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On March 8, Bideawee, one of New York State's leading pet adoption services, will close its adoption center in Wantagh.

The decision to close the center, which opened in 1915, was made by Bideawee's administrators in an effort to cut costs amid growing financial difficulties for the agency.

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"The announcement reflects a decision by the board to act now in the face of unprecedented economic challenges," said Nancy Taylor, president and CEO of Bideawee, in a recent press release. "Difficult times demand difficult decisions; and this realignment of Bideawee resources will help the organization survive this financial downturn, and position us to grow and thrive when the economy recovers and we move into the future."

The adoption center is the only sector of Bideawee's Wantagh location that will close. Its other programs and services - which include veterinary services, animal training and behavior classes, pet therapy, bereavement counseling groups, and various public education programs - will continue to function. All animals housed in the center will be relocated to Bideawee's two other New York locations in Manhattan and Westhampton.

According to Taylor, the board's decision, while not an easy one to make, was simply the only course of action left open to the agency. Donations to Bideawee, she explained, are down one-third from this time last year, and the organization has experienced significant drops in earned revenue and investment income as well.

Taylor attributes this loss of funding to the nation's current economic crisis.

"The country's unprecedented economic downturn called for timely, responsible action to assure the continued viability of Bideawee, as a whole, and the protection and well-being of the Wantagh pets in our care," she said.

While Taylor claimed that many Long Islanders have responded with an "outpouring of understanding and support," news of the impending closure has been much less favorably received by others.

On Feb. 28, a crowd of protestors gathered outside Bideawee's Wantagh location to voice its disapproval of the board's decision. The demonstrators consisted largely of volunteer workers for Bideawee as well as pet owners who had adopted animals from the Wantagh center. They called on Bideawee's administrators to allow the center to remain open and give the protestors an opportunity to raise funds for the agency.

Noting that the center had survived the Great Depression and two world wars, among other troubling times, one of the protestors, Eileen Giannetti of Albertson, said to reporters covering the event, "What's one little recession?"

Another demonstrator, Debbie Olson of Massapequa, said, "There is no lack of resources when it comes to our volunteer effort."

Legislator Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), who attended the rally, raised concerns as well.

"It would be nice to have some disclosure as to where the money went before we lose one of the few no-kill shelters," he said.

Nevertheless, Bideawee's administrators maintain that the closure is absolutely necessary and imminent.

"I'm not sure if there's anything the volunteers could have done," said Ray Cushmore, Bideawee's vice president of finance and administration. "We're talking about a $2 million problem."

Ironically, the decision to close the adoption center comes at a time when the need for pet adoption services is sharply on the rise. The nation's economic crisis has left an increasing number of pet owners unable or unwilling to keep their pets, thus resulting in more and more pets becoming in need of being adopted.

Taylor insisted, however, that the closure of Wantagh's adoption center will not hinder Bideawee's efforts to help animals.

"The Westhampton and Manhattan Adoption Centers have the capacity for sheltering the Wantagh pets, as well as other pets needing homes," she said. "Further, the Bideawee staff and dedicated volunteers at these centers exude the commitment, passion and dedication that permeate the entire Bideawee organization as it strives to fulfill its mission today and going forward."

She added, "We want to assure area residents - especially pet lovers and adoptive pet parents - that Bideawee remains steadfast in its commitment to uphold the highest standards of animal education, care and compassion in serving the New York metropolitan area."

Once the animals in the Wantagh center have been relocated, Bideawee plans to host monthly Pet Adoption Days at its other two locations intended to promote pet adoption among area residents.

Founded in 1903 by Flora Kibbe, Bideawee, which takes its name from the Scottish phrase for "stay awhile," is one of the oldest and most respected animal welfare organizations in the US. Collectively, its three New York locations find homes for more than 1,700 cats and dogs each year. Bideawee has a no-kill policy, meaning that it does not euthanize animals that fail to get adopted.

To learn more about the closing of the Wantagh Adoption Center, or for information on how to adopt an animal there, visit Bideawee's website at www.bideawee.org. Above are some of the Bideawee pets available for adoption.


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