Human InterestThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Cortlandt Dog Rescue Group in Need of Space for New Shelter

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Since 2018, Lisa Smith and a community of volunteers at “A Good Dog Rescue” in Verplanck have rescued more than 5,000 unwanted dogs nationwide.

Now, Smith, a resident of Ossining, is in need of a helping hand.

Following complaints from some neighbors and problems with the landlord, Smith, 50, while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer, was recently told she would have to vacate the premises on 6th Street where she runs “A Good Dog Rescue” and Canine Kindergarten by July 31.

“We’re not ready to stop this. We don’t want this to end,” Smith said. “It’s a very hard thing to give up. We’re good at it. We hold ourselves to a higher standard. I feel that we’re an added value to the community.”

Smith has owned and operated Canine Kindergarten at the location since 2005. Approximately 30 to 40 dogs are cared for daily. “A Good Dog Rescue” usually has between 20 to 25 dogs. She said everything was going smoothly until two or three years ago when a new landlord came in and cut down 50 to 100 trees on the property, which took away a buffer from her dogs and neighbors. Some of those neighbors started to complain about the dogs barking.

On June 27, 2022, Cortlandt Code Enforcement Director Martin Rogers issued a Memorandum of Violation/Order to Remedy to Riverview Industrial Park, LLC, owners of the property, for noise complaints at Canine Kindergarten, a violation of Planning Board approval.

To resolve the matter, Rogers suggested retaining an acoustical engineer or qualified noise expert to evaluate the operations. Smith said she contacted two engineers who wanted $4,000 just for a consultation. She said she came up with a modified plan so only a limited number of dogs would be outside at one time, but maintained the landlord was also doing a lot of construction that would rile up the animals.

“I felt I was being punished for something I wasn’t privy to,” said Smith, noting she was dealing with the issues at the business while also dealing with her health and other personal problems. “As my world fell apart this year I fight my cancer for my children who are truly pit bulls and strong for their mom. They are the reason I exist and can’t quit my fight. The dogs are the reason I find it hard to quit rescue. Their faces haunt me at night. I truly hate people who give up on them. I hate them, I just do. All of the excuses are the reason my family got the least of me all of these years. They are the reason my business of two decades is closing.”

Smith said she reached out to Cortlandt Supervisor Dr. Richard Becker last summer but received no assistance.

Becker said Friday the town may be able to help Smith find another location for the shelter since it’s a non-profit organization and plans to have a meeting with Smith in the near future.

“She has a place on private property and the landlord has the right to do that,” Becker said. “We have no reason or desire to close her down. It’s a bit of a quagmire. I’ll try my best to untangle it.”

Cortlandt Deputy Town Attorney Michael Cunningham, who noted he has never spoken to Smith, said the town can’t get involved in landlord/tenant relations but maintained town officials were obligated to look into numerous noise complaints they were receiving about the dogs.

“We were told it was just terrible,” Cunningham said. “We made it clear the noise had to stop. We weren’t trying to be heavy-handed.”

Smith said she needs a minimum 4,000 square feet anywhere in Westchester for the no-kill shelter.

“I can get it up and running. We have a huge amount of people that are qualified to help run it,” Smith said. “It’s my last attempt to try something. I’m tired. We have really good dogs.”

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