PLAISTOW — When an ice storm hit the region in 2008 and knocked out electricity for days, many people refused to evacuate their homes and leave their pets in the cold.
That was the case in Plaistow, where police Chief Stephen Savage said some elderly residents were determined to stay behind as long as they could, despite freezing temperatures, because they feared for their pets' safety.
If residents knew there was a safe place to keep their pets during the storm, they might have evacuated for their own safety, Savage said. But nearly two years later, there still is no place for those animals if another storm hits.
"That's still an issue," Savage said yesterday. "People and their pets are very important."
Plus, an old building where the town kept stray animals failed to pass a state inspection, meaning a new facility was definitely needed, he said.
For those reasons, the town has decided to construct a 35-by-12-foot animal control building near the town highway garage off Wilder Road, Savage said. The facility would include an office for Animal Control Officer David Sargent, who previously kept the pets on his own property.
"We're looking to do the right thing with this facility and treat the animals the way they should be treated," Savage said. "We will be glad to (house) the dogs or cats and they will be in a warm, protected environment. But we're not in the boarding business."
Pet owners would be charged about $25 a day for stray animals that were picked up or cared for during a storm.
The town has decided to seek donations to fund the project, instead of relying on taxpayers to foot the nearly $35,000 bill, Savage said.
"I think it's something the community can really get into," he said. "I think we can get this thing done."
So far, the community and others have come through.
Benevento Companies, which has a facility in Plaistow, has donated about $5,000 in labor and concrete for the building's pad. Several other businesses also have contributed to the cause or pledged to help, including Pynn Masonry of Plaistow, which donated concrete blocks, Savage said.
While some companies have helped out, the police chief encourages residents and any animal lovers to chip in as well.
"I don't care if it's $5 or if it's $10," he said. "It will all help."
While the concrete has been poured, a framing crew — which also has pledged its services — will start putting up the walls within the next few weeks.
"The plan right now is get the building built and weather tight for the winter, and then peck away inside," Savage said.
The entire building is expected to be done by next summer.
Danville Animal Control Officer Sheila Johannesen said she applauds Plaistow's efforts since she found herself caring for other people's pets during the ice storm two years ago.
Since some residents refused to leave their pets behind, she agreed to check in on animals at about a half-dozen homes after their owners evacuated. The area definitely needs a place to house pets during a serious storm, she said.
"If they are going to build it with that in mind — excellent," she said.
Johannesen, who has two golden retrievers and three cats of her own, said she herself huddled next to her wood stove for several days after the storm.
"I wouldn't leave my pets either," she said.
In the future, communities need to make sure no pets are left behind to fend for themselves, Johannesen said.
"We're trying to get a team here and let towns know they have to do something before something happens," she said.
To donate to Plaistow's animal control facility, contact Savage at 382-1200 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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