Editorial : Very bad news, indeed
The news this week that the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) will close the Katharine M. Foote memorial animal shelter in Edgartown in May is a body blow to a community that devotes itself so enthusiastically to its dogs and cats. The MSPCA will also close its animal care and adoption centers in Brockton and Springfield because of budget pressures, but pet owners in those areas can drive to other shelters for services.
Nonprofit organizations of every stripe, and for-profit enterprises as well, must work very hard and creatively these days to fulfill their missions. In this case, the sudden announcement by the MSPCA and the absence of efforts on its part to alert Islanders sufficiently in advance to permit discussion of alternatives to shut down puts this admirable organization in a shabby light. More important, the MSPCA's inability to engage Vineyard supporters of its work here in efforts to maintain their badly needed service leaves Islanders with a big job to do before spring.
Ms. Foote founded the Vineyard shelter that bears her name in 1933. The MSPCA took over the shelter in 1947. It appears to be time for the Vineyard communities to design a plan to retrieve the abandoned shelter from the MSPCA and strike out on our own. But how?
That's a question for the leaders of the six towns, all of which have a stake in the humane care of domesticated animals, and perhaps for the county government. The treasury of the latter is bare, its track record is dismal, but voters have persisted in dreaming that there may be a regional, organizing function that the county could undertake. This may be the county's moment. Here's a job that badly needs doing. It's one that is Island-wide in its urgency and importance. With imagination and diligence, and the dependable, energetic contributions of Vineyarders who know a solution must be found, the county may help design a workable outcome.
But, however the effort may be mounted to replace the departing MSPCA mission, the framework of its long history here is a helpful lesson to keep in mind as the page turns. The Foote shelter has been a private, nonprofit enterprise and should remain so. It has been modestly funded, in keeping with its limited but vital function. It has served all six towns, as it must. It has worked cooperatively with Island veterinarians, boarding facilities, and animal control officers, as any such service must. And, it has laid claim to the inchoate allegiance of most Islanders who have a high regard for this low-profile but indispensable service.