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Sean Casey's Animal Rescue Takes on New Heights

The famous no-kill shelter of Kensington will soon open a new location in Sunset Park.

Sean Casey has come a long way since Queens.

The 31-year-old pet-saving maven—and head of the eponymous —first began saving dogs, cats and everything in between under the roar of jets coming to and from John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“We were literally like, in the cargo area, buried in the airport,” Casey said of the shelter’s humble beginnings. “It was nice for the dogs because we had big indoor-outdoor runs and a big yard, and they could make as much noise as they wanted because there was no one to hear them. But for adoption purposes, who could get there? “

That was 10 years ago, and since that time, Casey has moved out of the airport and into a storefront on East 3rd Street in Kensington. And in just a couple of weeks, Casey’s animal rescue outfit will occupy its biggest space yet: A 5,000 square-foot warehouse in Sunset Park, rigged from floor to ceiling in the latest in animal-keeping technology.

The new location, which will operate in conjunction with the space in Kensington, will be used to house the majority of the rescued pets that the shelter takes in. Once they’ve received medical treatment and are ready for adoption, Casey said, they will be transferred to the smaller shelter at 153 East 3rd St.

“We basically outgrew the first location very, very quickly. We didn’t expect it to take off the way it did,” Casey said. “So the idea of the second shelter is just to give more space and better quality of life to the animals while they’re with us.”

Once renovations to the space—housed in a brand new building at 551 39th St.—are complete, the shelter will serve as a veritable pet palace for animals in between homes. The building can hold up to 42 dogs and 50 cats, with additional room for assorted birds and reptiles. Dogs will be treated to sleeping quarters 8-feet long and 3-feet wide, with built-in beds.

While the building itself is very long with high ceilings, it doesn't boast a ton of floor space. Because of this, Casey and his staff borrowed from the standard New York City architectural model of building vertically, taking full advantage of the warehouse's height by housing smaller dogs in second-floor kennels—literally, doggy duplexes. Birds and other exotic animals will be kept on the second floor as well.

Casey explained that each kennel will have its own drainage system, requiring staff only to spray down the space, rather than clean up the pens with paper towels, an expenditure that currently sets the shelter back a whopping $40 a day.

The new building will also have a special quarantine unit for dogs who enter the shelter sick. Individually ventilated cages will pump air straight outside, thereby decreasing epidemics of kennel cough, a common problem that drives up medical bills.

“[The dog] coughs, he sneezes, it doesn’t go to the dog over here or the dog over there,” Casey said. “It’s all contained in here, gets sucked up to the exhaust and out.”

Despite the ventilation system’s high price tag—around $16,000—Casey said it was only a fraction of the project's ultimate cost, which totalled upwards of $250,000.

The process of raising money for the new shelter has been long and arduous, Casey said. Though he and his staff initially acquired the space more than a year ago, finding the funds has been an ongoing challenge.

“We had a very grassroots movement. We basically reached out to every one of our supporters, and we had a lot of very small fundraisers,” he said. We just kept squirreling all the money away, just squirreling it away.”  

Luckily for Casey, the shelter has some fans in high places. Judy McLane, a Broadway performer best known for her role in Mamma Mia!, held a star-studded fundraiser in 2010, the proceeds of which all flowed directly into the rescue's coffers. A single evening netted $18,000.

Opening a shelter of this scope has been a dream of Casey's since he first began helping neighborhood animals as a child. His mother, another compulsive rescuer of beleaguered pets, first instilled in him the idea of "TNRing"—trapping, neutering and releasing—stray cats around the neighborhood, after regularly witnessing feral kittens being killed by speeding cars. From there, he was hooked.

"I started helping [my mom] when I was like, 5 or 6-years-old, just catching these feral cats, " he said. "I guess that’s kind of where my love for it started. And when I got out of school, this was my skill, this was what I was good at, so I said, 'I have to make this work.'"

Despite years in the pet industry, Casey said that running his own spacious shelter has always been his ultimate goal.

