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
“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
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
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
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