I am writing both as a resident of Southampton Town and as a veterinarian practicing on the South Fork for more than 20 years. I was quite disturbed to read in The Southampton Press that the town is planning to eliminate the position of veterinary technician at the animal shelter in Hampton Bays [“Town Cuts Animal Shelter Budget,” Eastern Edition, November 27].
I spent some time at the shelter several years ago, volunteering my services when there was a call for independent second opinions regarding a number of sick and injured animals. I had the opportunity to observe firsthand and over a period of many months, the functions and responsibilities of the veterinary technician there. What I saw was the management of a variety of medical issues, relating to wellness care and the treatment of injuries and illnesses. The animals were cared for professionally, humanely and efficiently.
I observed the performance of diagnostic testing, treatment for a variety of medical conditions, and maintenance of the medical/surgical facility at the shelter. In addition, the technician provided invaluable assistance to the veterinarian who came in to perform spaying and neutering of the shelter residents.
Frankly, I am puzzled as to how the town expects the shelter to continue to operate in a responsible manner without a full-time presence of a conscientious and competent licensed veterinary technician. A wide variety of day-to-day functions will not be accomplished, and there is a good possibility you will not be able to find a veterinarian comfortable performing surgery without the support that only a licensed technician with the training and credentials can provide.
Having spoken in general terms about the importance of a qualified technician to the efficient and responsible operation of the shelter, I must say a few words about the individual currently holding that position.
As I indicated earlier, I had the opportunity to work closely with Wendy Altieri and can only say that she is an exceptional individual and an asset to the town, whose loss would be a terrible blow to the shelter. Over the 25 years that I have been in practice, I have worked with some excellent technicians and would rank Ms. Altieri with the best of them. I would, in a heartbeat, offer her a position if she was to leave the shelter, but it is my understanding that she has a particular interest in shelter service. That in itself is a rare and special quality, because many in shelter work, regardless of how nice a facility, become burned out and discouraged.
One of the qualities (one of many) that impressed me about Ms. Altieri was her positive attitude and enthusiasm. You will not easily, if at all, find another person who can bring the combination of skills and personal attributes to this job that your current employee does.
I cannot understand what the town hopes to accomplish by eliminating the technician position. There is an excellent medical/surgical facility at the shelter, which I am sure cost quite a lot to build and equip. It will be largely, if not entirely, wasted without the proper staff to operate it. Entirely apart from my professional judgment, as a taxpayer I am very concerned. To sacrifice so much of the good the shelter does for this community, for a relative small savings in the budget, disappoints me in the leadership of our town.
JONATHAN TURETSKY, DVMThe Veterinary Clinic of East Hampton