Montague dog shelter open

Serves 12 towns

Small dogs greet a visitor to the 12-town dog shelter opened this spring in Turners Falls by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. Recorder file photo/Chris Curtis

Small dogs greet a visitor to the 12-town dog shelter opened this spring in Turners Falls by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. Recorder file photo/Chris Curtis Purchase photo reprints »

TURNERS FALLS — Lost, abandoned or surrendered dogs have a new temporary home in Montague and 12 Franklin County towns have somewhere to put the homeless pets.

Funded by a grant and subscription fees from the 12 participating towns, the regional dog shelter opened quietly in May and has since seen 75 canine guests, most returned to their owners and 25 adopted out according to Leslee Colucci, a sheriff’s deputy and shelter director.

Work on the shelter began in March and it quickly opened for business by default as dogs began to arrive, Colucci said.

Volunteers and supervised work crews of Franklin County House of Correction prisoners have worked continuously since then to set up the shelter, reclaiming the concrete structure from vermin, mold and animal droppings.

Thursday, paint and concrete patches were drying on the floor and walls as the work crew put something nearing the finishing touches on the shelter in preparation for Wednesday’s open house.

In an outdoor area recently cleared of brush and young trees, two of the shelter’s eight current canine guests ran in the freedom afforded by a perimeter fence built partly to keep them in and partly to keep humans out.

Colucci said a couple dogs were stolen and well-intentioned animal lovers feeding the dogs in their enclosures had resulted in some gastric distress before the fence was put up.

The shelter is housed in a low cinder block building at the end of Sandy Lane off Turnpike Road leased by the Sheriff’s Office from the town of Montague.

The shelter was established with the help of a $19,900 state Community Innovation Challenge Grant and with planning money from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, according to FRCOG Regional Project Planner Ted Harvey, who wrote the grant.

Until May, a portion of the new shelter space housed a few dog pens and Department of Public Works equipment.

“It’s not even appropriate to call it a shelter; it was basically a little bit of room and some fencing for animals,” Harvey said of the former pound.

The new shelter has 11 indoor pens, eight with roofed and fenced-in outdoor runs, office space and a room that will serve as dog maternity ward and shower, once the building has hot water.

Much of the material and labor is donated, including a furnace from A.R. Sandri and a dryer waiting for an accompanying washer, the next big item on the shelter’s wish list, Colucci said.

In the yard, German shepherd Yoda tempts passing workers with a thoroughly destroyed tennis ball.

Left by his owner with grandparents unable to keep up with the energetic 1-year-old, Yoda is in the minority.

Most of the dogs — the shelter is currently not equipped to handle other pets — are strays or runaways collected by police or animal control officers in the 12 towns and deposited at the shelter, according to Colucci.

Backing the shelter are Montague, Greenfield, Heath, Colrain, Bernardston, Warwick, Erving, Gill, Buckland, Conway, Deerfield and Whately.

Harvey said most pay less than $1,000 annually on a population-based fee scale, with much of the cost absorbed by volunteers taking care of the animals and the sheriff’s office funding the one full-time position.

Owners collecting their pets before the seven-day deadline are also charged a fee and required to license and vaccinate the dogs if they have not done so already.

Dogs not collected within seven days become the property of the sheriff’s office and are spayed or neutered and put up for adoption.

The open house is scheduled for 11 am. Wednesday with Sheriff Christopher Donelan and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray in attendance.

The shelter can be reached at 413-676-9182.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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