For this week in Faces of Kingston, our ongoing effort to get to know the people in our neighborhoods, we spoke with Gina Carbonari. The executive director of the Ulster County SPCA, she’s a very interesting person with a range of life experiences who has been many places. You can tell she takes her job helping animals seriously.
Morgan Y. Evans: How long have you worked in Kingston?
Gina Carbonari: I’ve been the executive director a little over a year and a half. Before that I owned my own dog training business. I was originally from Kingston but I was gone for 22 years active duty in the Marine Corps. I retired and ended up moving back here five years ago.
Where were you stationed?
A little bit of everywhere. Mostly East Coast and the South. Hawaii. Texas. North Carolina. South Carolina. Virginia.
That is everywhere. You weren’t lying! (laughing)
Were you always an animal person?
When we grew up we always had dogs and cats, usually strays. We had ducks and rabbits. A little of everything. I finally had the opportunity to work with animals from a shelter and rescue perspective when I went back to Parris Island on my second tour. I was working there and had recently been divorced. I was looking for something else to do with my time (laughs). I had finally gotten my own dog that was my own when I was in North Carolina and moved to South Carolina. Absolutely fell in love with this dog and it was a rescue. I wanted to find another dog for her to keep her engaged. That’s how I found some of the organizations there and started to do fostering. I was fostering with Palmetto Animal League in South Carolina. They were a completely foster-based rescue. We actually partner with them to do transports now. Once I started working up here we were able to partner with them to rescue animals that are on the euthanasia list down there and bring them up here so they could be adopted.
That’s so cool. Crazy how one thing leads to another. Do you feel like people still sometimes just go for young animals or, hopefully, are more older animals finding homes as well these days as education grows?
We’re getting more people definitely who will take older animals. We have a lot of folks who will come in and ask if we have puppies. This is a fabulous problem to have, but the only time we have puppies is when we are transporting them from the South to rescue them from the euthanasia. That is an indicator that spay/neuter is really working around here. We aren’t having the multitude of litters brought in to us. We kind of need to get that going on the cat side of the house, because we do still have “kitten season” every year.
That’s a harder one.
It really is. But on the dog side we are trending more with having people recognize that dogs live to be 14 or 15 years old so getting a five-year-old is not getting an “older” dog.
Sure, unless it is like a Great Dane with a shorter lifespan. That is probably very uncommon to find here anyway.
Yes. If we have someone looking for a particular type of breed, being a dog lover and certified trainer myself, I really can appreciate why dogs were bred for certain things. Go to a breed rescue, then. There are so many of those particular breeds you want that are in rescue situations and they are so full all the time.
Do you think Kingston is animal-friendly? I see a lot of dogs at the Uptown Farmer’s Market.
The Farmer’s Market is very dog-friendly. Yeah, I think it is progressing so much more then when I was a kid. A lot of the restaurants downtown will let you have your dog on the patio. It’s important, though, that dog owners follow the rules so places will continue on that path of allowing dogs with you. That’s why training is so important. You have to have a well-behaved dog who isn’t misbehaving. It only takes one time for an owner to not do the right thing. I never say it is the dog.
What other things do you enjoy about living here these days?
Kingston has definitely changed and grown. It’s nice to actually have had the opportunity to be here in different phases, to see progressive changes happening and then living here again. There are some naysayers, but I think it’s wonderful. We all can be a little bit nostalgic for the way things used to be. I think it is important the city continues to grow. It’s happening at a pace that can continue to be sustained, a nice, slow progression.
Yeah, it’s better that way because it is a community.
Yes, and everyone has a voice in it. There are some amazing businesses that have come along. Having lived around the country and then seeing all the different things I have enjoyed all in one place is really wonderful.