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Last Hope springs eternal

Wantagh animal rehab center emerges from the pandemic


In a North Bellmore backyard, Dr. Eric Last, an internist with a practice in Wantagh, and his daughter were playing fetch with their Australian cattle dog mix from Georgia, which they adopted from Wantagh’s Last Hope Inc. Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation.

“We have a daughter with special needs, and we really wanted a dog that would fit in well with our family and that would meet the needs of what we had and would help us to work with our daughter,” Last said. “[Last Hope] went out of their way to do it.”

All the dogs at Last Hope have similar stories, and most of them come from Southern states. “There’s a constant intake of strays and owner surrenders in the poor rural areas,” explained Joanne Anderson, Last Hope’s outreach coordinator. “We don’t have this on Long Island or New York anymore.”

Last Hope is supported in its mission to continue transporting and treating dogs from the South by an $11,000 grant from Petco Love, a nonprofit affiliate of Petco Animal Supplies Inc.

Shelter dog supply and demand

The coronavirus pandemic has posed many obstacles for nonprofits like Last Hope, including in-terfering with their ability to hold in-person fundraisers. But one unforeseen positive impact was the increased rate of pet adoption. Because so many people were home and had more time on their hands, more sought a furry companion for their family.

“We and other places have a stockpile of approved people for particular dogs, but we don’t have enough dogs to fulfill the applications that we have,” Anderson said. “What will happen is, with the stockpile of applications, we’ll have the next group of dogs coming, and before we even advertise them, for many of them we already have an approved person who will take that dog.”

The dogs come from rescue partners in Southern states, Anderson said. And the $11,000 grant will help offset the cost of rescuing them. “There’s transport fees, veterinary fees, surprise veterinary fees,” she said. “Things that you might have not known, like the dog might test positive for heartworms. That’s $1,200 to treat a dog with heartworms. Sometimes we know they have it; sometimes we find out when they get here.”

Last said that his dog had a well-documented medical history because of her loving owner. “She belonged to a woman who was apparently good friends with a shelter in Georgia that Last Hope works with,” he said. “Something happened, and this poor woman apparently dropped dead. She was at work and she passed away, and she had four dogs.”

All four were brought to Last Hope, including the Australian cattle dog that became a part of the Last family.

“It makes you feel good to give a home to a good dog,” Last said. “She wants to be a good dog, she wants to please and make people happy. And it makes you feel great to know that we’re able to do that for her.

“She’s just a love,” he added. “She’s my buddy, and she’s just a pleasure.”

And with many families like the Lasts wanting to provide homes for rescue dogs, at times there just aren’t enough dogs, Anderson noted. “We don’t see what we used to see going back 20 years in our shelters,” she said. “We saw tiny puppies, we saw shepherd mixes, Lab mixes. We don’t see that anymore. It’s very rare, and it’s good because people have gotten the message about leash laws, and they’ve also gotten the message about spaying and neutering their dogs on Long Island. The cat problem hasn’t gotten any better because of the feral cat problem.”

It’s all about supply and demand, she added.


Last Hope’s trap-neuter-return program

While it’s rare for a litter of puppies from New York to be brought into Last Hope, that isn’t the case with kittens. Feral cats can be found anywhere there’s available food, often provided by compassionate people who feed them. But when they aren’t neutered, it adds to the growing population of cats without homes.

According to the North Shore Animal League, spaying and neutering just one female and one male cat can prevent more than 2,000 unwanted births in four years — and more than two million in eight years. That’s why Last Hope offers $15 trap-neuter-return vouchers for people who take care of feral cats.

“From February to March, we gave out 474 vouchers that are $15 vouchers per person — they can have up to five of them,” Anderson said. “They have to go to one of our cooperating vets, [where] they pay $15. We pay the rest.

“Now we’re doing Phase Two of the vouchers,” she added, “and we’re going to do approximately another 200.”

When a feral cat is taken to a veterinarian, it is often the only time in its life that it receives medical care. It will be spayed or neutered, Anderson said, vaccinated against viruses like rabies and receive ear mite medicine. Any other problems, such as rotten teeth, will also be treated.

Then an ear will be ticked to let human know that they have been treated.

“Outside of the people who trap all the times, there’s people who, for the first time in their lives, are facing this situation,” Anderson said. “All of a sudden they have kittens under their deck or behind their barbecue. Fortunately, they call, and they think this is a unique situation. But they don’t realize we get between 30 and 50 calls a day about this.”

To further address the overpopulation of feral cats, Anderson said, Last Hope plans to bring back its public clinics. “We’re going to do our first public clinic    . . . on May 16, when we take over a veterinary hospital and the vets work pro bono,” she said. Sunday’s clinic will be held at Helping PAW in East Meadow.

To support the TNR program, Last Hope holds a monthly flea market and jewelry sale in Huntington. Its most recent flea market, on April 24, brought in roughly $10,000.

To learn more about adopting an animal from Last Hope, or how to support the rescue, go to www.LastHopeAnimalRescue.org.