A new addition on the lower level will house the Edda Hyde Community Cat Center for treating feral felines.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Humane Society has launched a "Forever Family" campaign to expand its space at 214 Barker Road and its service to animals.
The initiative aims to raise $3.5 million for three key priorities: to create an endowment to serve the community, to expand and update the facility, and invest in programs for furry friends.
So far, about $2.2 million has been raised.
Executive Director John Perreault said the shelter's staff and board a few years ago were looking at how animal welfare was changing and started a conversation with animals lover to find out what they were seeing. They concluded that it was time for BHS to "dream big" and do more in the areas of family education, pet medical care, and assistance for pet owners in crisis.
"What we came up with is what we're here to celebrate today, the launching of our Forever Family campaign," Perreault explained during a ceremonial groundbreaking on Wednesday.
"More than ever, we know the importance of family, what it means to pet owners, families looking to adopt, and all of us who have four-legged loved ones. We want each of our adoptions to be with their forever family and we want all of you to know that the Berkshire Humane Society is part of your forever family and that no matter what happens, we'll be here to help you."
The private, independent nonprofit organization has placed about 60,000 companion animals with families in the Berkshires for more than 30 years. Besides a contract with the city to provide stray dog services, it relies on grants, bequests, and donations.
Structural improvements include a wellness suite for animals to get medication attention, a SafePet room for lodging cats whose owners are hospitalized or in crisis, an outdoor classroom, and a built-out space for the Community Cat Program to trap, neuter, and return feral cats.
The Family Dog School program will be expanded and a regular program to offer low-cost medical clinics will be initiated.
Funds will also enrich professional development for BHS's 15 full-time employees, 12 part-time employees, and 200 volunteers.
Mayor Linda Tyer said she has many fond memories of the shelter that include adopting a cat at its former facility about 30 years ago, recently adopting a puppy, and going through Family Dog School.
"This new initiative of Berkshire Humane Society is so essential for our community and for all the pet lovers," she said. "But especially for the animals."
The groundbreaking occurred on a loading dock that will become the Edda Hyde Community Cat Center, named after a known cat rescuer and whisperer.
The new, built-out space will be occupied by the Community Cat Program (formerly Berkshire DREAMS,) which merged with BHS early this year and was formerly located in two small buildings on the property.
The program focuses on trapping, neutering, and returning feral cats, also known as TNR.
Executive Director Stacey Carver said the future space is a dream come true. She is especially excited to have running water, as the "Catty Shack" did not.
Perreault said some of the repurposings of space upstairs is specifically because it was built for what the shelter was doing to help animals in 2000. Since then, there has been a change in internal operations as well as a change in laws.
"Two years ago as COVID was just hitting, the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture basically put in new shelter [regulations] and one of those that they put in, almost everything we had already adhered to anyways, but the one new thing that they put in there was that we couldn't place an animal in a home unless we had a current health certificate," he explained.
The current veterinarian services are not in a specific space in the facility so they will be creating a dedicated treatment room, known as the Wellness Center, on the main floor for exams and basic surgeries.
Perreault also spoke about a shortage of veterinarians at a time when more people have pets. With an increase in low-cost clinics, BHS hopes to address this problem and provide care to those in need.
"I think the importance of Berkshire Humane Society is to look to see what help the animals need moving forward," he said.
"And the glaring need right now is people need help to help take care of their pets, so that's one of the things we're trying to pick up and do more often."
In late May, BHS held a free rabies vaccine clinic that serviced hundreds of dogs. In a couple of weeks, the nonprofit will go to North County neighborhoods to provide low-cost vaccinations.
Allegrone Construction has been hired for the project and hopes to start work in late fall. It is a five-month construction schedule.
Perreault thanked the construction company, employees, volunteers, board members, and donors who helped make this campaign possible.
"We strongly believe that all animals deserve a life of love and care, free from cruelty, and a safe, stable environment," he said.
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