BHS was founded in 1992 when a small group of concerned animal lovers determined to ensure that the care of the area’s homeless pets would continue uninterrupted after the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) closed its Berkshire County operation. The MSPCA helped the group through an 18-month transition period. Today, BHS is an independent organization with no ties to or support from the MSPCA or any other animal support group.
The dogs, cats, rabbits and other small animals that reside at BHS while awaiting their forever homes live and play in a spacious, light-filled state-of-the art building that was opened to the public in July 2003. Dogs are housed in privacy suites or a glass-enclosed kennel that does not open to the outside. Instead, staff members or volunteers walk each dog on the spacious shelter grounds at least three times every day. Cats luxuriate either in their own “condo” in a U-shaped cat mall or in a large feature room complete with ladders, tree houses, and toys. The shelter can accommodate up to 30 dogs and 90 plus cats.
In the 20 years that BHS has been open, over 16,000 homeless pets have been placed in permanent homes. In 2011 over 1,300 animals were either surrendered to the shelter by their owners or brought to the shelter by animal control officers or concerned citizens. All of the adoptable dogs and 100 percent of the adoptable cats were placed in forever homes.
Before leaving BHS with their adoptive families, all dogs, cats, and rabbits are spayed or neutered through a cooperative program with area veterinarians. In addition, the dogs and cats are microchipped, and vaccinated.
In each of the past four years (2008-2011), the number of animals surrendered or brought to BHS has declined. We interpret this trend as an indication of the success of our efforts to have Berkshire County domestic pets spayed or neutered. BHS actively educates the public about the importance of spaying and neutering, and we participate in state and local programs to help defray some of the costs of spaying and neutering for those unable to pay the entire cost themselves. Fewer animals in BHS and other shelters means that each individual pet has a greater chance to find a forever home.
BHS is a community resource for both animals and people. We offer a variety of programs that are designed to meet the animal-related needs of all the members of our community.
Programs for Children
- Elementary School Program. Humane education programs are offered to elementary schoolchildren in Berkshire County’s public, private and parochial schools. To date, we have visited over 20,000 children in almost 70 classrooms through this program. Teachers are also invited to bring their classes to the shelter for hands-on learning.
- Summer Camp. This popular program is designed for children entering grades 3 through 8. Each age-specific session can accommodate 20 children for one five-day week. Campers interact with animals, work on arts and crafts, and learn about providing humane care for pets and other animals.
- Birthday Parties. Children Grades K – 6th with a special interest in animals are invited to hold their birthday party at the shelter. Videos and games, a tour of the shelter, a hands-on visit with a furry visitor, and traditional birthday goodies are all part of the fun.
Program for Seniors
It is often difficult for our older animals to find adoptive homes.
At the same time, it is difficult for some of our area’s senior citizens to pay the full adoption fee
requested by BHS. To meet the needs of both groups, we offer a “seniors for seniors program.”
Individuals who are at least 60 years old are eligible to adopt senior animals for a significantly reduced fee.
Programs for the Community
- SafePet Program, a cooperative program with the Elizabeth Freeman Center, an area organization for women fleeing abusive situations.
- Pet Food Bank, a resource for pet owners who have fallen upon difficult economic times and are temporarily unable to buy food for their companion animals.
- We are home to HAVEN (Human Animals Violence Education Network), and co-sponsor FIRST STRIKE, a program developed by the Humane Society of the United States and presented by local leaders. Both of these programs address the connection between animal cruelty and human violence.
- Family Dog School, offering classes in basic obedience, behavior management, and agility to help dogs and their
owners maximize their relationship.
- Clinics. Local veterinarians and our shelter staff organize outreach programs in the community. For the past three years we have held low-cost micro-chip and rabies clinics at the shelter.
- Spay/neuter assistance. Through local and state programs, BHS makes certificates available to area residents in economic need to help defray the cost of spaying or neutering their companion animals. This program has helped to sterilize over 2,000 community dogs and cats.
- Foster Care Program. Specially trained volunteers care for very young animals in their home until the animals are old enough—and/or healthy enough—to be made available for adoption. Those who are interested in providing foster care for animals and are willing to undergo the necessary training should contact the shelter’s canine and/or feline supervisors.
To find out more about membership or to learn more about the BHS’s many wonderful programs, please stop by and visit the shelter located at 214 Barker Road in Pittsfield.