LITCHFIELD — Some residents urged town officials this week to rethink their approach to sheltering animals, saying the town should collaborate with the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta instead of continuing to contract with a small, local animal shelter.

The C&J Animal Shelter the town has contracted since last year, now uses an 8- by 12-foot, retrofitted box trailer body off Stevenstown Road to house animals temporarily.

Town Manager Kelly Weissenfels said the box trailer is insulated and appropriately ventilated, and C&J is considering building a 20- by 40-foot facility that could accommodate larger animals, including livestock.

Litchfield Animal Control Officer Cliff Daigle opens the door Wednesday to a retrofitted box trailer that serves as a temporary, state-licensed animal shelter. Some residents are urging the town to contract with the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Weissenfels said the town has a $3,800 contract to use the state-licensed shelter, with a roughly $2,000 contingency fund if veterinary care is needed or to cover euthanasia.

In a recent Facebook post, the town wrote the original goal of having a local shelter was to keep residents from having to travel to the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta to pick up lost pets and to minimize local costs.

Weissenfels said another major factor influencing the decision to contract with a local shelter was a state regulation requiring towns have an emergency shelter for animals in case there is a mass evacuation.

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The discussion about the town’s animal sheltering options came during a Monday night meeting to review municipal budget proposals, which will ultimately be voted on by residents at the annual town meeting in June.

Weissenfels said Litchfield has also held discussions with humane societies in the region. The Kennebec Valley Humane Society would provide these services to the town for $1.75 per capita and the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston for $1.40 per capita, he said.

Given Litchfield’s population of about 3,580, Weissenfels said it would save the town about $2,000 annually to continue contracting with the local shelter.

The Kennebec Valley Humane Society maintains what it describes as an outdated, 12,000-square-foot facility at 10 Pethaven Lane, off Western Avenue, in Augusta, but has plans to build a $6 million, 19,100-square-foot animal shelter on former farmland off Leighton Road.

The local shelter does not accept surrendered or unwanted animals, rehoming or situations in which an animal has excessive medical costs. Some surrenders may be accepted, however, if the owner qualifies for General Assistance.

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The local shelter also does not accept feral cats. The town, however, has a foster family for abandoned pet cats until new homes are found. It also assists owners with advertising animals for adoption.

Prior to contracting with the local shelter, Litchfield had contracted with the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta.

Stevanie Scott, director of operations at the Kennebec Valley Humane Society, said during the meeting Monday night that if Litchfield’s animal control officer were to bring an injured animal to the emergency clinic, the Humane Society would pay for it — if the town had contracted with the facility.

Kennels are stored Wednesday in a retrofitted box trailer that serves as a temporary, state-licensed animal shelter in Litchfield. Some residents are urging the town to contract with the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Resident Paul Fraser said the difference in cost of about $2,000 is more than worth the level of care animals would receive from the Humane Society.

“I think having a top-class facility is well worth the money,” Fraser said. “If you have an animal that’s picked up, it’s terrified. Throwing it into a box trailer body, perhaps with other animals — that is just devastating to the animal.”

Scott said the Kennebec Valley Humane Society staff is trained to review animals on intake and modify their behavior, depending on the animals’ needs. Staff members are also trained to perform minor medical procedures and can take animals to veterinarians.

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A retrofitted box trailer that currently serves as a temporary state-licensed animal shelter in Litchfield is seen on Wednesday. Some residents are urging the town to instead contract with the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta. A retrofitted box trailer serves as a temporary state-licensed animal shelter in Litchfield. Some residents are urging the town to instead contract with the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

She said going with a local shelter that does not accept surrenders is a step in the wrong direction.

“I think it’s really moving backwards in society by not allowing these animals to get the correct care they need, to kind of leave owners responsible for their animals,” Scott said. “While I totally understand that concept, and I think you guys have a lot of heart when you say that, there are always things that happen.”

Scott said there are situations in which even the most caring and responsible pet owners have to surrender a pet, such as after losing a job.

Colette Bonte, a Litchfield resident and veterinarian, raised several points in favor of going with the Humane Society. She said the level of service it can provide is much higher than the difference in price, which may be even lower than projected because a Humane Society contract would cover services through contingency money. And depending on where a resident is located, Bonte said it might be a shorter drive to the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta than to the C&J Animal Shelter on Stevenstown Road.

Bonte asked how the town would deal with a situation where numerous animals are removed from a hoarder’s house or property, or how they would quarantine a sick dog in the box trailer to prevent an outbreak.

Weissenfels said the questions were good but pertained to unlikely scenarios the town had not considered. He said Tuesday that the town would take these concerns into consideration as it works on the budget in preparation for the annual town meeting.

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