Berkshire Humane society breaks ground on Barker Road

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Berkshire Humane Society’s John Perreault has as many stories to tell as animals that have come through his Cadwell Road doors in the past nine years. At 2,500 or so per year, that’s a lot of stories. But the big news for Berkshire Humane and for the thousands of cats and dogs they help, is that their new state of the art facility on Barker Road just broke ground Tuesday. That means there will be no more floods in the shelter when it rains a lot and no more sharing one sink both to wash dogs and do dishes. It also means, when the 25,000-square-foot facility is up and running, that some of the cats will stay in a “colony room” rather than individual cages, and dogs too. Conditions, Perreault said, will be better for everyone: animals, adopters and staff. The current facility — the basement of a barn — has been a shelter since 1963. Prior to that and since 1936, the ASPCA ran the shelter in Cheshire. Berkshire Humane took over the running of this shelter in 1993, one year after they formed. The current usable space on Cadwell Road is much too small, says Perreault. Increasing their space will allow them to triple the animals they help. Berkshire Humane Society doesn’t turn animals away, which means they also take strays. The adoption program is the most visible part of its work, along with spaying and neutering services. But they also have an emergency food bank which Perreault says allows owners to keep a pet during a tough financial period, when he might otherwise have to give it up. They provide funds for spaying and neutering at various times of the year, and they make 140 annual trips to Berkshire classrooms to educate kids about caring for pets. Behavior classes at the shelter are offered, and such events as a Pit Bull conference are offered as well. Funding for the shelter comes from donations and contributions. So far the Society has raised $1 million of the needed $4 million. As they build they will raise money. Perreault says the campaign has slowed a bit since Sept. 11, but he’s certain they’ll meet their goal. The new shelter will also have larger cages for animals, making conditions for humane, says Perreault. Instead of the 18-inch-wide cage for a cat, a cat cage will be three feet. Some cages will join to others, allowing cat families to mingle; some cages will be dividable, allowing staff to clean half without taking the animal out to do it. Adopting families will be able to view the animals in a living room type situation, behind a window, making the situation less stressful for animals and more pleasant for people too, he said. Perreault says that due to the efforts of the Humane Society their numbers are down for dogs, but not so for cats. Of the 1,800 cats that came to their facility last year, 40 percent were strays. Not enough people are caring for animals and not enough pet owners are spaying and neutering, he said. Recently he was asked to come to the house of a group of people who started with three unneutered cats. After three years they had 53. Older pets are often given up for adoption after a family crisis. Perreault said divorce and death are common reasons that mature pets end up at Berkshire Humane's shelter. He recently placed a 12-year-old Scottish terrier after its owner had died.

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