Just like the pit bulls that fill most of its 36 kennels, the run-down animal shelter at 600 Garden Ave. in Mt. Vernon—tucked in between Target's loading dock and the batting cages of Home Run City and the Underdome—deserves more than a first glance. After all, like a pit bull, it's what's on the inside that counts.
On any given Saturday, the Mt. Vernon Animal Shelter brims with volunteers, sometimes as many as 20. This past Saturday volunteers walked dogs, answered phones, and helped greet both potential adoptors, as well as the stream of dog-lovers donating everything from dog treats to blankets.
According to assistant warden Megan Webster (there is no warden), the facility's needs are significant. The shelter, which has just three members of staff and is open 365 days a year, would like to pair with rescue groups. And they would like more volunteers, especially on weekdays. The wish list of in-kind donations ranges from toys to treats to blankets. But most of all, the shelter seeks loving homes for the dogs.
According to Webster, who has worked at the shelter for four years, the truth is that only a few dogs found homes during the entire month of March. “It's been terribly slow,” she said. “The only reason I can think of is the bad economy.”
Despite the state of the facility, which can only be described as grim, the shelter is something of a second home to many of the volunteers. Friendships form. The dogs benefit from their visits.
“Some Saturdays we can have up to 20 volunteers,” said Kandis Rivera, who often comes in the afternoon after teaching 8th grade at a public school in the Bronx. “If I have a stressful day, this is how I unwind.”