Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said last week that he’s in talks with a local veterinarian about New Canaan paying a fee to use the facility as a place to house stray or roaming domestic animals until an owner is found or they’re adopted to a new family.
The local vet “did propose a very reasonable per diem,” Krolikowski told members of the Police Commission during their Feb. 17 meeting, held via videoconference.
“I don’t have a final number, so I can’t discuss that until I get something in writing, but that could be an option if the shelter isn’t working for us,” he said.
Krolikowski added that there a local vet would need to meet specific state requirements to take on the responsibility of housing strays, and more research needs to be done on those requirements prior to any decision. “We could use it on an ad hoc basis now, but if we totally eliminate our own shelter I believe there is a lot of other requirements that would have to be met,” he said.
The comments came during a general discussion of the New Canaan Police Department’s animal shelter, a non-insulated former incinerator building that’s located at the dump.
The condition of the building, first flagged by Selectman Nick Williams two years ago, and its future use, came under scrutiny in the fall after authorities seized 12 neglected dogs from a Butler Lane home and housed some of them there during a protracted custody dispute that recently was resolved in the town’s favor.
Some, including Williams, have called for the town to establish a special projects fund for New Canaanites who want a better, purpose-built animal shelter to donate to. Yet—though finance officials have said such a fund could be established if the Board of Selectmen just creates a project for it—there’s still no way for people to make such donations. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan has said a specific project such as for a new animal shelter first would need to go before the Town Council. (Williams has pointed out that the selectmen voted in the recent past to allow money from such funds to be dispersed for “amorphous” projects not yet detailed, such as for an open-air outdoor ice rink.)
Williams and Moynihan have been at odds regarding the adequacy of the existing shelter. Moynihan, after weighing in multiple times on the matter, said in December that the animal shelter is actually a Police Commission issue. He later denied that shifting the animal shelter discussion to the appointed body was a way to distance himself from the matter.
Krolikowski said during the Commission meeting that in the three-year period starting in 2017, the town averaged about 47 impounds per year. Of those, 97% of the time, the animal spent less than 24 hours in the shelter, he said.
“So it’s certainly not used long or consistently,” he said.
“I think the general premise is that it’s adequate, could certainly be better. There were some improvements certainly in the past several months with heating being added by the town, and some other improvements that make it more functional and adequate. The good news is the puppies are now out of there there so it’s vacant for a time and I know it’s a challenge to find the right spot given how everybody loves animals in town, including myself, I think we want to do the right thing for them and what makes sense.”
Animal Control Officer Allyson Halm noted during the meeting that though New Canaan averages about one dog impound per week, “we also have to consider that I have had guinea pigs, ducks rabbits, roosters, guinea hens—so this is not just exclusive to our residents’ canines.”
“And we have to be prepared for that,” she said. “We are Animal Control. So whatever animal needs our assistance, I want to be there.”
Foley said he didn’t know non-domestic animals came through the facility.
“Any goldfish?” he said with a laugh.
Halm said that though by state statute the police are obligated to “handle certain animals,” that “there is also the compassionate side.”
“If there is a cage of guinea pigs left on the side of the road, I’m not going to say ‘I don’t do that,’ ” Halm said. “So I will take it in. We will certainly look to re-home these animals as quickly as possible because our shelter is not adequate to house those types of animals long-term, either. But we are obligated to respond regardless of the species.”
Regarding the building, Halm said, “It has its downfalls.”
“And talking to [Public Works Director] Tiger [Mann], there is potential for a roof issue at any time,” she said. “I would hate to walk in and find the roof on the floor.”
Mann, who also attended the meeting, said of the roof that it “would just need to be replaced.”
“It’s not going to wind up on the floor, but it’s a question of leaking and having to replace it, and the thought is do we want to replace on an existing incinerator building, an older incinerator building, or look elsewhere for an Animal Control building,” Mann said. “But that has not come to pass yet and when it does come to pass, we can take up a decision at that time.”
Mann had said at a meeting in January that a project to rebuild or relocate New Canaan’s Animal Control shelter is at least one year away.
Asked about the age of the building and cost of replacing its roof, Mann said it’s 1950s-built and that the estimate for the roof project is $87,000.
The town in December approved a $1,200 contract for a Woodbury-based architect to plan for the foundation of a new pre-built modular building at the dump. Mann has spoken of the need for a dedicated structure to store road salt.