Former Long Island Railroad mechanic Gary Kauffman now dedicates his time to rescuing stray animals on Long Island.SPOT US/FLICKR VIA CC BY-SA 2.0
A shelter dog peeks out from inside a cage in Van Nuys, Los Angeles in 2010. Former Long Island Railroad mechanic Gary Kaufman now dedicates his time to rescuing stray animals on Long Island. SPOT US/FLICKR VIA CC BY-SA 2.0

From a former automobile shop owner, to a current Long Island Rail Road mechanic, Gary Kaufman has worn many hats during his lifetime. One of those hats includes rescuing animals on Long Island.

Kaufman’s non-profit charity Nobody Starves on Long Island was founded in 2012 and became 501c3 certified two months ago. He just moved into a home in Middle Island that has been converted into an animal shelter.

The charity provides assistance and emergency relief for families with pets, such as pet food, and also helps financially with veterinary bills. It provides feral cat feeders with food and trap, neuter and release assistance. It aids other animal rescues and welfare organizations and fosters animals until they are adopted.

Kaufman said that he has been taking in animals since he was in seventh grade and had several pets such as cats, dogs and rabbits.

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“I always brought home dogs my whole life and took my mother’s food out of the refrigerator and fed the cats and dogs with it,” Kaufman said. “That was just kind of my thing.”

Before Kaufman started rescuing animals, he worked for a Mitsubishi dealership starting in 1980. In the mid ‘90s, Kaufman quit and opened his own automobile shop called Mitsubishi Graveyard. He eventually sold his business and became a Long Island Rail Road worker. Since Kaufman worked at night, he was able to volunteer at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter.

After Hurricane Sandy hit, the shelter asked if he could start handing out food to people who lost their homes and could no longer afford to feed their pets.

“A woman called me up on the phone and she was crying that all she could give her dog was pasta and whatever scraps they had left because they had no food left in the house,” Kaufman said. “She was giving him dog treats for over a week because there was no place to reach out to for dog food or animal food.”

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Long Island Cares also provides food assistance to families and pets. Their pet pantry program was started after media coverage of families putting their animals up for adoption since they couldn’t afford to care of them.

Kaufman says the rest of the food pantries are created independently by people from inside their garages and that there are not enough official pet pantries on Long Island.

The director of the pet rescue group, Friends of Freddie, Barbara Sanelli says the reason why there are so many stray animals on Long Island is because of
the economy.

“People are losing their jobs and people’s incomes are reduced,” Sanelli said. “If they can’t afford to feed their kids, how are they supposed to feed their dogs? There’s no place for the family pets to go. The shelter municipalities are overflowing so they can’t take them.”

The Chief of Suffolk County SPCA Roy Gross says that each town has their own codes when it comes to keeping pets in homes. According to the Town of Brookhaven’s Dog Control and Animal Welfare code, no more than 10 dogs can be kept in residential homes unless they are given permission by the Board of Appeals. There were no specifics pertaining to animal shelters and Gross says that charities usually
have storefronts.

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The SPCA’s mission is to investigate animal cruelty and neglect cases and has been doing so since 1984. It still has the authority to bring charges against people that violate animal codes.

Gross says that it is not a matter of how many animals an animal shelter has, but it is about the quality of the environment that they are in.

“If they are kept in a cage, they have to stand up and turn around comfortably,” Gross said. “They have to have proper food and water. They have to have the proper temperature depending on what the animal is whether it’s a dog or cat or an iguana. Each one has to have its own proper containment and proper sustenance.”

The SPCA receives about 3,000 cases a year regarding the neglect of animals but gets 30,000 calls. However, there is not enough information to investigate all of these cases which causes many to be left unanswered.

Gross said that an animal rescue group must have a permit if they are collecting money as a non-profit.

Kaufman works with multiple animal rescue groups and shelters on Long Island including Friends of Freddie, Paws Unite People and Pits Of Our Soul Rescue.

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President of Paws Unite People Meredith Festa helped Kaufman get his 501c3 certification. Her organization became certified in 2013 and usually takes in abused, neglected and tortured animals from
SPCA cases.

Festa’s and Kaufman’s shelters work hand-in-hand.

“Because I have the abuse cases, a lot of the animals that we take in are on special diets,” Festa said. “Whenever people give us stuff or we get things that we can’t use, I always give it to Gary because Gary can use things that we can’t.”

Kaufman said he can hold about 20 small dogs in the small kennels and four big dogs in the larger ones. He currently has two cats in the new location and is expecting a dog to be transferred into his care from the Hempstead
animal shelter.

President of Pits Of Our Soul Rescue Voula Parisis started working with Kaufman’s charity after seeing him share posts of animals in need on Facebook.

Parisis’ organization also became certified in 2013 and focuses on pitbulls because they are the most neglected breed of dogs, according
to PETA.

Kaufman said he wants to eventually open a warehouse full of pet foods and open a bigger shelter with a full crew.

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