With New Leadership, Hope For Eleanor Sonsini Shelter
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With the promise of new leadership, the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter's future is no longer looking as grim.
About a week after announcing that the facility will close its doors for good, the board of directors has decided to hand leadership over to the shelter's manager Noelle Howland.
Howland will be continuing the shelter's mission under a different name and is in search of a new building to properly serve the dogs and cats. This is imperative because the current facility cannot meet the animals' needs.
The opportunity is a dream come true, said Howland, as she has worked with animals for years and has always wanted to open her own shelter.
"I'm happy that I can continue this, I'm really honored that they would even let me do this because an average person wouldn't just be offered to take on something like this," she said. "I'm definitely grateful and I'm happy with the amount of support I've gotten."
Howland launched a GoFundMe campaign to save the shelter soon after the closing was announced. It began with a goal of $30,000 and after surpassing that goal, now aims to raise $100,000. It was about halfway there on Monday. The funds will be used to establish a new non-profit.
The shelter will close to the public at the end of August, so Howland's main priority is to find a new location for all its current residents.
There are about seven dogs and 11 cats currently at the facility. An abundance of applications have come in for cats so the staff has high hopes that they will all find homes but the dogs have seen fewer interested adopters.
After the animals go to their new homes, Howland needs to come up with a name for the shelter, establish a new board, and find a new location.
She wants to continue the facility's community connections and make new relationships to further its mission.
"Even when I come up with a name, I really want to get the public involved with that because I think that's one way you are getting the community together to do something like this," she said.
The shelter had been the city pound since the 1980s but operations were transferred in 2005 to the nonprofit Friends of Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter Inc. It had been named for the local animal rights activist and longtime animal control officer who died in 1994 at age 80.
In 2018, the city pulled its contract to take stray animals to Sonsini and the nonprofit was ordered to leave the municipal-owned building in Downing Industrial Business Park.
The board cited dwindling donations and an insufficient facility as reasons for the decision to close. Finding a new building is crucial, as the location on Crane Avenue was intended to be temporary.
Howland explained that space is a main need. The shelter needs more room for outdoor and indoor kennels, a separate space for the cats that is not located in the office, and a meet-and-greet space. She is open to relocating to a nearby community if the opportunity arises.
Long term, she is confident that collaboration with the community and grant opportunities will support the shelter's livelihood.
Howland believes that the successful fundraising campaign along with her good work ethic and passion for animals led to the board's decision to hand over leadership. She owns a dog walking business on the side and has worked at a doggie day-care.
"I didn't want to cause any issues. I didn't want to get any bad name with them," she said. "And they knew that. They knew I was doing it out of my passion for these animals."
Monetary and supply donations are always appreciated. If a new building is not found by the end of the month, everything will be in storage until it is moved into the shelter's next location.
Information on available animals can be found here.
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