Regional animal shelter proves doggone difficult

It shouldn’t be this doggone difficult.

Several towns in the region are in need of improved animal shelters. Building a single new shelter to meet regional needs would be the most economical approach. It could potentially lead to the sharing of staff and coordination among animal control officers in participating towns.

While there would be some additional travel, both for staff and for the public, the reality is that this area is not that big. No one would have to travel great distances.

Yet this seemingly low-hanging fruit in providing regional solutions has eluded local officials for years.

Back in 2006 and 2007 it was the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments trying to pull off a regional shelter. It had an interested partner in the Connecticut Humane Society, which was looking into the construction of a regional animal shelter on property it owns in the Quaker Hill section of Waterford, site of a small facility for abandoned pets.

But despite much talk and some planning, nothing came of the idea. A feasibility study provided by the Humane Society lacked detail and officials from the various towns lost interest. Norwich ended up renovating its shelter in Mohegan Park. The Town of Groton built a new animal shelter. Both had been participants in the discussion of the regional facility.

Fast forward several years and there was the discussion of building a regional animal shelter on the grounds of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Facility in Montville. East Lyme, Montville and Waterford were potential partners.

The plan had the added advantage of giving interested inmates the opportunity to work with and care for the animals, a positive experience for them that could have saved the towns money.

But some people expressed reservations about having to go on prison property to visit the shelter. Trying to coordinate planning with the Department of Correction and other state agencies, at a time when the entire state hierarchy was focused on finding spending cuts, proved problematic.

In time, local leaders dropped the idea.

But they are trying again, and should.

This time New London has joined the discussion with Waterford, East Lyme and Montville. The facility in Waterford shared by that town and East Lyme has reached a point where it may not be safe to house animals. East Lyme and Waterford are sheltering some dogs in the New London facility.

Officials in all four communities describe the latest discussions as preliminary. They have not settled on a location. They say they could build a new facility or rebuild, expand, or replace an existing one.

Residents in East Lyme and Waterford have been raising money to help in the construction or renovation of a new animal shelter. The donations stand at nearly $213,000. Leaders in those two towns must assure that the money is appropriately invested in any new facility that is built to serve the two communities and other towns.

None of these challenges should amount to insurmountable barriers. It is good to see local officials have not given up on the idea, but also frustrating that such a seemingly simple step in regional cooperation has dragged on so long.

Our local leaders need to make this a priority, while our state senators and representatives can work with them in tapping state incentives available to encourage regional initiatives.

Let’s do this!

 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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