Kennels are stored in a retrofitted box trailer that has served as a temporary, state-licensed animal shelter in Litchfield. At the urging of residents, though, the town has dropped that arrangement in favor of a new contract with Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

LITCHFIELD — The town has approved a $6,275 annual contract with the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta, capping off months of discussion that led Town Meeting voters to force the arrangement instead of using a retrofitted box trailer.

Kennebec Valley Humane Society Executive Director Hillary Roberts said she has been with the shelter for 13 years, and this is the first time a town’s residents have petitioned to have the opportunity to contract with the nonprofit.

“Occasionally some of our towns will choose to go with another town, and our neighbor shelters are wonderful, so that’s always something that we’re fine with,” she said, “but we haven’t had a situation quite like this before.”

Town officials have defended the C&J Animal Shelter, which used the trailer to temporarily house stray animals and did not accept surrenders. C&J owner John Alexander loves and cares for animals, town officials have said, and nearly all lost animals located were brought home to their owners within the same day.

Some residents raised concerns about the arrangement but discovered that the Town Meeting warrant would not include an option contract with the humane society and would only allow residents to vote on continuing to go with C&J. Residents then circulated a petition that received 224 signatures, going well above the required 173, getting the question on the Town Meeting warrant, where it was approved.

Litchfield Town Manager Kelly Weissenfels said the shelter was the longest discussion item during the town’s annual meeting before its passage. Selectmen then approved the contract with the humane society on Monday and it went into effect Friday and lasts through June 30, 2023. The humane society is basing its $1.75 per capita rate — working out to about $1,568 per quarter — on the town’s population of 3,586, according to the 2020 census numbers. Weissenfels said the town has budgeted for the expense.


The contract states that the facility will shelter any stray, abandoned, or confiscated cats, dogs, or other domesticated animals from the town at no charge to the town for up to 60 days. After 30 days, the town is required to report to the court and request that the possession order be dissolved or that a public hearing is set within 30 days.

After 60 days, the town will be charged $8 per day for each dog and $4 per day for each cat, but if the court makes the owner cover the cost of animal care, then their payment will go toward those room and board fees.

The contract also requires a $25 vaccine fee to pet owners on day one, unless the animal has a known owner and is able to pick up their pet the same day. In an email to the town, Roberts said they have never refused to return a pet to an owner if they were unable to make this payment.

The contract also states that in certain cases in which an animal is staying for a prolonged period of time — such as when there’s a court proceeding involved or if the animal is deemed dangerous or needs to be quarantined — the shelter will charge the town $8 per day after 60 days for each dog and $4 per day after 60 days for each cat.

An artist’s rendering shows the proposed new Kennebec Valley Humane Society facility on Leighton Road in Augusta. Photo courtesy of Peter Bethanis

“It was helpful to gain a better understanding of the KVHS intake process,” said Weissenfels, “as it will incur a fee, but the work is necessary to protect the animals at the shelter. Many towns have an additional fee added on top of the shelter costs. Litchfield has operated without a ‘lost dog’ fee for two years and will not be adding one to the KVHS bill this year.”

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.

Looking ahead, Roberts said that if the C&J Animal Shelter were to expand operations to a brick-and-mortar facility, the humane society would be happy to provide support and guidance along the way.

Litchfield began contracting with the C&J Animal Shelter in 2021, but prior to that they contracted with the Kennebec Valley Humane Society. Roberts said the town’s decision to return to the humane society will provide a safety net for animals within the community.

“We have appropriate housing, we have skilled and trained staff that are on our site 365 days a year taking care of animals,” she said. “So I think the most important thing pet owners can take away from this situation in Litchfield is that that safety net has been restored for their animals.”

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