Last year, town officials missed the opportunity to tap into a grant that would help fund a new building for the Saugerties Animal Shelter, but town officials said they would try again this year.
But that opportunity has been deleted from the state budget, drying up a potential funding source for the project.
In January, the source Companion Animal Capital Fund was not included in the Governor’s executive budget for the first time since the fund’s conception. Five million dollars were allocated to the fund in 2018 and 2017; 25 shelters throughout the state received grants worth between $100,000 and $500,000 over the past two years through the fund. Meanwhile, shelter officials say, the Saugerties facility is a repurposed garage with a leaky roof, dysfunctional septic tank, porous floors, significant mold and inadequate facilities for the animals’ needs.
“We intended to apply,” said Town Supervisor Fred Costello Jr. of the missed grant opportunity. “We tried to do it in-house, we timed out. We stalled when we couldn’t get estimates for the construction in time. That building looks like a renovated garage, it functions like a renovated garage — it’s our hope to replace that with something that would look like a shelter and act like a shelter. Provide animals with an adoption room, a quarantine room.”
The Saugerties Animal Shelter also serves the Woodstock, the Town of Ulster, Wawarsing, the town of Kingston and houses overflow animals from the county SPCA in the Town of Ulster. It was eligible for up to $500,000 under the fund.
“The Companion Animal Capital Fund was cut purely due to state Democrats making a determination that the $5 million it costs to keep local and humane animal shelters running wasn’t worth it,” fumed Assemblyman Chris Tague this week. “The funding is still needed to help these helpless animals find a loving home, but it seems like to the Democrats in the Senate and Assembly, they just don’t matter. This funding goes to help keep these innocent family friends healthy and happy while they wait for their forever homes. It is simply a shame to leave these animals out in the cold.”
Adele Zinderman is the daughter of shelter founder Marie Post and founder of the Saugerties Animal Welfare Fund, which is currently paying for a large portion of the shelter’s operational costs and for spays and neuters for the animals. Zinderman said that the shelter is “restrained by its facility,” and that with more space, the shelter could easily adopt out 500 animals per year, 200 more than its current yearly average. Currently, Zinderman said, about $4,500 from the fund goes toward veterinarian bills each month.
The state Legislature is set to end negotiations for the supplemental capital bill on June 19; the fund was included in the house bills of both bodies, but was not included in final budget bills. At the April 17 town board meeting, Costello signed a letter urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to maintain funding for the program, and Zinderman has been lobbying for residents to sign similar letters. A copy of the letter, ready to print, sign and send off, is available on the town website.
Town officials have also reached out to Tague and state Sen. George Amedore for funding; earlier this year, Amedore helped get a large sum of state grant money toward the replacement of the Saugerties Ice Arena roof. Adoption fees at the shelter were also raised slightly at an April 1 town board meeting: dog adoptions currently cost $195 rather than $175; cat adoptions are now $85 rather than $75; puppies, which cost the same to adopt as adult dogs previously, now cost $225; and kittens, which once just cost $55, are now $140 — this includes vouchers for a rabies shot and the cost of neutering/spaying.
Mary Bradford of Saugerties, a close friend of the late Marie Post with a marked love of animals, bequeathed a large sum to the Saugerties Animal Shelter upon her passing in 2014. Should the grant opportunity return somehow, Zinderman said the shelter will use their own grant writer for the project, provided by the New York State Animal Protection Federation, and not the town’s.
“I’m confident that the funding will be secured for this year. It’s not just us — there are a lot of different organizations that are in the hot seat because of [a lack of funding],” said NYSAPF Director Libby Post.
Donations to the shelter, whether they are toward its current operations or for a new building, can be made out to the Saugerties Animal Welfare Fund and sent to town hall at 4 High St., Saugerties, NY 12477. Other resources are available at www.nysapf.org. The shelter is open 9 a.m.-3 p.m. daily except Sunday and Monday; for more information, call (845) 679-0339.