By John Perreault, Executive Director
Berkshire Humane Society (BHS) was found in 1992 after the closing of the failed Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA). In 2003, BHS moved from its original property at 108 Cadwell Road to 214 Barker Road. In light of the shelter’s 25th anniversary this year, BHS Executive Director John Perreault shares his thoughts about the move and how it changed everything.
Moving into 214 Barker Road changed what it means to be the Berkshire Humane Society. Our building has allowed us to increase our programming, triple our capacity, and save thousands more animal lives.
Back in the MSPCA days, before BHS existed, we were housed in an old cow barn. It was dingy, dusty. We didn’t get much respect and we had very little capacity to do our work. Dogs and cats were housed together in a little room. They came in and we vaccinated them; if we had room, we moved them to the adoption area. We had eight or nine dog kennels and a few cat cages – that was it.
We moved into our current building in July of 2003. Fourteen years ago! It’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years. We built this space for us to grow into, and we have. That saying – “if you build it, they will come” – is true. Our numbers spiked that year, and while we had been expanding our staff and preparing for the move, we still didn’t have enough people.
On the day of a move, everything becomes about all the little things that you haven’t thought about. For the first six months, I probably had a staff member in my office every day complaining about something. I kept saying, we’re trying, we’ll get there, it’s going to take a little bit.
No sooner did staff finish walking the dogs, it was 2 hours later and they had to walk them again. They spent the entire day only cleaning and walking. They didn’t even have time for lunch. From the day we opened our doors, it was a struggle, but again, it gave us credibility. In our new building, we had a full-sized classroom and training area. The space allowed us to build on the programs we already had. Do better and offer more. We were able to reach more people and help so many more animals.
Our building isn’t paid off. September 11th happened weeks before we were to break ground, which greatly affected many people’s pledges. So we didn’t have all the money we needed in place by the time the facility was to be built, which meant we were going to have to take out a loan. I remember being in a board meeting, up in the old attic of the garage, and the board voted unanimously to move forward without being fully funded. We could no longer stay in the building we were in. It was insufficient and physically underwater much of the time, and we weren’t helping as many animals as we wanted to.
For many years, and still today, when I walk through our facility it bothers me that we still have a mortgage. It also bothers me that there is a perception that our building is paid for and that we have money just because we have this building. But at the same time, when I walk through in the morning and look at the cat mall or see a couple of the dogs or kittens in the feature area, I realize that while it may be taxing, it’s all worth it. When I see all those animal faces, and think about our operations just 14 years ago…it’s all so worth it. Anything is possible.
As part of the shelter’s 25th anniversary year, Berkshire Humane Society is hosting a 25th Birthday Bash at the Colonial Theatre on October 22nd. This special event – featuring brunch, auctions, and a live presentation on the beautiful stage of the Colonial Theatre, will be hosted by Pet Connection’s Steve Caporizzo. Learn more and purchase tickets at BerkshireHumane.org.