Animal shelter gets spruced up

Posted May 27, 2011, at 11:05 p.m.

THOMASTON, Maine — To be honest, I wouldn’t have worn a black sweater into the Humane Society of Knox County a few months ago. Had I, I’m sure nefarious cat fur somehow would have just flown through the air and attacked said sweater. Not anymore.

After a bout of ringworm early this year and some especially generous donations, the Humane Society of Knox County was able to take some major steps in ensuring that the small shelter stays clean. Dirty walls were replaced with white plastic barriers — easier to wipe. Painted floors were covered with easy-to-bleach tiles. Old cat cages were thrown in a dumpster and replaced with clean, bright stainless steel versions. Long gone are the days when cats climbed carpet-covered, impossible-to-vacuum cat trees. Now, kitties such as Laney, who sports a black coat with white back legs, lay on blanket-covered steps and in plastic baskets.

Even the poop policies were flushed clean. Instead of hardening, smelly clay litter, the shelter now uses wood stove pellets. They’re half the price of litter and easier to clean.

“That cut our [litter] costs in half,” said Joan Vargas, a volunteer and event coordinator.

This is significant, because the shelter was buying about 2.5 tons of litter annually.

The whole feeling of the shelter has changed, too, according to shelter volunteers. For instance, cats used to roam the main room at will. When people entered the shelter, several cats could approach while other, more nervous cats would lay in the corners. Now, only five cats at a time are allowed in the people-dominated main room.The rest stay in the cat room or in their cages.

“It’s a little calmer. They just act differently,” Vargas said.

The people act differently, too, according to the shelter’s board’s vice president, Richard Procopio. “The shelter is easier to clean, which is a really important thing. It looks a lot better. Morale is better. It feels different. It’s clean and bright and fresh. Everyone wants to keep it that way,” he said.

To celebrate the changes, the shelter is throwing a grand re-opening 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at the shelter. The shelter will offer a barbecue, face painting, balloon animals and more.

But Procopio and the shelter staff have bigger dreams. Ideally, the 1989 building will be left in the dust. Ideally, they will raise enough money to build a new, big shelter that can house all the animals they need to. But, Procopio said, who knows how many years away that plan is?

“The population of animals here has increased and increased in this area. That’s part of the problem,” he said.

Right now, the shelter is at capacity with 13 dogs and almost at capacity with 80 felines. Meanwhile, 34 kittens are growing up at local volunteer’s homes. When they’re big enough to adopt out, the shelter will absorb those cats too.

For more information about the shelter, visit www.humanesocietyofknoxcounty.org.

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