Not Just Cats and Dogs
On call 24/7, the Canton Animal Control Officer needs volunteers to help out with caring for the furry friends at the Animal Shelter.
"She's my neat freak," said Bastable. "She goes around the whole place cleaning and straightening…I don't know what I would do without her."
Penders has been with the Richard A. Stein Animal Shelter in Canton since 2003.
"We clean the cages, we do the laundry, I make sure all the stock is full, and that we have (to stock) hand towels and toilet paper," said Penders, who volunteers two days a week. "I (enjoy) playing with the animals and socializing the cats…I really love my animals so working at the shelter is a no-brainer for me."
Socializing the cats involves taking them out of their cages and playing with them to help them be less afraid of people, which will ultimately increase their chance of being adopted.
The shelter deals mostly with dogs and cats but, on occasion, there is an exception.
"We're not just dog catchers, you name it, I've seen it," said Bastable. "From squirrels in the chimney to bats in the attic to snakes in the basement. Heck, we had a peacock running around, and then a four-foot iguana."
Bastable has also had run-ins with birds, turtles, skunks, coyotes and more.
In just one week, "we had a coyote attack a Pomeranian…and a four-year-old girl that was attacked by a Chow mix and had to have 86 stitches," said Bastable. "You never know what you're going to get as Animal Control Officer."
The Animal Control Officer is on-call all day, every day of the year. Residents in Canton can reach him by calling the shelter (781-575-6507) or by calling the police business line (781-828-1212, do not call 911 for animal-related incident).
In 2009, Canton Animal Control answered 3,000 phone calls and responded to 508 field incidents (of which 231 calls were for wildlife and 277 were for domestic animals.)
Bastable recalls with a chuckle the call he received one Christmas Eve at 10:0 p.m.
"They thought there was a wild animal in the Christmas tree," he said. "Yes, there was something in there growling – it was their black and white cat...The silly calls are pretty funny."
But often the calls are serious like when animals are abandoned. Bastable said he has seen people give up their pets because they are moving, because of financial hardship or because the cat's hair shows up on the new furniture.
"You name it and we've gotten animals in for it," he said. "We take care of them here, and I don't consider myself an absolutely-no-kill-shelter, but we only put them down if they're aggressive or if they're sick."
Bastable estimates only 10 animals were put down of the 126 dogs and 218 cats that entered the shelter in 2009.
Penders said that, when the recession started, the shelter would get calls that people had moved out of their apartments and abandoned their animals in pet carriers. She also says the shelter sees a lot of people turn over their animals to the shelter because they don't have enough time for the animal.
"Young people buy animals but they really don't understand how much attention they require," said Penders. "They can't be home enough and they can't walk them enough so they come to us."
"We tell people, 'If you can't take care of your animal, we'll take them or direct you to a larger shelter,'" she said. "We want them to find nice homes…It makes you feel good when you find a good home for an animal."
Sometimes the adoption process can take minutes or weeks or sometimes longer, but dogs are adopted quickly since the shelter has a waiting list of people eager to adopt a dog.
"My quickest adoption was actually 26 minutes," said Bastable, thanks to the waiting list.
The shelter is always accepting volunteers and monetary donations.
People volunteer for many different reasons, said Bastable. Folks help out as a way to be with animals for a few hours a week. Perhaps they live in an apartment where they cannot have animals, or perhaps a child has a sibling who is allergic to animals so a parent brings in the other child to visit with the animals, he said.
For more information, visit town.canton.ma.us/animal/animalshelter, call 781-575-6507 or stop by the shelter at 150R Bolivar Street (behind the Department of Public Works) from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. Always call first to be sure the Animal Control Officer is on site.