When crisp autumn breezes turn into bone-chilling, whipping winds, there are plenty of ways for humans to warm up but the dogs at the Waterford/East Lyme Animal Shelter are left to shiver through the nights.
It gets so cold inside the shelter that their water bowls freeze.
Volunteers and Animal Control Officer Robert Yuchniuk dress the dogs in sweaters and sweatshirts and add extra blankets to their kennels but it’s still not enough.
However, thanks to two generous donations, the dogs won’t have to freeze this winter.
Benvenuti Oil Co. has agreed to donate the time it takes to install new heating ducts and Home Depot has agreed to donate the materials needed for the project.
Jessica Hamilton, who has been volunteering at the shelter every day for about two years, said that the dogs are “her world.”
“It would bring tears to my eyes just imagining them shivering all night long in an already unfamiliar, scary place. It just breaks my heart,” she said last week.
The new duct work down the length of the kennels will carry heat through the entire area instead of just near the front of the kennel where the thermostat is. The thermostat turns off once a certain temperature is reached, but because the thermostat is directly across from the furnace it turns off frequently and the heat never reaches the back of the kennel.
“In the winter it’s really bad, so this repair should make the dogs’ stay here much more comfortable,” Yuchniuk said.
“We truly, truly appreciate Benvenuti and Home Depot for donating the time and the materials to make this happen. We’re not getting a new shelter next week. We just want to make their time here nice because it’s scary for them to be in here.”
In addition to the new heating system, the shelter is also in the process of raising the money for a swinging door cover that will provide some protection from the outside elements in the winter but will also allow the dogs to move freely.
There are 10 kennels for the dogs that are picked up in either Waterford or East Lyme and each kennel has a small door that the dogs can go through to get outside, to an enclosed space. Those openings are not covered and in the winter, are just like an open window, Yuchniuk said.
The cost for those doors are about $150 each and Yuchniuk said that donations are tax deductible.
The shelter is located behind the Waterford Police Department and was built 56 years ago for about $6,000, Yuchniuk said.
Fundraising efforts for a new shelter, estimated at around $1.7 million, began about two years ago. Since then, Yuchniuk said that about $88,000 has been raised.
The town’s Animal Control Facility Ad Hoc Committee has been charged with the goal of raising $100,000 towards a new facility and Yuchniuk said that goal will easily be surpassed and that he doesn’t foresee an end to fundraising efforts.
Currently the towns split Yuchniuk’s salary, while Waterford maintains the shelter and East Lyme pays for the vehicle.
“We’re in a financial struggle. Nobody has the money to build a new shelter right now and we’re not a priority. We’re looking years down the road before we get a new one and right now we just have to improve the current conditions here,” Yuchniuk said. “We deal with the hand we’re given and these are our cards. But we’re staying positive.”
For more information on adoptions, supplies needed at the shelter, how to volunteer or donate, call (860) 442-9451.