seven, though Pultz says she likes to consider seniors as pets over 10 years old for the very reason we chose to talk about them: “When you call them ‘senior,’ people are less likely to adopt them,” she says. Sad!

There are a number of misconceptions regarding senior pets. Many people think something’s wrong with them, that they’ll incur high vet bills and won’t be around long. False, false and false. Case in point, Pultz’s Pit Bull, Rizzo (a senior by definition) took every opportunity—and created many of her own—to sneak a good petting. We happily obliged. Truth is, the benefits of adopting senior pets are manifold—not to mention your puppy or kitten will one day be a senior pet. First, a senior’s personality, which you’ll get to know them at the shelter, is already developed. No surprises. They’re already housebroken. Minimal training needed. You’ll feel good about giving an animal a great home until the end of their furry little life. Justifiable smug self-satisfaction.

There’s also the matter of energy level. If you have three toddlers running around crayoning your entire kitchen, a kitten or puppy’s excess energy might go unnoticed. But what if you’re retired and like a nice quiet night at home? So do senior pets! And NFAWL’s Seniors for Seniors program is perfect—for seniors. First, there’s no adoption fee for any animal over eight. NFAWL will deliver food to a senior’s home monthly and provide transport for a senior pet’s check-up appointments. If the pet owner becomes infirmNFAWL will take care of the senior pet until the owner is able to return home.

Okay, you can’t adopt. But what if you have a soft spot for animals in shelters? You could volunteer. NFAWL needs dog walkers, event planners, helping hands at off-site events. Have a green thumb? They have an outdoor fragrance garden just outside the open-air cat rooms that need tending. Like to sit and read? They have a room where you can do just that while tame animals calmly relax next to you.

Perhaps you’d like to take part in some of NFAWL’s fundraising programs. The May Furry Valentine (their rescheduled February event) will be held at the Long Island Aquarium on Thursday, May 11 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $75 and proceeds of the event go to NFAWL. NFAWL is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, so all donations are tax-deductible.

Where does your donated money go? NFAWL has a number of programs beneficial to the community, quad- and bipedal alike. The Safe Keep Program allows pet owners, who for circumstances beyond their control, are in peril of losing their pet. NFAWL will take that pet in on a temporary basis. For example, if a pet owner is a victim of domestic abuse and is forced to suddenly leave their home. NFAWL also coordinates all animal control in both Riverhead and Southold. Donations also go toward the Riverhead Shelter Campaign to renovate the Henry Pfeifer Community Center into a new, much needed, state-of-the-art shelter.

Where else can you find NFAWL? They’ll be at the 63rd Annual Mattituck Lions Strawberry Festival, June 15–18; the 28th Annual East End Maritime Festival in Greenport, September 22-24; they’ll even attend your event. And they’re always at 165 Peconic Lane in Southold and 532A Youngs Avenue in Calverton. Or visit

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