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In the News Recent spotlighted magazines

Animal hospice care and rehabilitation have sparked the public's interest. As the pioneer of
residential hospice care and animal rehabilitation, Angel's Gate has received nation wide acclaim
and media attention.
The Top 10 Animal-Related Stories Of 2006

By Alicyn Leigh

1. Zoning Battle Continues Over Pet Hospice

The Town of Smithtown’s Board of Zoning Appeals continues to give Fort Salonga’s Angel’s Gate Animal Hospice a hard time about zoning laws due to complaints from neighbors.

Did those neighbors ever consider who they would consult should one of their pets become terminally ill or severely injured and then need special critical care? Apparently not. Hospice Director Susan Marino is highly regarded on Long Island as an expert in animal hospice care, and her methods have been used as a model across the country. Animal welfare advocates are standing strong, networking in favor of Angel’s Gate and saying they will fight to the end to support this greatly needed organization.

Alicyn Leigh is a widely read animal journalist and a strong advocate for animal rights on Long Island . We are grateful for her recognition of Angel's Gate's efforts to help all animals and especially those of Long Island.


Newsday ran a feature article about Angel's Gate on April 4, 2001. The Part 2 cover story by Denise Flaim catapulted the hospice and rehabilitation into the public eye. It introduced hospice care for our animals as a viable alternative. Ironically, later that month the AVMA American Veterinarian Medical Association, wrote their guidelines for veterinary hospice care. view article

Newsday Everyday Hero
Newsday in conjunction with Adelphi University ,each week, honors a person who by her or his sacrifice makes an important contribution which enriches the community for all its members. On Sunday November 10, 2002 Susan was so honored for her work on behalf of the animals at Angel's Gate. view cover

Animal Wellness Magazine Volume 4 Issue 2
We at Angel's Gate are very pleased to be featured in this relatively new magazine which is dedicated to maintaining the health of our companion animals. We are pleased to inform you that ANIMAL WELLNESS MAGAZINE has offered to make a modest donation to Angel's Gate for each new subscriber we refer. Look for articles written by Susan Marino in up coming issues.
view article

Columbia News Service
The hospice movement now includes dying pets
By Alison Damast

Lily, a white Maltese dying of cancer, lay in the queen-size bed in her purple sweater, shivering despite the sunlight streaming through the window. An apricot poodle named Max jumped on the bed and gingerly laid his head on top of Lily's small body, quieting Lily's sad whimper.

"It's amazing how sensitive they can be to each other," said Susan Marino, as she stood over the two dogs in her bedroom.

Marino, 50, is the founder of Angel's Gate, a hospice for 120 animals that are in the last stages of life. Located at Marino's home in Fort Salonga, New York, Angel's Gate is the largest of its kind in the country, taking in a virtual cornucopia of animal life from dogs to cats and virtually everything in between.

Max and Lily

It has long been standard practice for veterinarians to advise their clients to euthanize animals on the brink of death.
PHOTO: Susan Marino
Max, a poodle, comforts Lily, a maltese dying of lymphoma

But some veterinarians and pet owners believe that hospice care can be a viable and more humane alternative to putting an animal to sleep. Animals, like humans, they believe, seek solace in illness, and respond to the caring touch of their owners and other pets.

The hospice movement is slowly gaining validity. Earlier this year, the American Veterinary Medical Association approved guidelines for animal hospice care. And across the country, more and more people like Marino are following the models set by human hospices, letting their terminally ill or disabled pets live out their natural lives in their homes.

The Nikki Hospice Foundation, a California organization that educates the public about pet hospices, has set up a database of 60 veterinarians across the country who practice hospice care. Veterinary schools have begun to take notice of the trend as well, introducing the concept in courses on geriatric pet care.

Still, critics of hospice care say that no matter how good the intentions of the caretakers, in some situations, the pets may be put through unnecessary pain and suffering. No certification is required to run a hospice, which causes concern for some animal advocates about the quality of care.

"In a vast majority of situations, you have a true animal lover where it just gets out of hand," said Bob Yarnall, chief executive of the American Canine Association. "The dogs can fall into an abused state of neglect."

Hospice care may not be an ideal alternative for a dog who has bone cancer, said Yarnall. Dogs afflicted with this disease have brittle bones that shatter easily. In instances such as this, Yarnall believes that the most humane thing a family can do is to euthanize the pet.

"What kind of quality of life does a dog have if it is drugged out all the time?" he asked.

But for some humans, hospice care for their pets is the only solution.

When Diane Lanigan's dog, Pizmo, lost the use of his back legs after a stroke, she refused to euthanize him, despite her vet's recommendation. She now brings him to Angel's Gate every day while she commutes to work in New York City.

"Susan gives the animals comfort and the dignity to die," said Lanigan. "It's just remarkable that she can do this time and time again."

Marino, a lifelong animal lover and a registered nurse who worked with terminally ill children, founded Angel's Gate nine years ago along with her partner, Victor LaBruna, quitting her job as a home-care nurse. The project snowballed from there.

To accommodate her charges, the couple bought a 2,500-square-foot ranch house on an acre and a third of land located on farm-zoned property.

The operation is an expensive endeavor. One full-time assistant and half-a-dozen volunteers help run the place, and the owners, who charge no fees to take in the animals, count on private donations to survive. They received $100,000 this year. Marino spends several hundred dollars daily on pet food, trips to the veterinarian, acupuncture and Chinese herbs for therapy.

Marino has already spent her life savings and both she and LaBruna haven't had health insurance for years. But it's all worth it, she says, especially when little unexpected miracles happen.

For 10 days, a wild rabbit that had been hit by a car lay motionless in its cage. Marino did not expect the rabbit to recover. Then, on the 10th day, it unexpectedly stood up in its cage.

"First steps here have a much different meaning," said Marino, smiling.

Despite its unusual mission, Angel's Gate has gained support from traditional vet practices on Long Island, and many shelters refer animals to her hospice.

"As long as the animals aren't suffering, we support them," said Brigid Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "They should live out their lives."

A walk through Marino's house is like a walk through a pet lover's wildest fantasy. But it has its sad side, too.

Dora, a beagle, drags herself around the living room with her hind legs. Patches, a cat with a condition that causes him to constantly lose his balance, falls on his side, and then haltingly gets back on his feet. In the back yard, Sarah, a black pony with soft eyes, is prone to collapsing from anemia.

Caring for sick animals is a full-time job and can be draining. But advocates of hospice care say it can be beneficial to both the spiritual and mental health of the pet and its owner.

"Some people say, 'wouldn't is just be nicer and less cruel to put animals to sleep?'" said Dr. Kathryn Marocchino, the founder of the Nikki Hospice Foundation. "I say, imagine that you are the mother and father of a 3-year-old child who is terminally ill. Would you want to put them to sleep?"

Hospice care doe not preclude euthanasia. In the nine years that Angel's Gate has been in existence, Marino has euthanized half-a-dozen animals. But she has watched hundreds of animals die naturally. Usually, she says, they die alongside her and LaBruna in their bed.

"When they are ready to die, they usually let us know," she said. "Our hearts are broken all the time."

It is Marino's hope that in the next five years, Angel's Gate will become a model for animal hospice care all over the country. She is in the process of writing a book and has a growing mailing list of supporters.

"Just because an animal has cancer, you don't give up," she said. "We celebrate their lives and let them live until they take their last breaths."

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