Regional dog shelter eyes new facility in Erving

The outdoor play area at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter in Turners Falls.

The outdoor play area at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Indoor kennels at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter in Turners Falls.

Indoor kennels at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter at 10 Sandy Lane in Turners Falls used to be a Department of Public Works building.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter at 10 Sandy Lane in Turners Falls used to be a Department of Public Works building. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Outdoor kennels at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter in Turners Falls.

Outdoor kennels at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 10-03-2023 5:29 PM

ERVING — The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter could potentially find a new home next to the Police Station on Route 2, per preliminary Selectboard discussions this week.

According to Trish Howells, who serves on the Friends of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter’s board of directors, the Sheriff’s Office began conversations about a new dog shelter around eight years ago. However, for reasons unclear to Howells, talks stalled. Circumstances remain the same, though, with the current shelter at 10 Sandy Lane in Turners Falls being in a state of “general disrepair.”

Howells has expressed a desire to have a new facility built next to a public safety complex since revamping her advocacy last November, when she suggested to the Montague Selectboard that a 15.6-acre parcel next to the Montague Public Safety Complex on Turnpike Road might be a suitable location.

Erving’s conversation, which came in response to a letter of interest submitted by the shelter in January, was delayed until now due to the town’s “busy schedule” this year, Town Planner Mariah Kurtz told the Selectboard on Monday. Kurtz explained that the parcel the Erving Police Station resides on would need to be divided into two parts and advertised to the public via a request for proposals (RFP) process for the dog shelter to come to fruition.

According to a letter the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dog Shelter’s board of directors sent to the Erving Selectboard on Jan. 31, the current 2,000-square-foot dog shelter had been a Department of Public Works building before being converted into what was intended to be a temporary dog shelter in 2012. The building, which has the capacity to hold eight dogs, “is now severely inadequate due to structural issues, roofing and insulation problems, poor layout, limited capacity and industrial park expansion,” the letter explains.

“You can see the building is just not suitable for a shelter,” Howells said at the shelter on Tuesday, stressing that it is “bursting at the seams.”

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Howells said the board of directors remains “very interested” in the 6.2-acre parcel at 71 French King Highway (Route 2), especially with Montague’s Turnpike Road parcel having recently been subject to controversy surrounding its proposed rezoning. Zoning for the Erving property allows commercial kennels by special permit and most municipal uses by right, according to Kurtz. Kurtz and Howells each said the location would be favorable for a new shelter due to its accessibility via the state route and its relative proximity to the geographical center of Franklin County.

Howells added that having a shelter close to a public safety complex would be a rational transition, given unfortunate trends in shelter intakes. She previously explained that pick-up of stray or abandoned dogs by animal control and police has increased in recent years to make up 60% of total shelter intakes. Additionally, police cases involving animal cruelty, dog attacks and related incidents have increased to make up 15% of shelter intakes.

According to the board of directors, the shelter’s ideal relocation would involve the construction of a 10,000-square-foot facility upon roughly 4 acres of land. The shelter would be “a reasonable distance from residential or other areas where neighbors might be bothered by barking.” It would also include an indoor area for visitors to meet dogs, an event space and enough open outdoor space for the dogs to exercise.

“We firmly believe in dogs not being indoors all the time,” Howells said. “It’s good for their mental health as well as their physical health.”

The Selectboard and Kurtz each expressed support for the idea, with the latter opining in her letter that having a shelter in the area could be “a benefit to Erving as well as our county as a whole.”

Kurtz outlined a series of steps the town would need to take before allowing such a development, including the surveying of a road layout extending from the existing driveway and the division of the property either through an Approval Not Required (ANR) process or by accepting a road layout and subdivision plan.

“The property would be divided in a way to ensure the Police Department parcel remains large enough that it could be expanded in the future if needed,” Kurtz noted in her letter.

Sunderland’s Daniel Salls Land Surveying has submitted a proposal to survey the property. Selectboard member Scott Bastarache expressed a desire to review this proposal prior to making any movement on altering the parcel.

“For a lot of reasons, I think [the dog shelter is] a good fit, so I’m in support of it going forward, but as far as officially approving any sort of proposal without the second proposal, we can’t in good conscience do that,” he said.

Should the parcel end up being divided to open a new lot, any RFP released thereafter “has to be open for everyone,” Kurtz noted. The dog shelter would simply be one of however many entities submit a proposal, and the town would act in its best interest to pick the most advantageous candidate for development.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.