Why We Support Construction of a New Animal Shelter

The current shelter is a reminder of a shameful period in Attleboro's history. A new one will help the animals and symbolize the hard work that hundreds of residents have done to make our system one of the best in Massachusetts.

We all know that the Attleboro Animal Shelter building is a "broken," dysfunctional and in some ways, dangerously outdated building—woefully sub-standard by any measure. As a matter of practicality, we need a new building. There doesn't seem to be an argument against this from any quarter.

My reason for supporting a new facility goes beyond the building of a functional facility.

When I visit our animal shelter and venture into the back room to see the homeless animals, my eyes are always drawn to the first "stall" on the right. Sixteen years ago, when I first stepped foot in this building, this was the stall that housed the next dog to die.

On my first visit, which was most unwelcomed by the staff, this particular stall was occupied by a beautiful, young and healthy Irish setter who I called Fransesca. I took her picture and offered to help find her a home. She was “euthanized” the very next day. No second chances there. I still see her face and her proud stance. There was no reason to end her life other than a lack of caring and that she might bring people there to see her.

This back room also holds memories of winter days, below freezing, with no heat for the homeless, abused and frightened animals; water buckets filled with frozen water, wet inner stalls and no bedding. There were times when longhaired dogs had ice on their fur. The pads of the dogs’ feet were red and raw from the cold. This building was a soulless place of no hope and suffering. It was "the Pound"—a place where dogs went to die.

A small group of volunteers waged a very long battle to end the cruel practices within the walls of this building, and I am proud to say that we were successful. Today, our work is carried on through a new group of highly dedicated volunteers.

Today when I enter the back room where the homeless animals are housed, I feel the effects of a heating system, fresh water and food for all. The dogs have warm bedding and toys to chew on to ease their stress. The room is busy with caring people coming in and out—walking, soothing, socializing and visiting with all. I feel the compassion and humanity versus the apathy and emptiness of the past. I can look into stall No. 1 and see a bright-eyed pup who has never known a gentle touch getting ready for playtime and soon, a new home. Today, this room is just a "waiting room" until each dog moves on to his/her new life—a place of happiness and hope.

This present state of our shelter didn't happen overnight. It took many, many years and many, many residents of this city. It has been a long hard journey with a lot of blood, sweat and tears—literally. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Attleboro residents helped this happen. I could never count the hours that people have spent caring for our animals, paying the medical costs, fostering when the building is full and holding a sick animal in their arms as he/she is euthanized when all medical care fails. The work is hard, rewarding, emotionally trying, uplifting and all-consuming. Hours beyond belief are put into fundraising for shelter costs.

I could go on and on about what needs to be done to run a successful shelter. It is un-ending, and we who care would not have it any other way.

I have visited a lot of shelters in my lifetime. I can say with certainty that you can tell a lot about the city/town by observing the level of care the homeless and vulnerable animals receive. The conditions at the Attleboro facility did not speak well for the city when I first moved here 16 to 17 years ago. To me, it will always be a shameful place in Attleboro's history.

Today, I believe that Attleboro is a different city. Many of the old ways are dying off and we are finally stepping into this century in many ways.

A new Animal Shelter is highly symbolic to me and an affirmation of all the hard, very hard, work that hundreds of residents and volunteers have put into making our shelter system one of the best in the state. It is a symbol that recognizes that the work that is done there is important. Our homeless and discarded animals no longer go to our shelter to die. Their new lives begin at our shelter. We can no longer be satisfied with the physical conditions at our shelter. It is just not who we are anymore.

That era is over.

There is a difference of opinion about what to do with the old building when our new facility is built. Some want to save it for storage and some want to tear it down. I'm OK with either option. More symbolism I guess. Tearing down the walls that hold so many horrible memories has merit. Letting the building stand can be a reminder for the years to come that this building no longer reflects the way we care for our homeless animals—a visual reminder to never let the things that happened there happen again. We are better than that.

I would like to see a plaque put on the front of our new shelter that holds just four words:

What Happens Here, Matters.

