Animal shelter advocates making mid-summer push

Animal shelter advocates making mid-summer push

Local residents are again calling for the replacement of the North Providence Animal Shelter, shown here on Smithfield Road.

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Advocates for the construction of a new town animal shelter say the town has dragged its feet for far too long on this initiative.

The group, led by North Providence Animal Shelter Committee member Cathy Lanni, is planning to be on the call at the next virtual meeting of the Town Council on Aug. 4.

Lanni this week pointed to a July 2014 North Providence Breeze article headlined “Animal shelter overcrowded, falling apart,” noting that the article was published two years after the town won a $60 million settlement with Google that was expected to be spent in part on building a new shelter.

That 2014 story detailed an application for a $150,000 grant to overhaul the shelter, but officials today believe a new shelter will cost several times that amount. North Providence also has a longstanding agreement with Johnston to have that town put money into a new shelter because it shares animal control services with North Providence.

Mayor Charles Lombardi said this week that he’s ready to sit down with interested stakeholders, including Council President Dino Autiello and the shelter committee members, to make construction of a new shelter, near the existing one on Smithfield Road, a reality.

“We committed that we’re going to do it, and it’s going to happen,” he said.

Autiello said this week that he’s planning to make a brief statement at the Aug. 4 council meeting. He said he remains disappointed with the way the conversation went the last time this issue was discussed publicly, as residents almost implied that the council has been stifling the project.

Autiello noted that he was part of the old animal shelter committee and the new one, participating in meetings, studies, and proposals from eight architectural firms.

“There is nothing more I can do in my position as council president to get this thing built,” he said. The Town Council could hold 50 more meetings, collecting every idea imaginable, and it wouldn’t change much of anything, he added.

“Either it’s going to get built or it’s not going to get built,” he said. “There is no reason to keep having meetings. I’ve done everything in my power to get it built.”

In an alert about the Aug. 4 meeting, Lanni noted that the existing animal shelter is more than 50 years old, is beyond repair, and is out of compliance with the most basic standards of animal care and housing.

“A new shelter has been promised for over six years, and a great deal of dialogue has occurred regarding the cost to address the situation, but no action has been taken to move the project forward,” she said.

The shelter committee conducted extensive research on the needs and costs of building a new shelter, along with recommending experienced architects, she said.

“The research revealed, among other things, that animal shelters are unique properties that must be designed and built by experts to account for things like acoustics and noise reduction; odor control; surfaces that are easily cleaned and sanitized; a well-designed HVAC system for disease control; a layout to account for separation of species, sick or nursing animals; specific plumbing for waste/drainage; and adequate space for animals, volunteers, and the public,” she said. “A new shelter is not only needed for the humane treatment of animals within its care, but would also benefit the community by ‘policing’ through compassion, education and outreach.”

While Lombardi still maintains that he believes the town can get the shelter built for less than $1 million, with Johnston contributing $300,000 toward it, Lanni said research shows that the cost of such a facility has increased from about $1 million in 2017 to $2 million today, “which is just 3 percent of the $60 million received from the Google settlement.”

Having funds available to only be spent on police expenditures “presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a new shelter without requiring any taxpayer money, so it’s imperative we get this built now with the remaining funds before the cost rises again,” she said.