Midcoast Humane celebrates the opening of a new shelter

A dog named Donald looks at visitors during the grand opening of the new Midcoast Humane Shelter on July 23, 2022. John Terhoun/Times Record

Midcoast Humane celebrated the grand opening of its new location at 5 Industrial Pkwy in Brunswick on Saturday.

Senator Matty Doughty and Midcoast Humane Chairman Bill Muldoon were among the speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, before guests tour the new building to meet and play with the dozens of dogs and cats currently available for adoption.

“I am proud to be here as someone whose life literally wouldn’t be the same without this shelter,” said Daughtry, who added that she has adopted several Brunswick pets. “I can’t wait to see what the next seventy years will bring to Midcoast Humane.”

Midcoast Humane completed the purchase of the Industrial Parkway shelter just days before COVID-19 closed most public places in March 2020, according to CEO Jes Townsend. After delays related to the pandemic, the organization finally moved its animals into the new space last month that, according to Townsend, was long overdue.

Jes Townsend, CEO of Midcoast Humane, cuts a ceremonial ribbon outside the new shelter building on July 23, 2022. John Terhune/Times Record

“The whole project was driven by necessity, not choice,” she said. “Our building on Range Road is no longer suitable in any way.”

Townsend said the former shelter of Midcoast Humane, built in 1950, was experiencing failures in its plumbing, electrical, and sewer systems.

“We were fighting the environment,” Ben Bricker, a behavior and training specialist, agreed. “Here, everything is fine; everything is set up correctly. It is much better.”

Bricker said the Midcoast Humane team designed the new building with the latest research on animal behavior and care in mind. Instead of bright white walls that could sparkle in the animal’s vision, the shelter features a “fear-free” color palette of purple, light blue, and dark gray. While a single dog’s bark rang out across the entire floor, disturbing all of the dog’s neighbors, a built-in sound now helps keep them calm and quiet, while a speaker and camera system allows staff to monitor the animals remotely and calm them down with music.

New amenities will allow clinical staff at the shelter to expand their services, according to Dr. Minoli Cote, the organization’s medical director.

Previously, the Midcoast team sterilized and sterilized animals in a mobile surgical unit — a converted RV that has two surgical openings, according to Cote. The new shelter, equipped with a digital X-ray machine and dental facilities, will allow Cote’s team to perform procedures they’ve used at other hospitals, such as bladder surgeries and exploratory abdominal surgery.

Midcoast Humane Trinity Brown volunteer takes a trip to Gambit where guests visit the dozens of animals available for adoption at the shelter. John Terhoun/Times Record

“One of the things that I really love about our organization is that we are able to support people wherever they are,” Cote said. “We are able to provide that even better with our new facility.”

Midcoast can now house cats 30% more than before, an important upgrade at a time when adoptions are slowing and the number of unprotected cats is increasing, according to Townsend.

“We have a big cat season this year,” she said. “We are not used to seeing so many cats locally, and we are starting to see them much sooner than we usually see. We had newborns in February, which is unusual.”

Townsend said the domestic cat surplus means Midcoast Humane and other Maine shelters have been able to accommodate fewer animals than other states. Before the pandemic, out-of-state shelters moved about 10,000 out-of-state cats and dogs to Maine each year, according to data from the Maine Animal Welfare Program.

While the summer months often bring a slowdown in adoption, according to state vet assistant Rachel Fisk, the current lull may also be a response to increased interest in pet ownership during the early months of the pandemic.

“Have we saturated the market?” She asked. “I’m not sure.”

Besides donating to shelters like Midcoast Humane, animal lovers can help by staying on top of pet care and scheduling appointments several months in advance, Fisk said.

“If you are adopting a pet or buying a pet, whatever the case may be, it has to be something planned,” she said. “Most people who are planning to have a baby will choose a pediatrician and maybe even make a phone call beforehand. I think we need to change this mindset about our pet family members as well.”

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