ARF-ARF is located in Rockaway Beach, NY. We’re focused on serving the needs of dogs and their companions. Our ultimate goal is to become an invaluable resource for all pet owners in Rockaway, and to continue to work for more recreation opportunities for dogs and owners, and to make people (including non-dog owners) aware that social, exercised dogs are well behaved dogs. We provide informational material about how people can care for their animals, advocate humane treatment of pets, and help them become better citizens and healthier people. People who have healthy pets tend to lead a more healthy lifestyle.
It started in 2006 as a group of dog lovers who wanted a dog park, and were given an abandoned space used for illicit activities. People started to use the park, but eventually, lost interest in an organized group. When Parks announced plans to turn part of the park into a waste transfer station, a group of dog owners stepped up to fight it, and promised to revitalize the group and assist Parks in its upkeep. We incorporated as a NY non-profit corporation on July 22, 2010. We’ve been growing since, receiving our official 501c3 determination in 2012.
We’ve worked to improve Freeway Dog Park in Rockaway Beach. We’re proud to say that it’s one of the largest dog parks within the five boroughs of NYC. The organization has been able to obtain a separate small dog section in the park, bag holders for pet waste, benches throughout, and a bulletin board with news and activities. All improvements have improved the experience for all visitors.
Besides providing fantastic facilities for pet owners, we’ve provided pets and their owners with many social activities. We hold celebrations at the dog park, such as a Halloween costume contest, a canine ice cream social, and an “It’s my Barkday” celebration. They provide pets with exercise and recreation, and provide pet owners with the opportunity to form a support network by meeting other pet owners. We plan to continue these events in the future and increase the number of them every year. We’ve also hosted tables at other community events, doing outreach and promoting responsible pet ownership. We are on committees of several initiatives in Rockaway, representing dog owners and making sure their voices are heard. We’ve made significant strides in providing pet owners and potential pet owners in Rockaway with low-cost pet services and resources. We do this by partnering with other non-profits that provide these services and bring them into the Rockaway area. We’ve held shelter drives to assist homeless animals in NYC, and brought rescues to Rockaway to do adoption drives. We provide materials for owners and potential pet owners, discussing such topics as pet exercise and pet abuse. We plan to keep expanding and provide more programs by continuing to link resources to Rockaway’s people.
Superstorm Sandy did damage to Rockaway, Freeway Dog Park included. We lost 13 huge, beautiful, old trees, throughout our 2.5 acre park. Our storage container was completely moved off of its foundation. Everything inside was knocked over, and all of our supplies for events, park maintenance, outreach, and items for our shelter drives was destroyed. Immediately after the storm, the park was unusable, and we weren’t allowed in to clean up. We decided to help with whatever recovery we could. We were sure people needed help, but who, and how would we start? We tried to contact park regulars and members to see if they were ok or needed any help. Some only had home phones that were down, some had cell phones that had died, but we did get in touch with a few people. Many said they were fine, but some were running out of supplies, while others asked for things for their neighbors. So we took the money that we just raised at an event the Saturday before, and bought supplies. We asked friends who weren’t affected if they would donate items, and we put out word of the need for fosters and adopters. Since we had just received our non profit determination from the IRS the week prior to the storm, we tried to get in touch with larger organizations and businesses. Unfortunately, we still had paperwork that hadn’t been filled out yet, and there just wasn’t time.
Since many of us no longer had cars, we borrowed rides, and went around. We found fosters for 7 turtles, a Russian tortoise, and a dog, rescued one dog, helped find a home for a cat, and looked fosters for a parrot and a rabbit. We delivered dozens of cans of wet dog and cat food, 10 bags of dry dog food, leashes, collars, cat litter, pans, 2 bags of parrot food, 2 bags of hamster food and 2 packs of small animal bedding, one bag of rabbit food, and a few toys for animals. Our Executive Director spoke at a town hall meeting to let people know that help was available. We even had New York Tails and the host of Pets in the City on Pet Life Radio come out to spend the day with us and do some stories about what was going on in Rockaway, and how it was affecting pet owners. We handed out supplies to a couple of local rescues who were helping with pets. We’re committed to helping however we can, even while we’re still cleaning up.
Our biggest challenge now is restoring the park and our container back to its post Sandy condition. At the end of January, the MTA, did work on the elevated tracks that run alongside the park, and destroyed the park. Gates, fences, and benches were broken, garbage and construction materials left all over, deep trenches were made by vehicles, and the walking paths left slick with oil and mud. The MTA decided to ignore the disrespect shown to the park and has done nothing and given no responses or apologies. But the Parks Dept came through for us to make the park usable. Once the weather gets warmer, we’ll be able to help restore the ground and replant some trees. Our goal is to get the park back to its prior condition in time for our first event of the year at the end of June. With Parks, our volunteers, and through financial support, we are confident that the park will return to its former beauty, and we can move forward with our plans. ARF-ARF’s will continue working with the NYC Department of Parks and the City of New York to improve and add to this facility.
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