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Brunswick animal shelter seeks evaluation from national agency, community

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Brunswick animal shelter seeks evaluation from national agency, community

BRUNSWICK — In September 2008, the Coastal Humane Society experienced one of its darkest moments when the state Department of Health and Human Services ordered a two-month quarantine of all its animals until it eradicated an outbreak of a ringworm fungus.

Lisa Smith, a spokeswoman for the Range Road organization, said the episode was a tipping point for the animal shelter.

"The state was practically advocating for us to shut down, tear everything down and start from scratch," Smith said. "After we reopened, we started reinventing ourselves."

According to Smith, the makeover continues March 30 when a team of experts from the Humane Society of the United States will arrive to evaluate the shelter on everything from animal care to customer service.

Smith said the three-day review is voluntary, not punitive, and part of the Coastal Humane Society's mission to improve its service and facility by submitting to an evaluation by "the world's foremost authority on animal sheltering."

"This is part of our strategic planning process," Smith said. "We want to know how we can be the best shelter we can possibly be. This national benchmark will help us find out."

According to its Web site, HSUS has evaluated 25 shelters in the United States. The review is done at the request of shelters that want to improve management and animal health protocols, and strengthen adoption programs.

After the review, the HSUS team then helps the shelter develop short- and long-term recommendations for improvement.

According to Smith, the shelter is aware of some its problems, including space restrictions and "flow" issues that sometimes make it difficult to keep sick animals separate from healthy ones.

"We're kind of a mish-mash of buildings," Smith said. "Over the years we've grown like a mushroom."

Smith said relocation could become part of the Coastal Humane Society's five-year plan.

"Of course, cost is always an issue for us," she noted.

Three years ago the shelter applied for a no-cost property conveyance at Brunswick Naval Air Station for a newer, larger facility. But the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority declined to recommend the shelter for a slice of the base's 3,300 acres. The BLRA said expansion of the shelter is not in keeping with principles of the base reuse plan.

Although Coastal Humane Society has several acres of land, Smith said consideration for abutters restricts its growth.

She said HSUS will also solicit public feedback.

"We need to be the shelter our community wants us to be," Smith said.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net

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