The Bucksport Animal Shelter is running out of room.
Built in the 1980s, the two-building facility takes in lost or stray dogs and cats from nine communities, but public safety officials who oversee the shelter recently alerted town councilors that their mission is getting harder as space gets tighter.
“Those structures are just simply too small for what we’re trying to do,” Bucksport police Deputy Chief David Winchester told the Town Council last month.
There’s been an increase in the number of strays, including pregnant cats and their litters, and some dogs that have been difficult to get adopted. Since August, the shelter has taken in 63 cats. As of last month, the shelter had 25 cats, but only 19 kennels.
“The past two years have seen an uptick in strays, which may have to do with the number of pets people acquired during COVID, but that is a guess,” Town Manager Susan Lessard said. “It has put more pressure on staff and the facility.”
The shelter has been serving roughly the same population size for years, though the number of communities it serves increased when Hampden left about five years ago and was replaced by Stockton Springs, Penobscot and Winterport.
With space scarce, it’s become nearly impossible to have a true quarantine area for any incoming sick animals and illnesses can spread throughout the shelter. That in turn makes it harder to adopt the animals out.
“We really haven’t denied anyone that I know of, but we’ve had to work really hard to take in more pets,” the town’s director of public safety, Sean Geagan, said. “It’s just a matter of space and the number of animals we’re really taking in at this point.”
The facility, next to the town transfer station, has been recently upgraded, but is still lacking in areas. There is no storage, bathroom or laundry room at the shelter. Animal Control Officer Allyson Corriveau-Moore either brings items that need to be washed to the fire department or to her home to be laundered.
“It would be amazing if we could have a washer and dryer there,” she said. “I think the shelter is ready for a facelift.”
The Bangor Humane Society’s animal shelter recently underwent extensive renovations, moving the entrance, improving facilities for animals and removing its incinerator.
Lessard suggested that the town look at short- and long-term solutions. That could include more fenced-in outdoor space for the animals, especially dogs, while officials determine if an addition or whole new facility is needed.
She also raised the idea of turning to the community for help.
“There are a lot of people who support this facility who are concerned that it’s too small and it’s not built to be what it’s supposed to be doing,” she said.
The state’s humane agent has provided the town with a preliminary design for a facility to get the ball rolling on ideas, according to Winchester.
The Town Council’s infrastructure committee will visit the shelter before its January meeting and then look over draft plans for a replacement building with office space, a bathroom and exercise space for the animals. A final decision on what to do would be up to the council.
“This is a service I think that the town wants to still have,” Councilor Peter Stewart said. “I think the next step is to see what it’s going to cost to fix this place up.”