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Far Rockaway woman rescues dogs and cats

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When she was 4-years-old, Christine Drakatos found a litter of kittens in a sewer drain and made her mother help rescue them, and since then the Astoria native who lives in Far Rockaway has helped saved animals.

Drakatos, 52, has been rescuing animals, mostly dogs and cats, nearly her entire life and since 2008 under the banner of B.R.A.T. Rescue Inc., a Far Rockway-based nonprofit that aims to save animals from the streets or situations where they are being abused.

“It’s always been there since I was born,” she said, about her need to save animals. “First animal was a cat, I started to sneak them into my house originally then I moved onto dogs.”

It was dogs that lead her to establishing B.R.A.T. A dozen years ago, after receiving an email about a dog and her puppies living in the woods near the Edgemere Houses, Drakatos then learned the stray dogs were packs of feral canines.  

“Personally, I don’t know anything else,” she said, about rescuing animal, “it comes from the heart. Doing this for over 12 years and living here the five years it’s a totally different area from where I grew up. We didn’t have abuses animals. If we had it, we didn’t know of it. I just can’t ignore it. It hurts me to the core.”

Working with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Drakatos said her organization, which is made up of volunteers and friends, some are both, does its part to help get the animals vaccinated, microchipped and fixed, “we don’t add to the problem,” she said, including trapping, neutering and releasing (getting them adopted) more than 500 cats.

One of those volunteers and friends is Woodmere resident Aliza Arbeli, who initially adopted a pup named Stelli through the Petfinder listing and messaged Drakatos through the B.R.A.T. Facebook page in late 2017.

“I’m a lifelong animal lover, with a specific affinity for chihuahua,” said Arbeli, 30, “So when I saw that tiny girl, I knew I had to have her.” At one of Dee Snyder’s Ride events, Arbeli and Drakatos met. “Christine came to my home, checked it all out ad handed me my sweet girl.”

That’s another thing that Drakatos does, she vets the would-be new openers, through references, spending time with them and a home check. “I will not put my animals in harm’s way, she said.

Arbeli began following Drakatos’s work, then donating money and supplies. Subsequently helped out at adoption events and now maintains the Petfinder listings. “I can go on forever about all of Christine’s attributes,” Arbeli said. “Christine is the most selfless, kind person you’ll ever meet. Constantly doing for animals and humans alike, without ever asking for anything in return.”

Retired NYPD Det. Lisa Catrone met Drakatos several years ago on a couple of dog rescues and the two became fast friends. Catrone was a co-founder of the rescue group Ruff House Rescue and is familiar with animal rescues. When she saw what Drakatos was doing, Catrone jumped onboard.

“She is amazing,” said Catrone, who retired in 2018 after 21 years, “she got rid of the feral dogs, got them fixed, adopted. I helped as she fell on hard times. She never says no. I’m proud of her as she has stepped up. She is like family and has a really, really big heart.”

What B.RA.T. does need is a new home after getting booted from a three-story house in Far Rockaway recently. Drakatas was also feeding many of the animals that live in the Rockaways and some in the other boroughs and on Long Islands as the coronavirus pandemic hit.

To learn more, go to http://www.bratrescue.org/. To donate, go to bratrescue@yahoo.com.