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Regional dog shelter needs volunteers

TURNERS FALLS — The regional dog shelter in Turners Falls is growing steadily each year and — although about 35 people currently volunteer to help with everything from feeding and walking dogs to creating graphs and charts used by the director to track statistics — more volunteers are needed.

Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter and Adoption Center Director Leslee Colucci said the shelter took in 47 dogs between January and April of 2013 and during the same time this year almost doubled that, to 88 dogs.

“We’ve also added three new member towns for a total of 17,” said Jay Conway, president of friends of the shelter. “We’re getting dogs from a lot of different places.”

The shelter is available to animal control and police officers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Colucci is the only full-time employee and she has a part-time assistant. Everyone else is a volunteer.

Conway, Colucci and Friends board Secretary Joanne Brown said the shelter always needs people who are willing to work and spend time with the dogs, but especially needs people who can do things like coordinate and schedule volunteers, enter data on the computer, plan and coordinate events, maintain the shelter’s Facebook page and do the media coordination.

“We’ve got more and more dogs coming in and we want to make sure the level of care stays the same or gets even better, so we need people who love animals, but may not want to be hands-on with them,” said Colucci. “We also need some skilled volunteers to assist with many other tasks.”

The shelter, which was the vision of Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan, opened in 2012 after his office received a $20,000 grant.

The sheriff used the grant to refurbish the old building at 10 Sandy Lane. Inmates in the pre-release program at the jail turned the empty storage building into a shelter.

“Some of our volunteers — the ones who might choose to do the data entry or planning and coordinating — will be able to work from home,” said Conway. “We’re looking for retired people, the elderly, disabled and young people fresh out of high school or college.”

Most of the shelter’s funding comes from donations and the rest from grants and member fees.

Colucci said all member towns pay an annual fee according to their population. She said fees range from $300 to $1,200.

New member towns Leyden, Northfield and Shelburne recently joined Rowe, Heath, Colrain, Buckland, Conway, Deerfield, Whately, Greenfield, Bernardston, Gill, Montague, Erving, Wendell and Warwick.

Colucci said the shelter spent about $17,400 last year just for medical treatment for the dogs, including spaying and neutering each.

The shelter has room for eight dogs at a time, though it has found itself on a busy week squeezing in up to 14.

“Our priority is the dogs that animal control and police find,” said Colucci. “Then, if there’s room, we take in dogs surrendered by their owners as they come in.”

She said volunteers are trained, because some of the dogs the shelter receives need social training before they can be adopted, or even safely handled by shelter staff and volunteers.

All dogs receive vaccines, examinations, behavioral and socializing training and are spayed or neutered before they are adopted.

The shelter has applied for 501(c3) nonprofit status, but it currently has tax-exempt status, so any donations will be tax-exempt, she said.

Friends will be at the Greenfield Business Association’s sidewalk event throughout the day on July 19 and at Mighty Clean Mutt on French King Highway in Greenfield on July 26.

For more information, call 413-676-9182 or visit: www.fcrdogkennel.org. Also visit Friends of the Franklin County Regional Dog Shelter on Facebook.

To volunteer, contact Friends Executive Director Nancy Sunflower at: fcso.shelter.schedule@gmail.com.

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