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Shelter restores services to area

Date: 8/5/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society's move into the former facility of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) on Union Street comes with an ambitious agenda the humane society announced it would end animal homelessness in the region within three years.

On Saturday, local elected officials joined a crowd of about 100 supporters in celebrating the official reopening of the facility, which had been closed last year by the MSPCA due to financial reasons.

Leslie Harris, Dakin's executive director, said the organization's goal is to end the euthanasia of adoptable animals and prevent animal homelessness.

Noting the turnout for the opening celebration, Harris said community support would be vital for the success of the center's plan.

"We can't be your community humane society without the community," she said.

Candy Lash, director of Community & Media Relations for Dakin, explained that over the next three years the center would begin programs to address the homelessness problem.

The first program will be a "high quality, high volume" spay and neuter clinic that will open in October, she said. Lash explained clinic would especially target cats and pit bull breed dogs, which present the greatest challenges to adoption in New England.

She said that while kittens are in demand for adoption, adult cats are not.

Lash said the the center would also work hard to prevent the surrender of pets by working with pet owners with programs that can address behavior concerns. Pet owners will be required to make an appointment for surrender, which will allow the Dakin staff to prepare for a particular animal before it comes in, possibly even finding a potential new home for it.

People will be able to follow the progress of the campaign through updates on the society's Web site at, Lash said.

Dakin will also be working closely with the Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center (TJO), the municipally run program serving Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke, West Springfield and Hampden, she added.

"TJO is a shining example of what animal control can be," Lash said.

Lash, who was also the spokesperson for the MSPCA, said that organization "was on track to do what we're doing," but did not have the funding. She said the MSPCA should be commended for selling the facility to Dakin at a fraction of its asking price.

Lash said Dakin's funding comes from businesses and individuals.

She added the goal of ending animal homelessness is "ambitious but attainable."