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Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter commissioner Stephanie Malkin hopes to see plenty of pet owners and others who care about showing compassion and kindness come out to enjoy the sixth annual Woofstock on the Branford Town Green on Saturday, Aug. 10 from noon to 6 p.m. The day of peace, music, and much more kicks off following the annual Woofwalk at 11 a.m. Both events benefit animals served by the no-kill Branford/North Branford municipal shelter. Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound

Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter commissioner Stephanie Malkin hopes to see plenty of pet owners and others who care about showing compassion and kindness come out to enjoy the sixth annual Woofstock on the Branford Town Green on Saturday, Aug. 10 from noon to 6 p.m. The day of peace, music, and much more kicks off following the annual Woofwalk at 11 a.m. Both events benefit animals served by the no-kill Branford/North Branford municipal shelter. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)

Assisting Animals in Need: Shelter Commissioner & Woofstock Co-Chair Stephanie Malkin

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As a commissioner for the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter, Stephanie Malkin is grateful for the chance to make a difference by putting her passion for assisting animals into practice.

As co-chair for Woofstock 2019, Cosgrove shelter’s sixth annual Day of Peace and Music, Stephanie’s been very busy spreading the news about the big day, set for Saturday, Aug. 10 on the Branford Town Green.

The day kicks off with Woofwalk at 11 a.m., which leads into Woofstock from noon to 6 p.m.

Woofwalk puts pups and their people out for a walk of about two miles that starts and ends on the Town Green. Pre-registered participants (registration is $25 at www.woofstockonthebranfordgreen.org) receive a T-shirt, doggie bandana, and water for all on the walk. Participants can also register the day of, beginning at 10 a.m. on the green. Woofwalk promises to have everyone back so they won’t miss a beat when Woofstock opens at noon.

Woofstock fills the green with special events, pet-friendly vendors, and information sharing from animal education, rescue, and humane organizations. There are contests, crafts, and a children’s area, and a line up of live music from several bands performing on the main stage. Woofstock 2019 also features a Branford 375 celebratory doggie costume contest. According to Woofstock on the Branford Green on Facebook, the official page of the event, contestants should bring their dogs dressed to display “what Branford represents for you—lobsters, blue herons, boats, Stony Creek Brewery, Indian Neck, Stony Creek, the list goes on and on!”

The dog-friendly event (pets allowed on leash only) will once again also bring a number of food trucks to the green offering food and treats for sale.

Simply stated, it’s a feel-good kind of a day, says Stephanie—and that includes getting to know the many amazing groups participating, such as this year’s official Woofwalk escort organization, North Haven-based Bikers Against Animal Cruelty.

“The organizations that are there are just wonderful. You walk from one to the next, and you think you can’t be more blown away, then you see what the next group has to offer, and the stories that they have to share,” says Stephanie. “To have that all in one place, the energy is amazing.”

Woofstock admission is free, but free-will donations (a suggested donation is $5) are gratefully accepted, with all proceeds benefiting the important work of the shelter.

Finding a Home in North Branford

Stephanie’s now in her third year as North Branford’s only representative on the commission for the municipal shelter, which serves the towns of Branford and North Branford. She moved to North Branford six years ago, coming from Newtown with her husband, Will, a Fairfield firefighter, and their daughter, Riley, now eight. The family came to North Branford following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown in 2012.

“I had a summer cottage in Madison growing up, so the shoreline was always my passion and somewhere I always wanted to end up,” says Stephanie, who also has a brother who worked in North Branford as an acupuncturist. “We ended up in North Branford and we love it here. It’s a great place to raise Riley; the school system’s amazing, so it’s really good.”

As someone who has been rescuing and helping to re-home animals, especially feral cats, since her own childhood, Stephanie, an Ellington native, was already well aware of the extraordinary work underway at the Cosgrove shelter, she says.

“Dan Cosgrove [Animal Shelter] is really second to none. There really is no other municipal shelter in the state quite like it. You can tell just by going there,” Stephanie says of the busy facility, located at 749 East Main Street in Branford. “It’s cramped—we could do so much with more spacing—but they use what they’ve got to the maximum.”