"This is what I wanted to see. This was always my dream to build, but it was always out of reach, financially," he said. "We’ve worked really hard to get here."

But Casey isn't content to rest on his laurels. Even as the paint continues to dry on the new location, he's already plotting his next step: Implementing a similar shelter in every borough across New York City. Whether the project is his or helmed by someone else, Casey said, the mission is to provide all rescued pets a no-kill environment where they will be treated humanely, and given the medical attention and support they need to be adopted into loving homes.

"I’d like to see bigger and better for everybody," he said. "That’s always been our goal— just to keep improving and keep growing."

cath April 19, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Great piece. So nice to read of the plans and all that's involved. Great work. If only the city shelter system was so evolved (but hopefully will be). Thank you, Lauren, for this piece and Sean Casey and all the great staff and volunteers.
Christine Brancati April 20, 2012 at 10:54 AM
Wonderful! I am so glad there are people out there thata care for the animals. The staff at Sean Casey are great people with a heart of gold. I adopted from there n now have the greatest dog! Good luck with new shelter. Can't wait to see it when its all done!
Elena Amico April 20, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Wow great story. I grew up in Kensington and wish the shelter was there then. I'd definitely would've been a volunteer. I live in SI now but donate and follow you. Great work. Bless you. Will definitely come to see the new shelter. Wish folks would adopt, spay/neuter and also ban all sales of animals on the internet! Elena
grace degeorge April 20, 2012 at 02:21 PM
I live in Kensington and adopted one of Sean's rescues, as have most of the people around here. A great staff lead by a caring, compassionate guy (Sean) and they are committed to the rescue of animals and they are always available to answer questions and give support for owners. Keep on rockin' Sean Casey, the neighborhood is proud of you and the work you are doing. Grace and little Jackie
Brooklyn Paws April 20, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Sean Casey is the best. We got our dog from his shelter over a year ago and could not be happier. To see the shelter grow and see his ability to save more pets that otherwise might not have a chance is truly an act of HEROism. It is not an easy task to take on something like this and to do it well just makes it that much more FANTASTIC!!! Keep up the good work!!! Justine Brooklyn Paws Inc.
Jenny April 21, 2012 at 04:10 PM
great story. thanks.
Paulina Bitetto April 29, 2012 at 08:26 AM
Love this rescue.
Andrissa575 May 03, 2012 at 05:40 AM
Oh! I am so happy to see this! I will definitely will be coming there! GREAT JOB! May You Be Blessed In ALL Of Your Endeavors!!!!
Jennifer Rabinowitz May 03, 2012 at 02:46 PM
I adopted my dog Nick from Sean Casey Rescue. They are a great group of people running a great organization under the most challenging of conditions. My dog Nick is the love of my life -- all 125 pounds of him. The Sean Casey Rescue made that possible! Congratulations, Sean Casey Rescue! Jenny Rabinowitz, Santa Fe, NM
Rose May 03, 2012 at 04:57 PM
It's great to hear about the new facility. I drove out to JFK from New Jersey a few years ago to adopt my dog Pam, who was considered 'unadoptable' by others at that time. Thanks to Sean for rescueing the best dog. She is now called 'Princess' and the name really fits her. She is great with my other 3 legged rescue dog and adopted cats.....also she is a fantastic 'watch-dog' and 'baby-sitter' for for my 89 year old mother. Keep up the great work. Princess and I can't thank you enough.
Myriame Mejias May 03, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I adopted by boy cat "Bob" last year (Jan. 2011) after being catless for 2 years..He is such a good boy, and last July (2011) I also adopted a 5 month old female cat-"Layla'' from them as well..Their new names are BB & Lily..and they get along beautifully. Thank you Sean Casey for allowing me to take these two into my life. I am so happy that Sean Casey Shelter exists and that they want to expand to every borough. As I meet people with dogs, the majority have been rescues, which says alot about people wanting to help these homeless animals.Thank you, again!!.
