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Regional Animal Control Center Sees Spike

By Paul Tuthill


Springfield, MA – There has been a substantial increase in the number of animals taken in by a regional animal control center in Springfield Massachusetts in the last three months. It coincides with the closing of the only Western Massachusetts MSPCA adoption center. At the same time, the municipally run facility has absorbed budget cuts and staff reductions....WAMC"s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports....

1433 animals were taken into the Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center in Springfield during the last three and a half months. That is an increase of more than 300 from the same period a year ago, according to Helen Caulton-Harris, the director of the city of Springfield's Division of Health and Human Services.

Caulton-Harris, whose division oversees the animal control operation, says the number of animals surrendered by owners more than doubled in the months since the closing of the facility operated by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Springfield MSPCA shelter and adoption center had been taking in more than 6 thousand animals a year. It fell victim to the recession and was shut down at the end of March because the MSPCA said it could no longer afford to run it after the organization sustained large losses in its endowment. The center is scheduled to reopen August First under new management.

The municipal animal control center's budget for the current fiscal year is one point 1 million dollars. That is a reduction of 200 thousand dollars from last year. Caulton-Harris said the budget cut ment three positions were eliminated. Also, center director Barbara Hays resigned citing frustration over the budget and staffing cuts. Caulton-Harris said the city will hire a new director.

Springfield is the host community for the regional animal control center, which is used by Holyoke, Chicopee, West Springfield and Hampden. Caulton-Harris says Springfield pays more than 800 thousand dollars, or five dollar per capita for the animal control program. The city of Chicopee pays 142 thousand dollars for the animal control program, under the terms of a 20 year contract, according to Mayor Michael Bissonnette.

The Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society is moving ahead with plans to purchase the former MSPCA animal adoption center in downtown Springfield, and reopen it on August First, according to Candy Lash, the director of community relations for the Franklin County based non-profit. Lash says those services will include a high volume spay and neuter clinic, which is scheduled to open at the Springfield center in the fall. Dakin is planning to close its facility in Greenfield, but will maintain an adoption center in Leverett.