Sonsini Animal Shelter Staff Refuse to Leave; City Contract in Question
After having over a months notice to vacate the property, staff at The Eleanor Sonsini Animal shelter, in the Downing Industrial Park, refused to leaved the building even after city police arrived.
In a somewhat vague and rather confusing story, Stacey Rossi, lawyer for the troubled animal shelter, claims that an attorney for the City of Pittsfield, Richard M. Dohoney, assured the staff that would not have to leave the city owned property, despite that fact they had been given notice that their contract with the city would be terminated at the end of the month. Dohoney claims that is simply not true, and a representative for the city chose not to comment at this time, citing that the situation is now a legal matter.
The shelter, which is contracted by the City of Pittsfield, to take in stray and/or lost animals, has been in duress for over a year, stemming from issues with the board of the directors, shelter staff and management. The feud has lead to the exit of long term employees, and members of the board. The issues became known to the public when according to The Berkshire Eagle, the riff between administration at the shelter landed in Central Berkshire District Court. In November of 2017, several members of the board of directors held a meeting and voted Chairwoman Krista Wroldson-Miller and Treasurer Judith Trumble off the board. In turn, Wroldson-Miller and Trumble filed suit, alleging that the vote was improper. At a December hearing for the case, attorneys representing both sides blamed the other regarding concerns about the animals' care. A judge issued a temporary restraining order allowing the two women to remain in their positions until a trial. That case has been transferred to Westfield District Court, where it is pending, according to Rossi.
The City of Pittsfield gave notice of the termination of the contract with the shelter, gaving the group until the end of March to vacate the premises, although Attorney Rossi claims that the board believes the termination of the contract was illegal, and stated that Attorney Dohoney gave Sonsini the right to remain on the property to oversee a transition.
The situation appears to be at a stalemate until lawyers for both the city and the shelter decide what the next appropriate steps will be. For the time being, animals at the city shelter will remain the care of the current staff, but questions still loom about who legally is responsible for the animals and what will happen moving forward. A representative for city claimed to not have that information at this time. However, Executive Director of the Berkshire Humane Society, John Perreault, told The Berkshire Eagle he is aware of the situation, ensuring the city knows the society is more then willing to step in and assist if if they are asked to so, citing their great working relationship.
The care of the animals is the most important thing. I think everyone can agree we need a place our homeless animals and if everyone can keep that in mind, I'm sure can come up with a good solution.
City Councilor and Animal Control Commission member, Earl Persip
An Animal Control Commission hearing is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, according to the city's schedule. City Councilor and member of the commission, Earl Persip, echos the city's sentiment that since the matter is now a legal issue, very little comment can be made, but the animals' best interest is the top priority.