Hamden abandons idea of sharing New Haven animal shelter; will look to build its own (2023)


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Hamden abandons idea of sharing New Haven animal shelter; will look to build its own (12)
Hamden abandons idea of sharing New Haven animal shelter; will look to build its own (13)

HAMDEN — The town has abandoned the idea of joining New Haven to operate a shared facility at the Robin I. Kroogman New Haven Animal Shelter and instead will turn its attention to building and operating its own shelter somewhere in town, Mayor Lauren Garrett said Thursday.

The decision came as "we've really been stuck on the operational aspect" of a shared shelter, Garrett said.

She said she told MayorJustin Elicker about the decision Thursday.

Hamden officials, who announced a year ago that they were pursuing the idea of a shared shelter with New Haven, now are looking at possible locations in town and "we don't want to hold up New Haven any longer," Garrett said.

"I let Mayor (Justin) Elicker know that we are not going to be able to continue down this path any longer," Garrett said. "I really appreciate him trying to make this work."

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She said "we had a meeting with New Haven's team and really realized that we were looking at very different things," Garrett said. "We're looking for a home. We're looking for places to put our animals."

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Operationally, "we have different unions. We have different ways to define work," she said, "and so, operationally, we were not able to make that this work.

"I think it's time that we explore the possibilities in Hamden," Garrett said.

Town officials "are doing an assessment right now, looking at all of the town-owned properties" that are available "to us for an animal shelter," she said. "I hope that we can start assessing each location's viability based on utility services."

Asked whether the town would form a committee to look into the possibilities, Garrett said, "I'm not sure quite yet. First we have to see what kind of properties we have available." Whether the town forms a committee "depends on how many viable sites" are found.

"We've explored a lot of sites that don't work, either because they don't have utilities" or for other reasons, Garrett said.

Elicker said that, ultimately, "this didn't make sense to pursue at this time."

“While our staff worked hard to try to find a pathway for a joint animal shelter between New Haven and Hamden, ultimately, we came to the determination that due to staffing, capital and union contract challenges, that this didn’t make sense to pursue at this time," Elicker said.

"I appreciate Mayor Garrett and her staff’s good faith effort to explore this possibility, and we’re certainly open to exploring other regionalization efforts in the future," he said.

The decision came less than a day after New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson told the Board of Alders Finance Committee that as New Haven and Hamden continued to try to work out an arrangement to share the city shelter, there appeared to be a fundamental difference in approach or perspective.

Jacobson's impression after a recent meeting was that Hamden officials were looking to “just use a few cages,” while New Haven officials are looking for Hamden to “buy in” as a partner, Jacobson said.

"The spirit of the meeting seemed to be," Hamden officials wanted to "just use a few cages," Jacobson told the Finance Committee Wednesday night.

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Going into the meeting, "we were under the impression that they were going to share responsibilities," he said.

"I want buy-in," Jacobson said. "The mayor" of New Haven "wants a buy-in."

He said New Haven officials "were not under the impression" going into the most recent meeting that Hamden was "just going to rent a few cages. I see it as a partnership."

Officials from both New Haven and Hamden had said in the past that any proposal would likely involve expansion and renovation of the facility; something New Haven is looking to do anyway.

Garrett's administration announced last March that it was looking into cooperating with New Haven to expand and renovate New Haven's Robin I. Kroogman Animal Shelter, located at 81 Fournier St.

She said recently that if that ended up happening, Hamden's animals would be handled only by Hamden employees. A proposed budget given to Hamden had a square footage amount "that was really expensive," so the town asked for "some better numbers," she had said.

For years, animal advocates and officials alike have said Hamden, with 60,000 people and plenty of pets, needed a permanent, more cost-efficient space to house its lost and abandoned animals.

Leonard Young of Gimme Shelter, a Hamden organization that has raised more than $34,000 to create an Animal Shelter Gift Fund, said, "I don't think Hamden is looking to 'rent a couple of cages' because that's what we've got now. ... We have seven cages that we're renting now in North Haven at $15 a day," Young said.

"I'm not involved in this, but our organization raises money and awareness to get this to the finish line," Young said.

As far as he knew, "all options are on the table right now, which means Hamden could still pair up with New Haven or Hamden could go at it on their own," Young said. "Gimme Shelter Hamden will support whatever the current administration does."

Young said that "animals don't vote, which is why this project has been sitting there since 2002."

Hamden has rented space in North Haven’s animal shelter for more than a decade. Garrett has said the town will continue to do so until it can find a better option. The town set aside $400,000 in 2015 to build its own animal shelter, but has never done so, despite several proposals.

New Haven's shelter, which takes in about 900 animals per year and investigates about 1,000 animal-related calls and concerns annually, currently is under investigation by the state Department of Agriculture after animals were found in poor condition and were “not eating properly.”

Jacobson has said the Police Department opened an internal affairs investigation into the incident.

Many aspects of the shelter are outdated, including its staffing model, the layout of the building and its intake policies and procedures, he has said.

The shelter currently is undergoing a number of changes, including more frequent veterinarian visits, a change in management and the addition of two civilian animal control officers, an upgrade to the HVAC system and a renovation for soundproofing walls.

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