Support for Woofstock and other fundraising efforts organized by individuals, groups, and organizations throughout the year help the shelter to exceed the bounds of its municipal budget and to operate as a no-kill shelter. Backed by supporters and volunteers, Animal Control Officer and Director Laura Burban and her staff have built the shelter’s reputation for taking on difficult cases involving abandoned, abused, or surrendered animals, including those in of medical assistance or even emergency surgery.

“We are constantly fundraising, because we never know when the next emergency is going to come in the door,” says Stephanie. “We never know if someone’s going to walk in with a dog that’s been hit by a car or a dog that needs surgery and the family can’t afford it. So every penny that we get, we’re so appreciative of, because all of it goes to the animals, in some way, shape, or form.”

The hard work and great results have also made it a model facility, Stephanie says.

“Everybody knows the shelter, across the state. When I go back to Ellington, people mention hearing about the shelter on the news or hearing about something they did, because they really do go above and beyond,” she says. “They help other shelters, too. When there’s an issue with an animal and they don’t know what to do, they call Laura and the staff at Dan Cosgrove [because] they’re really a go-to network.”

A History of Helping

The granddaughter of a veterinarian, Stephanie’s interest and activism as an animal advocate goes back to a very young age.

“When I was as young as elementary school, I would go with my mom to the grocery store and use any money that I could come up with to buy cat food for the community cats. And I would put out food every night and call them, and 20 would come running,” she says.

Even as her work as a school psychologist (she’s currently at a high school in the Hartford area) brought her to live in several different towns and even states, Stephanie always managed to become that local go-to person for cats and other animals in need of help.

“I kind of did rescue on my own most of my life. I would help people trap feral cats in the neighborhood. People knew to come to me with whatever. If I couldn’t help on my own, I would reach out to others to get help,” she says.

To this day, Stephanie continues being there for animals in need, says Burban.

“Stephanie is extremely dedicated to all types of animals. She does humane education in the school where she is a psychologist, too,” says Burban. “She is the kind of person who will sit at midnight helping to trap a stray kitten or get up at 6 a.m. to help find a lost dog. We are very fortunate to have her involved with the shelter.”

Stephanie’s even gone as far as to transport a chicken to a New York location for the shelter.

“I’m so grateful because I have my husband and my daughter who are so supportive of this,” Stephanie says. “They will jump in the car with me and go rescue any animal out of any situation, at any hour of the day.”

As a commissioner for Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter, “I’m so proud of the shelter and everything they do,” Stephanie says. “They do a lot of outreach and education for kids, teaching about compassion and kindness. And that’s where we need to go, to prevent [animal] cruelty cases that are happening. Because that part is just missing in so many communities, in this state and beyond.”

If Stephanie could impart any advice to those who want to help animals or to simply create a safer community for all, it’s to speak out when they encounter animal cruelty or mistreatment.

“People need to use their voices for these animals, because they don’t have their own,” she says, adding that even people who may not own pets, or even have an interest in animals, can help make the world a better place by getting involved.

“We need people to step up and speak up and to report animal cruelty when they see it. We need people to teach compassion and kindness to kids, so that they don’t turn into people who would abuse animals,” she says.

As a school psychologist, Stephanie is well aware that animal cruelty is a gateway to abusive behavior against others.

“I don’t ever want to assume that everybody loves animals as much as I do or that everybody has that passion. I get it—it’s not for everybody,” says Stephanie. “But because I’m a psychologist, and I know that side of things, whenever I get a chance to talk anywhere, I always say this: Whether you care about animals or not, as a community, we all need to be really concerned if there are people mistreating animals in our community. Because the natural progression is it goes from animals to people. Whether its [child] abuse or domestic violence, that’s what the research shows. If we’ve got people doing that who are living in our community, then we all need to be very concerned, and it’s a problem for all of us.”

For more information on the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter, find Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter on Facebook, visit www.branford-ct.gov/animalshelter, call 203-315-4125, or email lburban@branford-ct.gov. For information, updates and news on Woofwalk or Woofstock 2019, find “Woofstock on the Branford Green” on Facebook.

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