NAUGATUCK — Tight budgets and a desire to provide better care for animals are spurring towns to explore creating regional animal shelters.
Naugatuck, Prospect, and Beacon Falls are among six towns in the Council of Governments of the Central Naugatuck Valley that want to study establishing a regional animal control facility.
The Naugatuck Valley COG soon will submit a grant application to the state Office of Policy and Management for money to conduct a feasibility study for a regional facility.
Middlebury, Oxford, and Southbury also would participate, according to the draft application. Wolcott is interested in participating, but would provide care for its animals at its refurbished shelter.
The grant would be for $27,000 to fund the study, said Peter Dorpalen, executive director of the COG.
Once the study is done, the COG would apply for funding to implement it, he said.
Dorpalen said the planning organization asked all 13 member towns to see what projects interested them. Six expressed interest in the regional facility, while others had no interest as they have adequate facilities, he said.
“This is the one thing they really homed in on,” Dorpalen said.
According to the draft application, some towns are facing a major capital expense to upgrade facilities. Others, including Prospect, do not have a shelter and use a private kennel for animals.
“For all, there is the need to reduce the cost of animal control by pooling resources to create a facility that jointly costs significantly less than individual town facilities,” the document states.
In Killingly, the Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments has operated a regional animal control facility since 2004, said John Filchak, the agency’s executive director. The six-town facility just passed the 3,000 mark for dogs adopted or redeemed, he said.
Daniel Morley, policy development coordinator with OPM, said OPM has not received any formal applications yet. The deadline is Dec. 31, and municipalities involved must adopt a resolution endorsing the proposals by Feb. 1.
Dorpalen said the study would include looking at one or possibly two shelters, management structure and location. Three options would be to use an existing shelter, an existing building or new construction for the facility, he said.
In Naugatuck, the police department now chiefly oversees the borough’s animal control program, including the animal shelter, situated by the water treatment plant on Cherry Street Extension.
Naugatuck Police Lt. Robert Harrison, department spokesman, said the police department likes to keep its options open. This year’s budget for animal control is $71,384. The department has a full-time patrol officer who oversees the day-to-day operations of animal control along with four assistants.
“We are always open to new ideas and suggestions,” Harrison said. “With this feasibility study, we would be interested in evaluating ways to either save money or combine services for the betterment of the community.”
Beacon Falls Animal Control Officer Patrick Dionne said whether animal control regionalization could work in Beacon Falls would depend on the yearly fee.
“It comes down to what the bottom dollar’s going to be,” Dionne said.
Currently, Dionne brings stray dogs to an animal kennel in Bethlehem, where staff there assists in finding homes for the animals if owners don’t claim them.
He said the town takes in under 20 dogs per year and pays about $20 per day per dog to keep them in the kennel. If the pup’s owner claims the dog, they are responsible for the boarding fee.
Prospect currently uses a private kennel, Prospect Boarding and Grooming, to house its dogs, but Mayor Robert Chatfield said he would like to see a more permanent solution.
“I want to keep my own animal control officer, but I’m looking for a place for the animals,” Chatfield said.
Prospect was formerly part of a regional animal control group with Bethany, Orange, and Woodbridge, but the Town Council voted to leave the regional group after what Chatfield described as “a lot of politics.”
Chatfield said Prospect was spending over $50,000 a year on animal control as part of the group. Now, the town spends $20,000 to $25,000, Chatfield said. This year, Prospect has about $5,000 allotted in the budget for the maintenance and care of dogs.
After leaving the regional group, which had a kennel 12 miles down Route 69, near the New Haven-Woodbridge line, Prospect’s errant dogs bounced around to Naugatuck, then Waterbury, then several private veterinarians.
“When I heard of this chance for a regional thing, I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread,” Chatfield said.
Prospect police Officer Noreo Gabriel doubles as the animal control officer for the town. He estimated that he catches about 30 dogs per year. And felt sharing a facility with other towns could be less expensive, especially if they didn’t have to build a new facility.
“It’s worth looking in to, especially if they have a facility and we’re all able to bring the dogs to the facility,” Gabrial said.
Laraine Weschler contributed to this article.