by Hillary Call

Maryann Chernovsky has given a home to thousands of 

abandoned dogs and cats that would otherwise, no longer 

be with us. She is the volunteer President of Little Shelter 

Animal Rescue & Adoption Center, one of Long Island’s 

oldest no-kill shelters and Suffolk County’s oldest humane 

organization. 

“Little Shelter has survived for 85 years,” she said. “It 

says a lot about the people who support us and the people 

who work and volunteer here – we have such dedicated 

people.”

Through rescue from kill facilities, animals in danger 

of being euthanized because of lack of space, or that need 

rehabilitation, Little Shelter hopes to end pet overpopulation 

and place all dogs and cats in loving homes. 

Maryann and her husband first came to Little Shelter 

more than 22 years ago, where they encountered a facility 

with lots of promise. They pitched in wherever they could: 

Maryann’s husband would photograph and circulate pictures 

of the dogs-in-residence to local newspapers to encourage 

adoptions. In 1989 she was offered the position of President 

– a volunteer job. She was willing to take on the challenge.

“Little Shelter is a lot different than what it once 

was,” she said. Immediately after she took office Maryann 

established Little Shelter as a no-kill facility, a big departure 

from the past. “I insisted this become a no-kill shelter,” she 

said. “It was a requirement for taking on the job.”

Her next task was to secure 501 (c) 3 status. While Little 

Shelter had been in the process of declaring themselves as a 

non-profit, that process had stalled. Maryann quickly drove 

to Riverhead to wrap-up the paperwork. “It would now be 

finalized. We had to learn as we went along,” she laughed. 

“Little Shelter didn’t even have insurance at the time. There 

was so much to be done.”

Today, Little Shelter is a sprawling facility on six 

wooded acres in Huntington. They currently house 400 

cats and kittens, and 50 dogs and puppies. Included on the 

grounds is the Sheltervale Pet Cemetery, which has been the 

final resting place for companion animals for more than 85 

years. 

Under Maryann’s guidance, Little Shelter is now a 

member of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, and is 

regularly called upon by the city’s municipal shelters to take 

their dogs and cats in need of saving because of space or 

rehabilitation. 

One of Little Shelter’s most innovative initiatives is 

the Animal Soup Kitchen (ASK), which provides free food 

and medical care for pets whose owners are sick, disabled, 

impoverished or elderly. 

They also help children with in-school programs that 

encourage confidence and teach responsibility. Some 

children, afraid to speak to their teacher or peers, will 

eagerly read aloud to a dog – a captive audience happily 

cheering them on with a wagging tail. Maryann’s own 

rescued dog, Jinxy, is involved in the program. “He needed 

to come out of his shell, too,” said Maryann. 

Maryann also realized being a true no-kill shelter 

requires a “Plan-B.” She established Little Shelter’s 

sanctuary, a 110-acre safe haven in upstate New York. This 

is yet another successful advancement that sets Little Shelter 

apart from other rescue organizations. Dogs who have been 

overlooked for too long move on to frolic in the fields of 

green grass, hills, streams and a two and a half acre pond, 

where they often enjoy a swim.

They just broke ground for a new building at the 

Sanctuary, which will free up 10 kennels at Little Shelter. 

“That’s more animals we can save,” said Maryann. 

“We’re trying to help as many as we can.”

To volunteer or donate, contact Little Shelter at 

631-368-8770 or visit littleshelter.com

 

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