Q. What is the history of the Greenfield building?

A. The 40-year-old structure at 155 French King Highway was once the north valley’s only animal shelter when it was constructed by the Greenfield Area Animal Shelter on land donated by Florence Harding for that purpose. In the years since the Frances M. Wells Refuge, as the building is properly known, was built, it has served more than 40,000 animals and their people. It has provided second chances, happy reunions, and sad goodbyes. The staff, volunteers, and board members who worked hard to make Greenfield Area Animal Shelter, then the Pioneer Valley Humane Society, and now Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society a success will mourn the end to this community center for homeless dogs and cats.

Q. Why did Dakin decide to close this building but keep the Leverett adoption center open?

A. The board and supporters of the Greenfield Area Animal Shelter began the search for land to replace their failing and inadequate building as early as 2001. When Pioneer Valley Humane Society merged with Dakin Animal Shelter in 2006, it was for the express purpose of combining resources to build a regional humane society located on property that was neither in Greenfield nor in Leverett. The effort to make that dream a reality continued right up until the MSPCA announced the closing of their Western New England Animal Care & Adoption Center in Springfield, effective March 31, 2009. With the region’s largest animal shelter–and only open admission adoption center–closing, Dakin was going to be the only humane society left in the Pioneer Valley.

As we prepared to purchase the Springfield building from the MSPCA, we determined that, while we were able to expand services into Hampden County, we would be unable to support two buildings in the upper valley. Because the Greenfield building had not been open to the public for adoptions since 2007, and because that building was in the worst physical condition (failing septic, failing flat roof) and located on a hillside with inadequate parking, we determined that it made financially better sense to close Greenfield and keep Leverett open. The Leverett adoption center has consistently out-performed the Greenfield building in terms of numbers of animals and people served for the past six years. It is located on a flat parcel of land with room for expansion and is located on the Hampshire and Franklin county lines, making it accessible to both counties.

This decision was not an easy one to make. The Greenfield building has a long and proud history of serving the community. But as Dakin is being forced into serving the entire three-county region, we believe we need to make the best use of our very limited resources. It is simply not economically feasible for us to maintain a third building, particularly one in need of such significant capital expenditure.

Q. What should people in Greenfield do when they have an animal they cannot keep?

A. People who find stray dogs in the town of Greenfield should call the Greenfield Police Department at 413-773-5411. People who have a dog, cat, or other animal they are unable to keep should call the Leverett adoption center at 548-9898. Once the Springfield adoption and education center opens on August 1, 2009, people may call either our Leverett or our Springfield facility for assistance.

Q. What should people in Greenfield do when they need help with other animal-related issues?

A. The Leverett adoption center has been the main source of animal adoptions, behavior counseling, and financial assistance for spay/neuter since 2007. You can reach us at 548-9898.

Q. What about reporting animal cruelty?

A. Dakin has never had a law enforcement function and does not investigate cruelty. Learn more about contacting the appropriate anti-cruelty officials here.

Q. Why is Dakin abandoning Hampshire and Franklin counties? Why isn’t Dakin building a new shelter up here?

A. Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society remains committed to the communities that have supported the Greenfield and Leverett shelters since they first opened to the public. The Leverett adoption center will continue to provide vital services to the animals and people of Franklin and Hampshire counties.

We are also committed to continue the programs that serve the region – animal sheltering, educational programs, Meals on Wheels, programs for at-risk youth, spay/neuter assistance—and will continue to work with our business and non-profit partners, as well.

While Dakin has pursued various potential building sites, none of the negotiations were ultimately successful. When the MSPCA closed its Western New England facility, it left a void in services to the animals and people of the region. Dakin decided to direct the resources it had restricted for a new facility to the purchase of the Springfield MSPCA building and renovations to Leverett.

Q. Will the Dakin mission change once it opens in Springfield? Will it become open admission? Right now Dakin is no kill.

A. At Dakin we believe that there is no such thing as a “no kill” shelter in a community where adoptable homeless pets lose their lives for lack of a home. We believe that it is the community that must become committed to ensuring that adoptable animals find second chances in loving homes.

Dakin has never been a “no kill” shelter, but has been instead a facility that limits the admission of animals to those we believe to be readily adoptable or that have a good prospect of being rehabilitated. This means Dakin has historically accepted only animals with no history of aggression or other major behavioral problems. Thanks to our Buddy Fund donors, we have been able to rehabilitate and re-home animals with serious medical problems. Because we have not wanted to euthanize animals for lack of space, animals have been accepted by appointment for short-term sheltering until they find their forever home.

So what happened when someone could not wait for an appointment with Dakin? Or could not keep their aggressive dog? Or had an animal with a significant health or behavior problem they were unwilling or unable to treat? Until March 31st, they could go to the MSPCA in Springfield.