—Roxanne Houghton and Marilyn Shearer 

A public hearing will take place Tuesday at 7 p.m. on the proposal for the city to seek a $1.116 million loan for a new animal shelter.

Brandy G. January 16, 2013 at 03:22 AM
This is a really good idea.
Just sayin' January 16, 2013 at 03:31 AM
They could speak, but with such hostility in this discussion for those not in the inner circle would they have been heard?
Gretchen Robinson January 16, 2013 at 08:46 AM
Steve, it's going to be voted on next week. Get over yourself please. The architectural firm, as was said in the hearing, has planned many animal shelters over its 20 years. They know and the building committee (volunteers all) know all the state and federal guidelines. We heard about preventing communicable diseases with proper ventilation, something that neither Attleboro's present shelter OR Seekonk has (Jan used to use fans in the back room in the Seekonk shelter years ago. Do they still?) Kennel cough can spread like wildfire throughout a shelter and some dogs get really sick. All this costs more money for vet. Modern shelters are expensive but cost effective. That's why communities invest in them. I seriously think you are just trying to cause trouble. When you said, as you did tonight, that, in your opinion, the bathrooms should be back to back, you may have been right. Anyone who watches This Old House knows that. But then when you used that extremely minor point and tried to extrapolate it to imply that the architects and their design was poor, you engaged in a smear attack. You didn't win any points with me or the Councilors, I think. Yes, you were listened to politely, but the CC are polite to everyone. Meanwhile they know who's a valid presenter and who isn't. I don't know why you are so het up to derail this plan but I don't think you changed anyone's mind.
Gretchen Robinson January 16, 2013 at 09:12 AM
Brandy, there are things going on in NA and factors that make the two situations very diffferent. It's apples and oranges. By the way the NA shelter was built with leftover cinder blocks and other construction materials left over from the NA water treatment plant.
Gretchen Robinson January 16, 2013 at 09:14 AM
when the personal attacks start, you are signaling that you are losing in the discussion.
blueskies January 16, 2013 at 01:04 PM
I would suggest the restrooms on the sketch are simply to identify the location...These are NOT the actual plumbing/electrical etc specs. their purpose to to point out that there ARE restrooms.
Paul Bristow January 16, 2013 at 01:33 PM
Stephen K hit it on the head. There is only one thing driving the price over 1M and that is having to pay prevailing wage. For those who don't know this forces any job large or small to match not only the union wage but benifits. Doesn't take long to make a $600,000 job go over a Million.
Brandy G. January 16, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Of course no one will listen to it.
Joyce Leven January 16, 2013 at 03:32 PM
when the job goes out to bid, you'll get three prices. Add them together and that's what it will take to build the shelter.
Kim Penque January 16, 2013 at 04:35 PM
Over 100 people strong last night, we united as one and our voices were heard! What an honor to stand up and be a voice! Today’s Animal Shelters are much different than they were 30 plus years ago when our current shelter was built. The days of the “Dog Pound” and the “Dog Catcher” are long gone and it’s time Attleboro moves toward the future and provide a new Shelter that will accommodate the needs of our community today and for years to come. A new Animal Shelter is more than just a building and very different than a residential design. It is a home (although temporary) it is a home to Attleboro’s animals in need. The combination of animal behavior, disease control and noise control make building an Animal Shelter much different than a building we may see in an Industrial park, and definitely not comparable to the homes we reside in. Animal problems affect everyone, from the stray and abandoned to the neglected and abused. Attleboro’s animals need the basic amenities to keep them safe, healthy and mentally stimulated while they prepare for their next step in life. The new shelter will allow us to provide the environment that promotes and protects the health and well-being of the animals in our care. Each council member has the chance to make a difference. I and many others who attended last night urge the Council to vote yes and approve the bond for the new Shelter on January 22nd and make that choice to make a difference!
paul January 16, 2013 at 04:43 PM
You got that right Joyce! That formula would work for firestations as well as school roofs. This shelter when done will be a wicked nice dog hotel/condo and it will end up costing over 2 million. The people that are going to complain about higher taxes are the ones that were standing up last night.
Amy January 16, 2013 at 05:00 PM
