PITTSFIELD — After nearly 15 years of operating at the city's municipal shelter in the Downing Industrial Park, the Friends of Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter has moved into a smaller, temporary home.
As their contract with the city came to a close Monday, Sonsini staff and volunteers spent the afternoon relocating Cooper, Mia, Royal and seven other dogs, plus three cats, to their new home at 857 Crane Ave.
"When a business sits in one spot for so long, it's hard to move," said Krista Wroldson-Miller, chairwoman of Sonsini's board of directors.
The nonprofit Friends of Eleanor Sonsini was forced to vacate the shelter after the city terminated its contract with the nonprofit organization. That contract expired March 30, but was extended for a month, and then by an additional week. The city has declined to say why it ended the contract.
The city will now take over the maintenance of the municipal shelter at the industrial park space Sonsini vacated, 63 Downing Four.
"The City of Pittsfield will run our dog shelter in the same professional manner that other communities operate their own facilities," wrote Roberta McCulloch-Dews, director of administrative services for Mayor Linda Tyer, in response to questions from The Eagle.
Animal Control Officer Joseph Chague will run the facility, she said, but she declined to elaborate on the specifics such as shelter staffing and number of dogs that would remain in the city's custody after Sonsini's exit.
Wroldson-Miller told the Eagle there was one animal that the Sonsini shelter was willing to care for if necessary.
She said the interim shelter is at least a week away from opening to the public. Meanwhile, a newsletter going out later this week will announce a capital campaign for a new, permanent Sonsini shelter.
"We want to raise enough money so we can find the best possible place for our animals," she told The Eagle.
Sonsini staff and volunteers have spent the past couple of weeks converting a storage building into a kennel at 875 Crane Ave., home to Miller's Petroleum Systems, across from Jaeschke Fruit & Flowers Center.
Owner Dennis Miller cleared out the metal frame building, helped move a Sonsini storage structure from Downing Industrial Park to his property and assisted in preparing the new kennel for the installation of a chain-link fence enclosure for the dogs to roam outside.
"He's done amazing things for us," said Judith Trumble, Sonsini's treasurer.
Trumble noted Sonsini funds paid for the fence and 10 new interior dog cages.
The rent on the building, which is half the size of the city shelter, came at "an incredibly reasonable price," Wroldson-Miller said.
While not yet open for business, the temporary Sonsini shelter had several visitors as the dogs arrived to their new home, including 12-year-old Jack Gray and his mother, Cindy Gray, from Dalton.
Jack has been a volunteer since last June, making almost daily trips to Downing Industrial Park to check on the dogs and cats he got to know quite well.
"I've known Royal since she came in. She's always getting dirty," he said of the young American pit bull mix.
The Nessacus Middle School student, who has a pug at home, has developed a real knack for dealing with dogs and cats.
"Jack has learned to be very compassionate with pets," his mother said.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at email@example.com and 413-496-6233.