Dog-lovers petition to help ease plight of dog pound 'inmates'
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Tue., Feb. 4, 2014
After watching what they call years of neglect at the Griswold Dog Pound, a small group of local dog-lovers is petitioning the first selectmen to let them volunteer to help ease the dogs’ plight.
Donna Fenter, Lora Rainier and about five other local residents descended on the pound in the evening of Jan. 29, after noticing that no vehicle tracks had disturbed the snow that fell the previous night and morning in the pound driveway. They say they found large quantities of animal waste in the kennels, and empty, untended food and water dishes. The trenches around the kennel were full of animal waste when they arrived, said Rainier.
At the time, just four dogs were housed at the pound – one of them has been there more than a year, said Rainier. She said the dogs are not advertised as adoption prospects, so the strays just languish at the pound.
In addition, said Fenter, “It’s just $5 to get your dog out of the pound. It’s like free housing.” The low “bail” discourages owners from retrieving their dogs promptly. “This has been going on for years and years,” said Fenter. She lives just up the road from the pound and drives past it several times a day. “Unfortunately, with the people in power, it’s out of sight, out of mind,” she said.
“It’s not like they have a lot of dogs,” said Rainier. “But it’s still not okay for these dogs to be ignored.”
Animal Control Officer Larry Proulx, who has held the part-time job for 18 years, said he is on call 24-7 despite holding another full-time job that frequently takes him out of town. When he is unable to tend the animals, he pays a substitute out of his own $613 per month stipend, he said. Either he or a fill-in visits the pound to tend the animals at least every 24 hours, but often three or four times a day, he said. “I definitely don’t do the job for the money,” he said. “I don’t want to see dogs destroyed for no reason.”
Proulx said that he himself proposed a volunteer dog pound assistant program about six years ago, but the board of selectmen nixed the idea due to liability issues. He said he would still welcome such a program, especially with volunteers who could help socialize the impounded dogs and create ads that could help find them homes. “A volunteer program would be so valuable to the town,” he said.
Fenter and her group asked the Board of Selectmen to approve the group as volunteers, but board members said that liability issues still stand in the way. First Selectman Kevin Skulczyck said that the town’s insurance provider advised against the plan because of concerns over potential lawsuits, should a volunteer get injured or bitten at the pound, he said.
But, he added, the proposal is far from a dead issue. The prospective volunteers include professional dog rescue members and handlers, so their petition has some real credibility, he said. “I’m listening to all sides,” he said.
The Board of Selectmen must make the ultimate decision about how to resolve the dog pound issues, said Skulczyck. Potential solutions could include a volunteer team, a second animal control officer, or possibly outsourcing animal control to the Northeast Council of Governments, he said.
Skulczyck said that three of the pound’s four dogs were adopted or placed in foster homes over the weekend. “My objective is to keep that place empty, to have the dogs returned to their owners or adopted,” he said.