North Shore Animal League cuts ribbon on pet wellness center

North Shore Animal League America President John Stevenson (with scissors) and Don LaRocca Jr. (to his left) cut the ribbon on a new pet wellness center in Port Washington. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

The Don and Karen LaRocca Pet Wellness Center was supposed to open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony more than a month ago. But the event had to be rescheduled multiple times as snowstorms always seemed to strike on the scheduled date.

It was chilly on Wednesday, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky as the blue ribbon was finally cut on the wellness center, located around the corner from the main North Shore Animal League America building in Port Washington.

“I was worried that today there was going to be another postponement or we’d be doing it in a blizzard, but fortunately it turned out gorgeous,” said league President John Stevenson.

Fittingly, Wednesday was also National Pet Day.

The new center will provide health services to pets from across Long Island. Mark Verdino,  North Shore Animal League America’s vice president and chief of veterinary staff, said that the new center would provide a variety of rehabilitation services.

“This facility will allow us to go beyond what we currently do and offer … things such as physical therapy, acupuncture, herbal medicine … hospice care,” he said. “In the lower level of the facility… we have our underwater treadmill for rehabilitation work, which is a huge thing for us to be able to offer.”

He said the new facility would allow the organization to double its capacity for wellness. He said the center would serve all pets, whether or not they were adopted from the North Shore Animal League.

“This facility will ensure that … [pet owners] can find very high-quality health care,” Stevenson said.

The facility was named for Don and Karen LaRocca, a couple who helped fund the center’s construction and were involved with the organization. Their son, Don LaRocca Jr., said that Karen was inspired to have the facility built after his father died five years ago.

“One day out of the blue she said, ‘Let’s go to North Shore, I want to build a building for daddy,'” he said. “Just like that.”

Karen LaRocca herself died in 2014, but LaRocca Jr. said she would be proud of the facility.

“Mom and Dad are smiling on you,” he told Stevenson.

Representing the Town of North Hempstead was Clerk Wayne Wink, who briefly spoke to congratulate the LaRoccas and the leadership of the North Shore Animal League.

“The North Shore Animal League’s footprint continues to grow in Port Washington, and it really is a wonderful marriage of a great community with a great organization,” he said.

About the author

Luke Torrance

Luke Torrance is a reporter for Blank Slate Media covering the Port Washington area.
Share this Article