As an open admission adoption center, the MSPCA-Western New England accepted any animal brought to them—including dangerous animals or those suffering with serious illnesses. During the busiest times of the year—primarily kitten season—they made painful decisions to humanely euthanize cats for lack of shelter space. During their time in western Massachusetts, the MSPCA made great strides to reduce the euthanasia of homeless animals through increasing adoptions, rehabilitating injured or sick animals with the help of special funds dedicated to that effort, partnering with Dakin and other agencies to help place adoptable animals, and providing low-cost spay/neuter surgeries.

Dakin will expand upon that success. Our goal is a community where every animal has access to shelter and where no adoptable animal or animal who could be rehabilitated dies for lack of a home.

We will accomplish this goal with a combination of tactics—many of which build on Dakin’s success in Franklin and Hampshire counties—including:

  • expanding our foster home network
  • offering assistance with animal behavior and training—including special programs focusing on pit bulls and their people
  • opening a high-volume, low-cost, high quality spay/neuter clinic
  • finding creative strategies to address our region’s two biggest animal homelessness challenges: cats and pit bulls

Q. Does this mean Dakin will be an “open admission” shelter?

A. While Dakin may choose to limit admissions at first to animals from a defined service area (i.e., Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties) to help maximize the impact of the programs described above, we will open our doors to animals other than cats and dogs (such as rabbits, ferrets, and birds).

We will also accept animals we do not believe we can place for adoption or rehabilitate. With no other open admission shelter in our region, we believe this is the only responsible option. But, again, the goal will be to create a community where no adoptable animal or animal who could be rehabilitated will die for lack of a home. This will take a concerted effort on the part of every animal lover in our community.

Q. Will Dakin continue its Dixie Dog program or will the shelter be full of pit bulls?

A. Dakin has always been committed to helping our local dog population first. To that end, we will slow or suspend our Dixie Dog program until we have a good idea of the population of dogs we’ll be serving.

And while we anticipate being able to help many great pit bulls find a second chance, we also recognize that not everyone wants or can have that breed of dog. There is considerable space in the Springfield animal care center for successful operation of a Dixie Dog program as a complement to an adoption program that also helps local dogs.

Q. What kinds of changes is Dakin planning to make to the Union Street building?

A. While also housing a large animal shelter, this beautiful building primarily consists of the space used for the MSPCA’s emergency and specialty animal hospital. Because Dakin does not intend to run such a hospital, we will make some changes to these areas to better serve the mission of the organization.

You can look forward to:

  • The addition of bright, sunny colony rooms for adult cats. The comfort of colony housing reduces disease and stress while making it easier for prospective adopters to interact with the cats.
  • More and better housing for “other” animals. Animals like rabbits, gerbils, and guinea pigs need more space inside the adoption center. We will be making sure they get it.
  • A high-volume, low-cost, high quality spay/neuter clinic. One of the keys to ending the euthanasia of adoptable animals is making sure animals do not enter shelters in the first place. Stopping them from breeding will be key. We anticipate neutering more than 5,000 animals each year with a clinic we will open in 2010.

Q. How can Dakin afford to do this? Isn’t the building too big?

A. Dakin is fortunate to have raised funds restricted to the purchase or construction of a new animal care and humane education center. While a full-blown capital campaign has not yet been launched, there are monies committed to purchase of property and other initial capital expenses. It is those funds that enable Dakin to purchase the Union Street building from the MSPCA and that give us the exciting opportunity to expand our services into Hampden County.

We are grateful to the MSPCA for being so willing to work with us. They have agreed to sell the building to Dakin at a significant discount so that animal welfare in the Pioneer Valley will not be jeopardized.

Q. If the MSPCA wasn’t successful in Springfield after being there for so many years, what makes Dakin think it will be successful?

A. In 1998 the MSPCA moved into the Union Street building after operating since 1931 on Bliss Street in Springfield. This $11 million facility housed a cutting edge animal hospital, which was closed in 2007 due to severe financial losses resulting from increased competition and the economic downturn. The MSPCA adoption center remained open, but could not make up for the financial losses incurred due to the closing of the hospital. When the recession caused an $11.5 million loss to the MSPCA endowment, the decision was made to close the facility.

Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society will not be operating a full-service, 24 hour, emergency and specialty referral animal hospital, which was a major contributor to the MSPCA’s financial difficulties in Western New England prior to its close in 2007. And while the MSPCA Animal Care and Adoption Center remained open after the close of the hospital, it occupied only one-third of the building.

When the MSPCA announced it was closing, there was an outcry from the community. By reopening the Union Street facility, the people and animals of western Massachusetts will have their own humane society, which we are confident will have strong support.