Towns will have to weigh pros, cons of regional animal shelter

The Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments is studying the feasibility of a regional animal control shelter for area towns, including Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, and Prospect, which leaves the fate of the Naugatuck animal control shelter, above, to be determined. –FILE PHOTO

As the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments prepares to study the merits of a regional animal control facility, the decision to do so will ultimately be made on whether the plan makes sense for each town.

The COG received a $44,500 grant from the state this month to study the feasibility of creating a regional animal control facility for area municipalities. Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, and Prospect are among the towns participating in the study.

Naugatuck already has an animal shelter on Cherry Street, but it is need of upgrades, Mayor Robert Mezzo said.

Currently the borough has no permanent animal control officer, and the police department oversees animal control duties.

“We clearly have needs regarding animal control,” Mezzo said.

Mezzo felt that the study was important to see if the borough would actually realize any financial benefits from becoming regionalized.

“They key is with regionalization is, is it going to save the borough money,” Mezzo said. “Regionalization for the sake of becoming a region is not a good reason. There has to be a reduced cost for everyone involved.”

In both Beacon Falls and Prospect, there is currently no animal control facility.

Beacon Falls First Selectman Gerard Smith said he heard conflicting stories about whether regionalization will be good for his town.

“I decided to have Beacon Falls participate in the study so I could get the information from professionals,” Smith said. “The pros and cons will let us know if it is a feasible option.”

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said the town is currently using veterinarians in town to house animals.

“I don’t have a dog pound anymore because it didn’t meet state regulations,” Chatfield said.

He explained that the state regulations are very strict and it is expensive for a town to run an animal control facility.

“We have to take care of these dogs, which 99 percent of are pets, seven days a week, holidays and all hours of the day,” Chatfield said.

Chatfield felt that regionalizing certain services was beneficial to the town, pointing to being part of a regionalized school district as an example.

He explained that, if regionalization worked for the Naugatuck Valley towns, the towns would each pay towards the cost of all the animals housed there.

“I have no idea what its going to cost per puppy. We will have to pay a proportionate fee,” Chatfield said. “Whether it is cost effective or not, we still have to have a pound for our dogs.”

Peter Dorpalen, executive director of the COG, explained that the study will take about half a year once they are ready to begin.

“We anticipate it will be a six-month study, but prior to that we will be putting together a committee and sending out a request for proposals for consultants,” Dorpalen said.

He said the study would look at the possibility of using an existing animal shelter, repurposing an old building, or purchasing land and building a new animal shelter.

Dorpalen explained that, once the study was complete, the towns would choose the next step for themselves.

“Each town will have to deicide whether it makes sense for them to proceed with the building of a regional shelter,” Dorpalen said.

He went on to explain that the towns who did decide to participate in the regional animal control facility would still be responsible for their own animal control, but would have a larger facility to shelter the animals before they were returned to their owners or adopted out. The regional animal shelter would give the towns more opportunities to care for and house the animals.

“It’s becoming increasingly expensive for towns to do it on their own because of state requirements,” Dorpalen said.