‘Bear,’ and others await future family members

Margaret Terkelsen, assistant animal control operations manager, spends quality time with “Bear” on Thursday morning. (The Westfield News)

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – Two hand-raised pigeons are currently calling the Westfield Animal Shelter home – along with 10 dogs and 15 felines – all needing a forever home.

While pigeons tend to fall into a more exotic category for the shelter, it is not unusual to also find chickens, ferrets and turtles also needing a new home.

“The pigeons were hanging out at someone’s home for a week so we received a call,” said Margaret Terkelsen, assistant animal control operations manager. “The pigeons had bands on their ankles so we knew they couldn’t survive in the wild.”

For Terkelsen, she too has a pigeon for a pet so she says it is not uncommon for area residents to consider one for adoption.

“I have a large pen and also use my kitchen when the pigeon needs to spread its wings,” she said, adding her other pets include zebra finches, beta fish and a female Staffordshire-Bull Terrier mix.

While pigeons may not be at the top of everyone’s adoption list, animals are arriving and departing on any given day at the shelter on Apremont Way.

“Bear,” a 5-year-old Corgi-Sheltie mix, was among the dogs looking forlorn on Thursday morning in their kennels as Terkelsen and Lori Charette, operations manager, had just finished the morning routine of walking, feeding and engaging in play time with all of the residents.

“Bear was surrendered a few weeks ago and after we complete a thorough behavioral assessment, we hope he will be adopted,” said Terkelsen, as she gave him some one-on-one time in the outdoor pen.

Terkelsen noted it is policy to ensure that all animals are safe to adopt since it would be detrimental for the animal to be returned to the shelter.

“Unless an animal is sick and we cannot treat it, we do not euthanize any animals,” said Terkelsen, adding there is no time limit for an animal to be in the shelter.

In addition to “Bear,” the shelter currently has several dogs awaiting adoption including “Bobby,” a young male American Bulldog, “Tamale,” a female Chihuahua, “Molly,” a female Pit Bull Terrier, and “Marathon,” a male Bichon Frise. Cats available for adoption include “Sansa,” a female Domestic Short Hair, “Dallas,” a male Domestic Medium Hair, and “Boris and Natasha,” both Domestic Short Hairs. Since strays change daily, it is recommended to visit the shelter’s website for an updated list of adoptees.

When Charette and Terkelsen have finished the basic morning routines – there are always phone calls to answer, emails to follow up on, and police dispatch messages to address, as well as welcoming area residents into the shelter so they can see the animals available for adoption.

“Volunteers are especially needed at 8 a.m. each morning,” said Terkelsen, noting that it is important for all of the animals to be able to stretch and relieve themselves as soon as possible. “We welcome volunteers who are willing to assist us with walking the dogs and cleaning their kennels first thing in the morning,” said Terkelsen.

As the day progresses, both women find themselves in a variety of roles, including dispensing medications if necessary, driving animals to veterinarian appointments, posting “found” and “relinquished” animals on Facebook, answering neighbor complaints, issuing dog licenses, ensuring animals have their mid-afternoon fun time, and handling adoptions – among many other duties including laundry. For Charette and Terkelsen, there is never a dull moment and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I like helping out animals that need my help,” said Terkelsen, who has worked at the shelter for two years, adding that before the shelter is closed for the day, animals receive their feedings and end of day exercises.

For individuals who might not be able to volunteer their time during shelter hours, donations are always welcomed including bleach, laundry detergent, trash bags (13-gallon and contractor size for road kill) and cat litter.

The shelter, across from Barnes Airport, is open to the public on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., and is closed Thursday and Sunday.

Adoption fees are $165 for dogs and $125 for cats. All of the animals are spayed or neutered and up-to-date on their vaccinations, are blood tested and microchipped.

Terkelsen added that any dog being adopted over the age of six months must also obtain a dog license which ensures a way to trace the animal either by Animal Control or by the Police Department.

Since the shelter has seen an increase in “found” dogs during the summer, an owner claiming the animal must show proof of a current rabies vaccine and a current city dog license to claim the dog from the shelter. Owners are responsible for paying fines or fees associated with the impoundment of their animal. For stray cats, there is a hold for three days before moving forward with adoptions. For stray dogs, there is a city ordinance of a 10-day hold.

For area residents who have lost a pet, call the animal control officer as soon as possible at (413) 564-3129. “The animal control service is available 24/7 including holidays,” said Terkelsen.