North Adams officials hope to replace city's aging animal shelter


Photo Gallery | North Adams Animal Shelte

NORTH ADAMS -- City administration and law enforcement officials are hoping to finalize plans for a new animal shelter in the coming weeks, replacing a decades-old facility on Reservoir Road.

Mayor Richard Alcombright, working with North Adams Police Lt. David Sacco and Animal Control Officer Carrie Loholdt, has identified a city-owned parcel of land adjacent to the city airport as prime real estate for a new, pre-fabricated animal shelter building.

The cost of the building, Alcombright estimated, would be between $30,000 and $40,000, and paid for through a fundraising effort that will likely begin when plans become more concrete.

"We've been looking at this for several years," Alcombright said. "[The current building] is just not a good shelter, not a good structure."

Alcombright said the airport was the best location out of several potential sites identified. One of the primary concerns was a hook-up to water and sewer lines, which is accessible at the airport, and noise that could be created by the shelter, which he said shouldn't be a significant issue at the airport. Sacco noted that the parcel is commercially zoned.

"It's kind of out of the way," Alcombright said.

The 24-by-34-foot building -- essentially a "two-stall garage," according to Sacco -- would be built by Department of Public Works and other city employees to reduce building costs. It would hold a maximum of six dogs at a time, equivalent to the current shelter, but also include a separate room with special ventilation for cats.

The proposed shelter would not, at least initially, be a facility out of which dogs and cats are adopted, like the Berkshire Humane Society and Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter in Pittsfield. It would, however, serve as a holding place for stray cats and dogs in North Adams for 7 to 10 days. In the event of animal neglect or cruelty charges, an animal could also be held for several months until a verdict is reached, according to Loholdt.

"It's a project that's long overdue," Sacco said. "There's an obvious need to upgrade."

The current shelter is used sparingly by Loholdt, who said she prefers to take animals elsewhere whenever possible. According to Alcombright, the Reservoir Road shelter can take in as much as five to six inches of water when it rains, and only two of its six kennels are usable.

"I've cleaned it up and done as much as I can do," Loholdt said. "I just want the animals to have a nice place to stay."

Since Jan. 1, Loholdt estimates that she's taken about 50 stray cats and dogs into shelter. Last year, a South State Street man surrendered more than 30 Labrador retrievers and charged with animal cruelty.

Although the current plan is to only operate an animal control facility out of the building, Alcombright did not rule out it also operating as an animal rescue in the future.

"Now you're talking about more expenses," Alcombright said. "[But] I think we'd like to see it grow to that at some level."

Given its financial situation, the city could not afford any additional costs, Alcombright said.

"If we can do it here, I think it'd be great," Alcombright said. "I don't think we'd be having a hard time finding volunteers."

The airport commission will discuss the proposal at its June 17 meeting, the next step in what will likely be a months-long process.

"Our pie in the sky, if you will, is [to have it] up before the snow flies," Sacco said.

The animal shelter has been the ire of the city's animal control officers for many years, Alcombright.

"[When] we are in control of someone else's animal," Sacco said, "they need a safe, healthy environment to be in."

To reach Adam Shanks:
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