sue May 04, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Mr Casey you are doing a wonderful job! I adoptod my shih tzu mix dog,Duke from th kensington shelter. Since then he has been the love of my life! I still remember what you told me during the adoption process, " you jusť saved two lives with this adoption. You took one dog and made room for another." You guys are the best! Susan, New Jersey
CARMEN G. OLMEDO May 04, 2012 at 02:12 AM
IF ALL HUMANITY THOUGHT AS SEAN AND HIS STAFF,THERE WOULD NOT BE ANY HOMELESS OR SUFFERING ANIMAL. THANKS FOR UNITING US WITH PENNY OR STAR,AS WE CALL HER. HOPE GRADY, HER BROTHER COULD JOIN US, KEEP UP YOUR WITH THE WONDERFUL WORK. GOD BLESS CARMEN, PARK SLOPE
Gail Jensen May 12, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Wonderful news!! I adopted my Jasmine aka Ruby a beautiful chihuahua mix from this amazing rescue shelter. Sean and his awesome staff provide such loving care to the pets waiting for new families to adopt them. I only wish there were more rescue's like this available. God bless Sean Casey Animal Rescue!! Looking for a pet...consider a rescue. You're saving two lives...the one you adopt and the space that opens for the next. Love, Gail and Jasmine aka Ruby.
Kathy June 01, 2012 at 07:59 PM
I am SO happy to see that the rescue was able to expand. I volunteered on Saturdays for a while last year walking dogs in the Kensington location and I was hoping to start back again. If they still need dog walkers at the new location, that would be more convenient for me and I would love to get back into it. Sean and his staff really love animals and I'm so happy to see that the animals will have more space now. Keep up the great work and hope to visit soon! Kathy
Abdala July 03, 2012 at 06:34 PM
What a great idea to extent this noble project to the whole city. The pets have the same right to life that we (humans) do.
Dios Thunders August 06, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Its almost 2 yrs since I bought home a scrawy scared timid litte blonde short earred Chiuhiua they called TACITO renamed Baby Boy- Rabbit This dog was afraid of everything S Casey rescued him & a bunch of other mini unueterd males old mini tied 2 a gate in the snow They were proably used 4 breeding & selling The S Casey people were great Now my once timid dog is Mr Popularity & very social 2 nieghbors he once shied away from & the world in general He has made my life better as well & just brings joy 2 everyone who sees him HE'S so cute & tiny & hops like a rabbit on grass & running w/ glee 2 b loved & free I take my little guy with me everywhere I can He was easy 2 train he so wanted approval & love I carry Sean Caseys biz card because I am always asked where did get him/ they had a dog like that they missed 1 kids dog My Buddy was stolen or people who r tinking of gettinga dog or another I tell them how great SEANCASEY is & they do get puppies & pregnate dogs so more puppies all breeds all sizes & they never kill the animals they resuce Im very greatfull 4 Sean Casey & there wonderfull work & I recommend that anyone who wants a VERY greatfull loving pet go 2 SEAN CASEY or donate $ 2 them there work is beautifull & needed there very loving people They canged 2 lives indeed Mine & My little guy My sweet adorable cutie face who is 4 finally not a slave in a box Hes free & spoiled & happy he smiles alot now & knows love & the worlds a good place not 2 fear Its better 4 me 2
Debra Gonzalez August 06, 2012 at 09:23 PM
I adopted a kitty a little over a year ago, and he is the cutest most lovable cat ever. Lennon now named Rustie was 4 months old and scared and timid when we brought him home. He is now so loving and affectionate!! Thank you Sean Casey for doing what you do for these animals. You made my family complete!! THANK YOU.
yvonne szacki August 07, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Beautiful place, so happy to be neighbors- Yvonne
Iris March 18, 2013 at 01:42 PM
Congartulations on your new location. Please think of the Bronx for your next project.
Angela D'America June 19, 2013 at 08:50 AM
So happy for you, Sean. You and your staff were there for me when I needed help the most. I think you do great work and your staff is terrific. Best of luck. Hope all your dreams come true. You have a heart of pure gold.

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