The Recorder – Dakin unlikely to reopen animal sanctuary in Leverett

LEVERETT – A shelter for unwanted and homeless pets established on Montague Road in 1995, creating a small campus for the adoption of dogs, cats and other small animals, is currently closed and the site may not reopen .

The Dakin Humane Society of Springfield, owner of the building and property that began as Dakin Animal Shelter, is in the process of determining the future of its location in Franklin County, although at this time it has intend to keep the site vacant as the area emerges. of the pandemic.

“We have a multitude of programs and services, many of which require a medical component that the Leverett Building does not have the space or construction to provide,” Dakin spokeswoman Lee Chambers wrote in an email. -mail.

Dakin’s board explained in a May letter that the pandemic has led to changes in its service in the region.

“Due to the significant impact of the pandemic on the normal course of business for virtually all organizations, our Dakin management has implemented the closure of our Leverett, Massachusetts plant,” the letter reads.

The letter goes on to further explain these circumstances:

“We would like our stakeholders to know that Dakin is in the process of identifying opportunities for building reuse or repurposing that meet community needs. If we are unable to identify a new use for the building within these parameters, we will consider renting or selling the property to another party, including an animal care or related business.

Chambers said Dakin is seeking community input to determine what Franklin County needs to better serve its pets and residents. Feedback can be provided to [email protected]

The organization was founded in 1982 as Friends of Amherst’s Stray Animals by Janet Wilder Dakin.

For many years there was no place to protect stray dogs and cats, prompting Dakin to gather women around his kitchen table, fearing that abandoned dogs would spend a maximum of 10 days under the city ​​guard to be euthanized.

Dakin died in 1994, just as the organization purchased the Leverett Kennel that would become his refuge.

In 2006, Dakin Animal Shelter and the Pioneer Valley Humane Society merged, and in 2009 the organization expanded its reach throughout the Pioneer Valley by purchasing the Springfield building owned by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as MSPCA. out of western Massachusetts in March.

At the same time, growth in Springfield meant closing a sanctuary Dakin operated in Greenfield, but also services to more animals.

Leverett Select board chairman Tom Hankinson said many residents were disappointed with the decision that led to the shelter’s closure, in part because they were thrilled Dakin was a part of the community. Many locals, he said, would like to see Dakin return.

“Dakin’s prolonged closure has sparked a collective sense of sadness at the loss of an effective community animal welfare organization,” Hankinson said. “Not everyone in Leverett could tell you where the Leverett Security Complex is, or why the Bradford Field Building is also called the Field Family Museum and the Old Library, but they all know Dakin was a center for all kinds of animal welfare.”

Although the property is vacant, Hankinson said there are no concerns from a municipal perspective about the future of the building, although some people have begun to consider whether there could be adaptive reuse of property for municipal purposes. But there have been no formal talks and no contact from Dakin yet, he said.

With the Leverett site closed, Chambers said Franklin County residents are encouraged to adopt rescue pets from a shelter of their choice, though Dakin continues to be a preferred option.

“Our recent research and experiences have shown us that New Englanders typically travel about an hour to conduct adoptions, and our Springfield facility serves many Franklin County residents,” Chambers said.

Dakin also promoted a foster network, considered both good practice and more humane, as the preferred way to bring dogs and cats to families, reducing the need for adoption space, with 64% animals that Dakin received in 2021 placed in foster care. .

Chambers said Dakin was not giving up on the upper Pioneer Valley. “Our ties to Franklin County remain strong,” she said, and the letter also notes that “the Leverett facility represents an important part of our history.”

In late July, Dakin worked with the Franklin County Animal Control Officer to foster more than 70 cats from a Franklin County home and continues to partner with county organizations through his program to pet food aid to help people who are having difficulty keeping pets. fed.