2008-01-24 / News

Paws for a Cause

By Barbara Szepatowski

Last Wednesday, Jan. 16, seven teens and 25 adults attended the first meeting of 2008, to build an animal shelter for Jamestown. With an additional 11 people e-mailing their interest, the animals have 50 solid workers ready to finally bring a muchneeded and much-discussed project to fruition.

For some time, Jamestown has not had a shelter for 24-hour care and keeping of animals. The town maintains a seasonal kennel behind the old "Town Offices" at 44 Southwest Ave. However, animals requiring quarantine or holding later than 8 p.m., must be transported to the North Kingstown Animal Shelter, or to the Potter League in Middletown. Often space was lacking at these shelters. In 2000, the staff of Paws and Claws began assisting the town by caring for animals whose owners were identifiable, were up-to-date on all vaccines, and who were only nuisance or leash law violators. This has continued to the present.

Weekly, at least one animal, usually a cat, is picked up as a stray. Finding their owners has been difficult. Most cats don't wear collars and tags as required by state law, and are not microchipped. Often, they are in need of medical attention from a wound, bad teeth, or being hit by a car. Thanks to the Paws and Claws Pet Fund and the Jamestown Humane Society, 96 percent of the domesticated animals found received medical care. The remaining either died due to injuries or were too sick to treat. Since 2000, over 500 healthy and unwanted Jamestown pets have found new homes due to the efforts of the Town's Animal Control Officer, Paws and Claws and the Jamestown Humane Society.

In late 2004, a group of animal lovers approached the town about using the garage located adjacent to the seasonal kennel at 44 Southwest Ave. for an animal shelter. After numerous meetings with the town and interested volunteers, the Jamestown Town Council approved the use of the building.

Unfortunately, the teens were in a similar position. As a result, the garage at 44 Southwest Ave. was considered as a potential site for a teen center. By the time the town decided that building would not work, the property was chosen as the future site for Jamestown's Affordable Housing Project.

It's 2008, and Jamestown's pets still have no island site to be housed if they are lost, abandoned, or in need of quarantine. As Pearl Gonzales, the Potter League's kennel manager recently said, "It's ridiculous for Jamestown to be spending an hour making a round trip to bring an animal to us. Jamestown needs their own shelter."

No area of the town exists where an animal shelter is allowed under zoning regulations. Additionally, there is no vacant site owned by the town awaiting this use. Animal shelters are often associated with barking dogs. The logistics of finding a town-owned site, located in an area where the sound of a barking dog will not incite constant complaints is difficult. At the meeting held on Jan. 16, a few possibilities were discussed. One in particular looks promising and is being discussed with town officials. This site houses a beautiful brick building, which may or may not be used for town storage. It is located in an area where barking dogs would not offend anyone.

"Early on" and quick conversation have occurred with both Numi Mitchell, who heads the coyote program; and Christopher Powell of the osprey study to incorporate and house both of those projects in the same building. This would provide a "Nature Center" dedicated to education and respect for all animals. A presentation requesting the use of this site is planned for the Jamestown Town Council on Feb. 25.

There are many hurdles to bring this project from a dream to reality. Thanks to the generosity of attorney Emily Chamberlain, a non-profit corporation is being incorporated for the animal shelter. Applications are being accepted for the Board of Directors.

Fund-raising is a must for this project. To that end, a meeting with the Rhode Island Foundation is set for Feb. 2008, a yard sale is planned for May 2008, and the first "Black-tie Doggie Ball" will occur in July 2008. The town's fi- nance director, Christina Collins, has also set up two accounts to accept tax-deductible donations for either the care of stray and abandoned animals, or for construction of the animal shelter.

If you are interested in being part of this project, either as a member of the Board of Directors, or as a volunteer please call 354-9200, or e-mail us at RIpawsclaws@aol.com. The next meeting will be held at the Jamestown library, at 7 p.m., on Feb. 6.

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