With animal advocates protesting lack of staff and the slated euthanizations of two dogs at the Riverhead Animal Shelter, the town board is poised to take action on Tuesday.
According to Riverhead Town Councilman Jim Wooten, approximately five to seven individuals interviewed on Monday for kennel attendant positions. With background checks already done for a number of those who applied -- the individuals have applied for jobs with Riverhead Town in the past -- Wooten said the hirings could take place as soon as Tuesday's town board meeting.
"It could absolutely happen Tuesday," he siad. "We haven't got time to waste."
The shelter has been short-staffed since animal control officer Jessica Eibs-Stankaitis was mauled by a pit bull last month; animal advocates have expressed concerns that the dogs are left alone for over 12 hours at a time.
Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller has said although the shelter is short-staffed, someone cares for the dogs once a day.
Wooten said, with shelter employee Maureen Schneider, who left to take a job in Brookhaven Town, gone, as well as another employee leaving last week, the need to increase staff was critical.
On Tuesday, he said he had spoken to Eibs-Stankaitis, who is expected to return to work at the shelter as soon as next week, as long as she receives her doctor's clearance.
In addition to the interviews for kennel attendants, Wooten said the town would have to do another posting for a part-time, weekend animal control officer -- or, perhaps, move the shelter in another direction.
To that end, Wooten has expressed interest in exploring the possibility of hiring a director -- and taking the shelter out of the direct jurisdiction of the Riverhead Police department.
Privatization is an option, Wooten said; with Southampton, Southold, and Brookhaven Towns all having taken privatization routes, "There's no reason why Riverhead can't do that," he said.
On Tuesday, Wooten said he was scheduled to meet and discuss "some numbers" regarding the concept, and would bring it to the town board for a full discussion at Thursday's scheduled work session.
This week, some residents have been outraged after learning that two dogs were slated for euthanization at the shelter, stating their belief that perhaps the dogs were put down due to lack of staffing.
Wooten said the personnel shortage, and the euthanizations were not linked. He added that there is a ten-day process before a dog can be euthanized.
"We had a full staff when these decisions were made," he said. "This wasn't done because we didn't have the staff to care for the dogs."
The dogs, Cooper and Maggie, Wooten said, had been negatively evaluated and deemed unadoptable by an ACO and a vet, per town policy.
Wooten said as far as he knows, no other dogs are slated for euthanization at the shelter.