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Mangano Picks Pequan As Animal Advocate

Whether they run on four legs, fly, swim or slither, Nassau County’s animal population has a new supporter in their corner.

Massapequa resident Gary Rogers, the founder of Suffolk County’s SPC, has been appointed as the county’s coordinator for the prevention of cruelty to animals, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano announced last week.

Rogers’ responsibilities include implementing new programs to prevent cruelty to animals, community education programs, recruiting volunteers for emergency pet shelters during times of natural disaster, spay and neuter programs and animal training for County personnel who often encounter animals.

“Educating county employees, like police officers, to avoid confrontations with animals is highly important,” said Rogers. “But that’s just one aspect. There is so much on the table that the county executive wants to do.”

Rogers took the position on a non-paid, volunteer basis for practical reasons – he does not want his salary to interfere with funding for any possible animal care programs.

“I really want to see any money we do get go to education and training,” he said. “What I want to do is give back to the community.”

Community volunteerism is not a new hobby for Rogers. When Superstorm Sandy was bearing down on Long Island last October, Mangano tapped Rogers to help open an animal shelter at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale. Within 36 hours, Rogers helped convert a gymnasium into a shelter housing more than 500 animals during both the storm and the aftermath.

Rogers said it was during that time that he learned about Mangano’s passion for animals.

“He wanted to make sure every single animal in our care was either brought back to the owners or given a loving foster home,” Rogers said. “We were given the support we needed to keep that shelter open."

It was this shared passion for animals that drove Mangano to select Rogers for the new position. Rogers has worked to support animals rights on Long Island for more than three decades. He incorporated the Suffolk County SPCA and worked as a humane law enforcement officer in the county. He was also instrumental in coordinating the care for the search and rescue dogs after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

But Mangano said it was Rogers’ work during Sandy that stands out the most.

“During Hurricane Sandy, Gary Rogers helped operate the Nassau County Emergency Pet Shelter which cared for over 500 animals for over 4 months – thereby allowing pet owners to get back on their feet,” he said.

Rogers said his first order of business is to make sure all residents have a place to take their animals in case of an emergency situation.

“A lot of people that’s just weather related emergencies and they’ll have a lot of time to plan,” he said. “But some emergencies leave no time for planning. We have to have plans in place for things that happen without warning.”

Rogers, who has a yellow Labrador named Maui and a cat named Socrates, said Long Island is home to many exotic pets. He believes county officials should learn flexibility in dealing with animals so that everyone remains safe – no matter the species.

“It’s lions and tigers and bears – and alligators and snakes and everything else,” he said. “Animals have to be cared for and we as humans have an obligation to do so.”