Canine companions and pet owners were out in full force last month at the 15th annual Top Hat & Cocktails annual gala for the SPCA of Westchester. More than 300 guests and 50 furry friends were in attendance with several dogs up for adoption onsite at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in White Plains. The event honorees Kim Charlton formerly of Bedford and Stephen Meringoff of New York City underwrote the entire event, helping all proceeds from the event directly benefit the SPCA.
The annual gala was conceptualized by John W. Beach, a former Mount Kisco and Bedford Hills resident and was originally called Top Hat and Tails. Each year the gala’s honorees receive the John W. Beach Memorial Award to outstanding individual (s) for their humanitarian work. Charlton and Meringoff , who recently married and own two dogs, developed a successful SPCA program called “Critter Credit”. The program identifies shelter animals who may have difficulty getting adopted such as animals with medical conditions, are excessively shy or require more training. Through the program, individuals or families who adopt these pets receive a $250 credit, which can be applied to a trainer or to supplies at Petco or Petsmart. The program has successfully helped 190 dogs and cats find their “forever homes” since its inception.
This year the shelter has also taken in 23 cats and kittens from storm-ravaged places such as Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico. The shelter is a no-kill, not-for-profit animal welfare organization dedicated to saving homeless, abused and abandoned animals. They also protect animals from cruelty and neglect through education and enforcement of humane laws.
After the awards ceremony, a lively and entertaining auction took place with auctioneer Joe Di Mauro, the owner and operator of Mount Kisco Seafood. The auction at times was punctuated by laughs and “woofs” and took in $70,000 for the SPCA. Several of the dogs in attendance were decked out in costumes in honor of Halloween and many dined on canine ice cream courtesy of Briarcliff Manor-based Pets a Go Go.
Irma Jansen, an Armonk resident in attendance with her beagle Trooper has been involved with the organization since 2013. She spends many weekends driving dogs to help them get successfully transported to the shelter. Some dogs may have three legs of a trip and these transports are vital so that the dogs can take a break in between a long ride. She finds the work “rewarding” and thoroughly enjoys it.
Ossining resident Mary Dusenberry founded the SPCA in 1883 after she observed horses being whipped and beaten as they trudged up nearby hills to deliver heavy loads of coal. Together with her friends, she obtained land on which to build the Society’s first home and established a fund to be used to prevent cruelty to animals. The SPCA is still located on the same spot, making it one of the oldest landholders in Briarcliff Manor.