Sonsini Animal Shelter staff assure community that dogs are kept cool during high temperatures

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PITTSFIELD — In response to those concerned about dogs at Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter, the organization's leader said there's no need to worry.

"The ASPCA was out there today, and they found no issues," said Krista Wroldson-Miller, chairwoman of the nonprofit's board. "The animals' health is the most important thing to us."

People took to Facebook this week to criticize the shelter for having dogs outside in hot, humid weather. One post urging others to report the conditions was shared more than 300 times.

Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn said his animal control staff hasn't received any complaints against the shelter since it separated from the city and moved to Crane Avenue in May.

The move was hard on the organization, Wroldson-Miller said, and staff are still getting settled. She said they'd been able to arrange for more shade for dogs at the previous space.

"We had set it up nicely, so now we're coming from up behind to catch up to where we were," she said, calling the Crane Avenue shelter "a temporary home."

"That said, the animals are well taken care of."

Stacey Rossi, an attorney for the shelter, said their policy is to rotate dogs in and outside throughout the day, allowing staff to sanitize indoor kennels and dogs to go to the bathroom. With temperatures in the 80s, she said, staff don't leave dogs outside for more than an hour. Once temperatures climb into the 90s, Rossi said, dogs go outside only "for potty breaks."

"Of course, all the animals are checked on throughout the day to ensure that they are tolerating wherever they are well," she said.

Staff also spray down dogs with a hose, she said, on very hot days.

"Those that don't like the hose get wiped down with cool washcloths," she said.

Wroldson-Miller said they take dogs outside for their own sake.

"They're not happy if they're inside all day, so that's why we rotate them in and out," she said.

There's been more staff on-hand since the move, Wroldson Miller said, and they're also hiring more staff and looking for volunteers.

In the meantime, she said, the organization is raising funds to build a more permanent shelter.

"And we want to do it right," she said.

Wroldson-Miller said she holds no ill-will for those criticizing the shelter on Facebook, because she said she knows people are only commenting because they care, and because love for animals makes for emotional responses.

"I understand it, I just wish people would take five minutes to learn about what they're seeing," she said. "And then if there's still an issue to bring it to us."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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