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Closed MSPCA site finds new owner

Date: 5/4/2009

By Natasha Clark

Assistant Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD - Homeless animals in Hampden County will once again have another option when it comes to getting the care they need, thanks to the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society.

Last Thursday it was announced that the former Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) site on Union Street was sold to Dakin for $1.2 million.

"When we heard they were going to close that facility we were dismayed. At the same time we had been moving toward opening a shelter that serviced Hampshire and Franklin counties. It made us re-evaluate what a new shelter for us might look like," Leslie Harris, executive director at Dakin, said. "We decided that this was a terrific opportunity to expand the work that we do in Hampshire and Franklin to Hampden."

The target opening date for the new facility is Aug. 1. While they will not re-open the 24-hour animal hospital the MSPCA closed in 2007, they will return with all of the regular offered services. In addition, they will house a high volume, low cost spay and neuter clinic.

Brian Adams, spokesperson for the MSPCA, said they are thrilled to see the facility utilized for its original intent. The building was constructed for $11 million in 1998 when the MSPCA left their Bliss Street location after residing there since 1931. It was forced to close its state-of-the-art hospital in 2007 after losing about 25 percent of its endowment in the stock market.

The loss was approximately $11 million and, because of it, the MSPCA has had to make several cuts.

"We are losing several programs at our headquarters in Boston and several layoffs and cutbacks have been made all around," Adams said.

Their Springfield facility is not the only one that has been affected. They closed their Martha's Vineyard location last week and their Metro South facility in Boston will close in September. They hope to lease the properties to two new animal-oriented organizations that can carry out their mission of adoption and advocacy.

"While we will retain ownership of the building, we cannot operate it at any cost to ourselves. They are responsible for general operating funds, maintenance funds, general care and upkeep of the building. We will provide them with a facility at no cost," Adams explained.

He said to have a fantastic and well-respected animal welfare operation such as Dakin take over the defunct Springfield facility is "fantastic."

Though the site was appraised at $4.8 million, he said they sold it at a discounted $1.2 million because they were "highly motivated to have the facility continued to be used for animal welfare" since it closed on March 31.

Dakin currently runs two other operations: Leverett Adoption Center in Leverett, Mass., and Greenfield Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield, Mass.

The plan is to close the latter's outdated facility and have its services be picked up by the Springfield one.

"We will transfer some of those [Greenfield] employees into our other facility and some might go to Springfield. The good news is that many people that used to work for the MSPCA have sent us their resumes and are interested in working for us. And we'd love to have them back," Harris said.

Approximately 15 jobs were lost when the MSPCA closed last month.