PITTSFIELD -- The Berkshire Humane Society has an overflow of pets and is rolling out a temporary program to encourage adoptions.
"We're in crisis mode at this point," said John Perreault, executive director of the Berkshire Humane Society shelter on Barker Road in Pittsfield.
On Thursday, the Pittsfield shelter had 96 cats awaiting adoption, with another 23 cats at the Purradise cat adoption shelter in Great Barrington, and another 15 cats in foster care. There were also 26 dogs in the shelter and 10 other types of homeless pets, including rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and ferrets.
That's 170 homeless, domesticated animals. Normally, that number is closer to 120.
That number does not include a waiting list of people waiting to surrender their pets for adoption.
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Starting today, the Humane Society is implementing a "Choose Your Adoption Fee" for any adoptable dog that has been at the shelter for 30 days and any cat that has been with the shelter for 90 days, according to Perreault.
Perreault said the shelter is appealing to anyone currently or about to be in the market for a pet to come by and check out the wide-eyed selection.
"Many of these animals have been in our care looking for a forever home for a long period of time," Perreault said.
In addition, a shelter donor has agreed to underwrite the cost of adoption for any of the older cats at the shelter to senior citizens. As a result, any senior citizen adopting a senior feline furball will not have to pay the adoption fee.
Shelter staff will ensure anyone taking advantage of these prices will understand that there is a financial commitment involved in caring for any pet -- from $500 annually for a cat and up to $700 annually for a large dog for things like food and health care.
A few months ago, Perreault noted, there were not nearly as many animals in house.
"A couple of months ago, we were wondering if we had enough animals to adopt out, but now we're bursting at the seams," he said.
The shelter is so full, in fact, that when someone comes in to surrender an animal, shelter officials are asking them to keep their pet until space opens up.
A sign posted at the shelter reads, "The Berkshire Humane Society is full to capacity. We do not have any more room to take in additional pet(s) for adoption at this time. We are asking that you take your animal(s) home and call us on a daily basis until we are able to assist you with the placement of your pet(s)."
There are some who may not be able to wait, and the shelter will take in most of those cases, but if the population continues to grow, some of the adoptable animals might need to be put down, Perreault said.
He noted that the shelter has been adopting out pets at a consistent rate, but there has been a sharp increase in the number of surrenders. There have also been a number of animal hoarding victims that have come in, as well as several litters of kittens. Surrenders of pets for adoption occur for a variety of reasons, Perreault said, including relocations, landlord issues, job loss, pet allergies, behavioral issues or relationship issues.
"This is not a shelter problem, this is a community problem," Perreault said. "So we're asking the community to work with us."
Another challenge the shelter has with so many occupants is the need for supplies of food, cat litter and medicine. Perreault said anyone wishing to donate toward that need can make out a check to the Ken Freeberg Fund and send it to the shelter at 214 Barker Road, Pittsfield, MA 01201.
"And if anybody out there us looking for a pet, they should come by here very, very soon and see some of our wonderful animals," Perreault said.
To reach Scott Stafford:
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