It was probably very helpful that they put other projects with school projects The school is very good with stacking meetings. Too bad it's not a ballott question: Attleboro Mayor Kevin Dumas wants the city to seek loans of $1.116 million to construct a new animal shelter and $3.55 million to upgrade Attleboro High School's athletic complex. Anyway, I hope the puppies and kitties enjoy thier multi million dolloar digs.
TJ January 16, 2013 at 05:13 PM
Paul, this is where I must comment on what you just said. The fact you mentioned it will be a dog hotel/condo, tells me that you really haven’t looked at the plans and have not been involved in the process. As a tax payer, you have every right to wonder about the costs and whether or not it will increase your taxes. The plan for the shelter is actually not something that is 'state of the art' or over the top. If you do a quick search on other towns/cities in the area that have recently built or will be building a new shelter, the 1 million dollar cost is actually on the lower end - and the cost per sq ft is right around what the others have cost. You may not agree with it, but the standards of animal care has changed (for the better). In order for the volunteers and ACO officers to give the best care and get the animals adopted, the shelter needs to have a HVAC system that separates the quarantined animals with healthy animals that will prevent the spread of airborne diseases, the individual kennels need to be sanitary and made from flooring and walls that will not harbor diseases and are easily cleaned, sealed off quarantine areas that are for animals needing treatment, the proper storage, room for families to meet and greet animals (now they do it outside regardless of weather), and room for the staff to hold meetings and trainings. Also, the council mentioned that there would be no increase in debt since there is debt coming off of the books this year.
TJ January 16, 2013 at 05:44 PM
Amy, actually the meeting turnaround was not because of the school 'stacking' the meeting. There were over 100 Attleboro residents who attended the meeting who were there to support the shelter. They even had their name called and stood up in support for the animal shelter. So, it wasn’t a 'stacked' meeting because of the school also had a project on the docket. That is what the town council meetings are for - it is an arena for residents to express their opinions about the projects or issues for that meeting. I only saw one person (Steve) speak up in the meeting regarding the costs of the new shelter. I respect that and wish more people would be involved like that instead of sitting behind a keyboard and posting. If you feel strongly about something, then that is the forum to express your opinions and have your voice be truly heard and where you can learn about what actually went on.
TJ January 16, 2013 at 05:46 PM
*turnout - not turnaround in my last post
Amy January 16, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Thank you for the advice TJ. Are you behind a keyboard posting now?
TJ January 16, 2013 at 05:48 PM
Yes, I am, but I was actually there attending the town council meeting voicing my opinion. I am posting because I saw some posts that were untrue and wanted to clarify them.
Amy January 16, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Were the posts untrue or did you just disagree with them? Again for the 100th time. No one has disagreed that an animal shelter is needed. It's just the cost at least for me. So like I said, enjoy your new digs.
TJ January 16, 2013 at 05:58 PM
No Amy, your post was completely untrue regarding the fact that the school project is what stacked the meeting last night. The truth is, most of the people who were there, were people who supported the shelter and had nothing to do with the school project. That is what I am commenting on as being false. I completely understand the fact that everyone's post is regarding the cost of the shelter and not the need. I have never said that. My other post even stated that as a tax payer you have every right to question the cost of any city project. I just wanted to point out that it is not some animal resort that was posted earlier. I wanted to present some examples of what is needed and what goes into a shelter that could drive up costs.
James January 16, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Yes a new shelter is needed but what is not needed is all the extra space they are asking for. So what if you have to go outside to see a dog/cat for possible adoption. When you get a dog you have to take it outside for exercise don't you? Also, you keep saying that this is their "temporary" home. Well from what I have seen some of these dogs are kept there for more than a year??? And what about the dogs that you say are up for adoption then when a person goes to look at it they are told that the animal is not quite ready yet. Perfect example is that Moby Richard that was in a recent article, where is he right now?? At a facility in Middleboro for more work on his "manners". Tell me this, how much does it cost the taxpayers to house one of these dogs per day? I am so sick and tired of reading month after month or better about a particular dog that has been waiting for it's forever home. It appears that it already is at it forever home right there at the shelter. You ask for all these special rooms for these special needs animals - stop spending our money on them and we won't have to have such a huge facility. I'm told that taxes won't be going up - well they won't be going down either. If we didn't borrow over 1 million dollars I'm sure that we would see some decrease in our taxes. So don't try and justify the loan!
