“Take a look at these wonderful dogs,” Southampton Animal Shelter Gala Chair Greg D’Elia told the sold out Ninth Annual Unconditional Love Gala crowd. “This is the reason we’re here tonight.” Sandra McConnell, a supporter since the Shelter was privatized, once again had opened her sprawling Southampton estate for the occasion.
D’Elia, a seasoned veteran of these affairs, emceed the room like the pro. He understood what so many do not: keep the speeches short. “It’s a party,” he proclaimed. “So let’s celebrate!”
Perhaps he also understood the famous showbiz axiom: don’t share the stage with animals or children. He kept the Shelter pets, the official honorees, front and center. Mason, the first shelter dog in the State to be accepted into the K9s for Warriors Program, was among those honored.
Jean Shafiroff was Honorary Chairman. The Shafiroff’s, all animal lovers, had absorbed 15 family members and friends – and five dogs – into their new home for the weekend. They came en masse, including Martin and their daughters. Greg Kelly, Margo and John Catsimatidis, Sana Sabbagh, Matt Rich, Randi Schatz, State Assembly Woman Rebecca Seawright, Southampton Mayor Michael Irving and wife Ellen, Sequin owner Kim Renk and husband Greg Dryer, and Nancy Stone were at the Shafiroff’s table. Mutual friends at the McConnell’s table included Ava Roosevelt, Jean Rennert, and Anka Palitz. Katie McEntee was Junior Chair.
It’s all about the animals and the community, Executive Director Jerry Rosenthal told us. “SASF is the community resource for people in this area. We take over 1,500 animals a year and find them forever homes. We have a great low cost veterinary clinic. We’re doing training. We’re teaming up dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD. A lot of dogs that come into our Shelter are big and strong and may not be appropriate for a family environment. We like to think outside the box,” he explained. “And these dogs can have useful lives. So, we work with Canines for Warriors with the Sheriff’s Department in Suffolk County to team them with veterans and train them as support dogs. We’re looking to expand our relationship with organizations as far as search and rescue.”
Robbins Wolf Eventeurs provided catering. The Chris Norton Band brought the crowd to the dance floor. Clifton Knight is Board Of Directors Co-President; Jerry Rosenthal, Executive Director; Teresa Meekins, DVM, Senior Medical Director; Beatrix Parash, Director of Development & Fundraising; Kate McEntee, Director of Adoptions; Christina Vargas, Director of Volunteers & Community Outreach; Deborah Whitney, Co-Director of Behavior, Training & Animal Care; Whitney Tucker, Co-Director of Behavior, Training & Animal Care; and Adrienne Walter, Director of Shelter Administration & Donor Database Management.
The SASF accepts all animals regardless of age or medical condition. Susan Allen was among those who stepped up to privatize and support the Shelter, in 2010, when local budget cuts could not sustain it.
“One thing that’s great about the Shelter is we think about the community. We are a resource for the schools,” Rosenthal added. “And we’re helping people who have no place else to go if they have to leave their animals temporarily. If they’re in an abusive relationship or they have to go to the hospital, we take their dogs.”
Southampton Animal Shelter is located at 102 Old Riverhead Road in Hampton Bays. For more information, visit southamptonanimalshelter.com.