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Pittsfield to Contract With Berkshire Humane For Animal Sheltering
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
01:09AM / Friday, November 02, 2018
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Humane Society will take over the city's animal sheltering operations for the next three years. 
The city has accepted a proposal to have the Humane Society take over responsibilities for stray animals picked up by animal control. The plan is to have animals transported the society's Barker Road facilty for care during the required seven-day holding period.
With more accessible hours, the hope is it will be easier for residents to retrieve their pets. If unclaimed, the Humane Society would then attempt to find someone to adopt the animal.
The contract is expected to be signed in the next few weeks and operations could start as early as next month. The three-year contract will put an end to uncertainty about the animal control operation after the city abruptly pulled its contract from the Friends of Eleanor Sonsini earlier this spring and forced the non-profit to move out of the city-owned shelter in the Downing Industrial Park.
Animal Control Officer Joseph Chague took over operations and cared for the strays at the Pittsfield Municipal Shelter throughout the summer. The city attempted to get volunteers and hired a part-time animal control officer to bolster those efforts. But the part-time officer soon resigned and there were few clamoring for the job.
"There were no problems, the animals were always cared for and I am so grateful to the volunteers who stepped up. But it is just a one-man show and there are challenges presented with that,"  Mayor Linda Tyer said. "We did the best we could, we took care of the animals. This is just a much better way for Joe to handle his responsibilities around the city, which are not just about dogs."
Tyer said the concept was always to develop a long-term plan for the care of strays. After struggles in trying to manage the shelter on its own, the mayor said an internal team suggested issuing a request for proposals to see the options.
"When we started to transition from the prior operator, we made it clear that our animal control officer would manage the day-to-day operations of our shelter on a temporary basis while we developed a long-term plan," said Mayor Linda Tyer. 
The contract is for $52,000 a year, which is just about the same as the city's prior contract with Eleanor Sonsini. The operation will primarily run out of the Humane Society's existing facility on Barker Road and the city's shelter will be used on an emergency basis or as an isolation facility. 
"Our state-of-the-art facility is recognized in Pittsfield and is easy to find with simple directions. We are also one of the few licensed quarantined organizations in Western Massachusetts. We would be available to the general public seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and on Thursday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.," reads the proposal. 
"The Police Department would be given a key that would operate a door that would lead directly into a kennel room where there would be two kennels available to them after hours."
The accessibility for residents to claim their pets is one particular benefit because now residents are asked to claim dogs by appointment by contacting Chague. Tyer added that for animals not claimed, Berkshire Humane already handles the adoption process and the plan is to give them the ability to issue dog licenses as well, streamlining that process even more.
"I think in many, many ways, having this situated at Berkshire Humane Society is going to be a benefit. As we all know, the shelter that we own is in poor condition," Tyer said. 
The Humane Society's proposal was recommended for acceptance by a three-member team consisting of Chague, City Clerk Michele Benjamin, and Purchasing Agent Colleen Hunter-Mullet. 
"They opened the bid, went through the evaluation criteria, ranked it as highly advantageous, which is about the best score you can get," Tyer said.
Berkshire Humane said while it hadn't had a housing contract with a city or town in the past, it is very familiar with local cities and towns regarding animal issues. The organization has been receiving stray dogs from several municipalities, following the required holding period, to handle adoptions.
"We also are available to help all of our local ACOs in an emergency. Joe Chague has been calling us for assistance for many years. We have a great working relationship with Joe; we work well together and have done so on numerous occasions," the proposal reads. 
The contract signals an end a dramatic breakup after more than a dozen years with Sonsini, which has found a new home on Crane Avenue, filled with lawsuits and accusations. Those involved have all voiced a desire to move past the situation. And Tyer still won't discuss why the city opted to end the contract in the first place.
"We really refrained from talking in detail about our decision to end that contract and I'm going to stand by that. It was a decision that we needed to make and I stand by the decision," Tyer said, later adding, "I know not everyone supported my decision but that is the name of the game here."
Hunter-Mullet said she is targeting late November for the transition to the Humane Society to take place, though that timeline could change. 
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