mark January 16, 2013 at 09:09 PM
Part of the problem is that a public forum down at town hall isn't the most comfortable place to speak up against something. I think this is something that should be on the ballots. I would tend to think if it was, a majority of the residents would vote to cut the costs.
Gretchen Robinson January 16, 2013 at 09:26 PM
mark, were you there last night? or any of the nights when the animal shelter project was open for public comment? No, I thought not. It would have been perfectly appropriate for anyone to speak against the proposal. Someone spoke against the water treatment upgrade. The meeting was run well and proponents of the animal shelter were encouraged to observe proper decorum. Frank Cook runs a tight ship and Councilors listen with respect and so do attendees. This is "not your father's City" council!!! People voice their views. I have on other occasions voiced dissenting views and had my opinions respected. To suggest that opponents were too cowed to speak their mind is a misrepresentation of reality.
mark January 16, 2013 at 11:57 PM
Gretchen, I don't have much time on my hands here; what I was trying to say is that not everyone is comfortable bringing a grievance to such a formal setting. I'm not very politically involved; I don't watch or attend meetings and am not informed as to when things are discussed.. Other things in life have a higher priority and I often lack spare time. But I still do have an opinion about how tax money is spent. I wish voting was an appropriate way to communicate that opinion!
mark January 16, 2013 at 11:59 PM
I do appreciate you egging me on and encouraging me to get down there. Perhaps sometime in the near future...
paul January 17, 2013 at 12:12 AM
Mark, you are right and most people agree with you. Some of the animal fanatics on this thread think it's stupid to question a price tag that's well over one million and going up as we comment, shame on them! They all say poor Rover has been waiting for new digs since Bill Clinton was in office. If the price was 100 million bucks and Curt Schilling was asking for it, all you animal loving suckers would anti up.
Gretchen Robinson January 17, 2013 at 12:19 AM
I think these days, people feel very free to call and express opinions with their City Councilor. So maybe call and discuss issues privately. People even call the mayor. I haven't done a lot of either but I called Rick Conti once with something I disagreed with him on. I kept it civil and he was glad of that. You never know when the City Councilor or other leader that you disagree with this time, might be someone you agree with nex. I'm not involved in City issues much at all but I have issues that I follow and work towards. Things that are important to me, like the environment and supporting the Library. Hang in there, we're all trying how to learn how to use this medium (emails, PATCH, Facebook) and learn how to have constructive discussions. Alas, too many of us, myself included, take sides and go on the attack. I think everyone has areas of expertise they might add to discussions. What I don't like is those who are just negative. But that's the way the medium is, in some ways. Be well. Be encouraged. We can all learn more about how to improve this City we all love.
Gretchen Robinson January 17, 2013 at 12:21 AM
mark, wanted to add that it takes a lot of us a long time to find our voice in public: letters to the editor, speaking at a hearing. It's a process so I'd encourage everyone to push the envelope a bit.
Gretchen Robinson January 17, 2013 at 01:14 AM
your photos are stunning and creative. If you make an offer and one group doesn't follow up with you, go elsewhere. I agree high quality photos make a real difference and I have had conversations with shelter volunteers elsewhere about just that. Try, try again.
Dolly January 22, 2013 at 11:51 PM
There is $800,000. of debt service being retired this year. That's a loan of more than $10,000,000. These three projects if bonded for 12 years will total approximately less than $700,000. in debt service at current rates. However, rates may change within the time it takes to go to bond. Still, it's predicted that it will not be as high as the debt being retired. No increase in taxes due to THESE three projects. Taxes will always go up within the prop 2 1/2 % allowed.
Gretchen Robinson January 23, 2013 at 02:41 AM
that's an important point, Dolly. It came out during the hearing last Thursday and I think was mentioned in the newspaper but it bears repeating here.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »