HOPKINTON — Hopkinton’s animal shelter may be small, but residents and town officials are happy to see it back in operation after an 18-month shutdown, during which the town was able to use the shelter in Westerly.
“We need to have our own shelter because our residents rely on it to take care of any stray animals in town and provide adoption services, too,” Town Council President Frank Landolfi said.
The town's previous animal control officer, Terri Main, had been on a long-term leave and then took another job. With the officer's departure the town could again fill the position, which comes under the police department.
Capt. Mark Carrier of the Hopkinton police said the department was just as happy as the residents to reopen the shelter.
“The community is fortunate to have a shelter here in Hopkinton, and when the residents lose their animals, they have a local place to come and check or a local person to call and help,” Carrier said. “It’s a little gem in our community, and being closed, we felt the ramifications of it at the police department, as the police officers were transporting all the animals over to Westerly and we’d have to bother the Westerly police, too, to open up the shelter at night. That was a little burdensome for both departments. Westerly helped us out tremendously."
The new animal control officer, Samantha Bowen, was hired in January. Her annual salary is $40,539. Part-time officer Chelsi Spakowski works 12 hours per week at a salary of $10,920. The animal control budget for the new fiscal year is $85,727.
Bowen, the former part-time animal control officer in Richmond, said she welcomed the chance to work full time at the Hopkinton facility. She heard about the opening from Westerly Animal Control Officer Arthur Smith.
“I was like, ‘I’m going for it. I’ll at least try and if they tell me no, at least I tried,’” she said. “But I ended up here and I’m so excited.”
Spakowski has volunteered at shelters, and this is her first paid animal control job.
“I love that we’ll be able to help animals and people alike,” she said. “I think it’s very important that there’s someone like us in the community that can do outreach.”
Things are pretty quiet these days in the little building off Woodville Road. Only one dog has come in since the shelter reopened on March 11, and he was returned to his owners. Bowen and Spakowski are using the time to prepare for the spring rush, when more animals, especially kittens, begin arriving. The shelter has six dog runs and six cages for cats or small dogs.
“It’s been kind of nice to have it calm,” Bowen said. “Everybody’s still getting acclimated to us being open and there being somebody here. It’s been different for the last year and a half, so a lot of people are so excited that it’s open. I’m OK with it being kind of slow so we can get things in working order so that when it does start to pick up, we have a smooth flow. The spring’s going to come and we’re going to get hit — with cats and runaway dogs.”
There won’t be any major renovations done on the shelter building, but Bowen said she was planning to make some small changes.
“I’ve moved some things around because I want to build some walls in here so that the cats have their own area,” she said. “We’re going to paint the back kennels to get a sealant on that cement block.”
Bowen said she was making an effort to familiarize herself with the town.
“Getting to know the people in the town and asserting, ‘Hey, I’m here and I’m here to help in any way that I possibly can,'” she said.
One of the challenges, she noted, was persuading residents to license their dogs.
“I can get your dog home much faster so he doesn’t have to spend the night at the shelter. It’s another way for us to bring him or her home. People have collars on their dogs, but don’t have tags, so it’s difficult,” she said.
The shelter has scheduled its first public outreach event, a rabies vaccination clinic, on April 24 from 9 to 11 a.m. The clinic will take place at the Department of Public Works building at 395 Woodville Road.