Taking care of stray and lost animals just got easier
Benji, a 6-year-old beagle, used to live in Jamestown. But for the past month or so, his mail has been forwarded to 395 Hamilton Allenton Road in North Kingstown. That’s the address of the North Kingstown Animal Shelter, off Route 1A, where the staff is working to find him a new home.
Stray dogs picked up in Jamestown have been landing in the North Kingstown shelter for the last three years, thanks to an informal agreement between the two communities, according to Barbara Szepatowski, a Jamestown resident who is also a member of the Friends of the Animal Shelter.
That’s because Jamestown hasn’t had an animal-control offi cer or a shelter. Meanwhile, Szepatowski and the Jamestown police have been picking up strays. Szepatowski has even boarded some pets at her house until the owners claimed them or until the animals could be transported to the North Kingstown shelter.
Last week, the Town Council voted to “formalize” the arrangement with North Kingstown. Under the new pact, Jamestown will pay $3,000 annually for the North Kingstown animal-control services and for use of the shelter. One of the main reasons Jamestown made the agreement – along with proximity – is that animals are safe in North Kingstown.
“I want to stress that we’re a nokill shelter,” said Holly Duffany, who, along with Erin Noblet, are North Kingstown’s animal-control officers. She said that Jamestowners shouldn’t be afraid to call or worry that a pet or stray will be put down if the animal-control officer responds. Duffany said volunteers work hard to give animals a second chance at a happy life.
As for Benji, the dog won’t be put to sleep, even if it takes a long time to find the right person to adopt him.
Meanwhile, people looking for a pet can find his picture and story on Petfinder and on Facebook, indexed under “Friends of the North Kingstown Animal Shelter.”
When Benji goes out for a walk, he’s suited up in a vest that says “Adopt me.” The friends pay for all of his medical expenses and provide training, so the dog is easier to adopt.
Szepatowski said she has been “pushing” Jamestown officials to strike a formal deal with North Kingstown. Over the past few weeks, her idea had won support from Police Chief Ed Mello and ultimately from the majority of the councilors.
“Finally,” Szepatowski said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
She has wanted the town to collaborate with the North Kingstown shelter because of the location “five minutes away” and because of its successful track record finding new homes for unwanted animals.
“They are as close to being a nokill shelter as any in the state of Rhode Island,” Szepatowski said.
She said the shelter has saved all but a few animals. Pets that have been seriously injured in a car accident, for example, may have been put to sleep – but only as a last resort. The Friends of the North Kingstown Animal Shelter works with veterinary hospitals if an animal has been injured and needs medical care.
Per state law, Mello said, owners have five days to claim a pet, but then the animal’s fate is in the hands of town officials. The stray cats and dogs can be put up for adoption if the community is willing to pay for their board until a new owner is found. But the pets could also be euthanized.
Szepatowski said the Friends of the North Kingstown Animal Shelter often have a new home lined up for a pet before the five days run out.
“People are just waiting,” she said. “They do take such good care. It’s such a nice, nice shelter.”
Mello said the Friends of the North Kingstown Animal Shelter have the experience to evaluate the animal and find it a good home. The town of North Kingstown owns the shelter, but once an animal has been admitted, the friends step in and deal with the pet’s care.
Before the new agreement, the town of Jamestown would take financial responsibility for the animal for some six or seven days. “Then we have to decide,” said Mello. The town had been paying $24 a day to keep animals in the North Kingstown Animal Shelter. “I certainly realize we need to have an agreement in place beyond day five,” he said.
Szepatowski acknowledged “very few” Jamestown animals are at the shelter. This year she estimated one dog and about six cats – some strays and some that had been hit by a car – have gone to North Kingstown’s shelter.
That’s typical of the Jamestown intake, according to Andrea Czabok, the vice president of the friends and the shelter’s dog trainer. She has volunteered at the shelter for five years and remembers only about three Jamestown dogs.
“People in Jamestown are pretty good about their pets,” she said. But Czabok and Duffany speculate that more Jamestown strays might come to the shelter as islanders find out the service is available.
Islanders whose pets are lost or if they see a stray can call the shelter at 295-5579. The regular business hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, and from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. the rest of the week. After hours, islanders should call the Jamestown police, Duffany said.
Jamestowners can also call if they see an animal that could be rabid. The animal-control offi- cers said that they will respond to something such as a raccoon in a resident’s yard during in the daytime. For other injured wildlife, Duffany said that calls should go to the state Department of Environmental Management at 789- 0281.
The shelter has room for 30 cats and 17 dogs, but only two dogs and a few cats are currently being housed there.
Animals looking for a new family include Chloe, a 9-year-old spayed female cat. “She would be good for an elderly person,” Duffany said.
Also, Seamus, 8, a black cat, and Jack, 6, a white cat, are looking for homes. Both weigh about 25 pounds, Duffany said, describing them as “a little plush” but not fat cats.
Jack’s owner said he was moving and couldn’t take Jack along. Seamus has asthma and a minor heart condition. His owner surrendered him because her small child was teasing the cat.
Duke and Leo, both 2 and neutered, were strays. They’re both friendly cats and would be fine with any family, she said.
According to Duffany, Benji is friendly and healthy, but likes to ramble. He needs a house with a fenced-in backyard.
Cassie, 3, a purebred black Lab, needs a committed owner who will be “very dedicated to work with her.” Duffany said she should go to a home with no other animals or children. Czabok added that she has “come a long way” since arriving at the shelter.
Anyone who wants to adopt can call the shelter. The fee is just $5, but the Friends of the North Kingstown Animal Shelter will accept donations towards the animal’s care and medical expenses. The friends are a nonprofit organization and islanders are also welcome if they want to volunteer with the animals or help with fundraisers.