Angels Helping Animals Worldwide in Oak Bluffs, a nonprofit animal shelter that finds homes for animals, is now looking for a home of its own after its lease with the town was not renewed.
The organization rescues animals from kill shelters and puppy mills off-Island, and places them in foster homes and with adopting families. Angels Helping Animals Worldwide owner Leslie Hurd estimates the shelter has adopted out hundreds of animals over the years.
Hurd leased a town-owned building at 347 County Rd. from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2018. The town then granted Hurd a one-year extension, through June 30, 2019. In December, Hurd spoke with town administrator Robert Whritenour who told her the town was pleased with her use of the space, but in April she was informed her lease would not be renewed.
Hurd said she understands the town has the right to tell her to leave, but finding another place to operate has proven difficult. Since settling in the County Road building, Hurd says she’s invested lots of money and work in the building to get it to a suitable level to be designated a quarantine area with the Department of Agriculture. Imported dogs entering Massachusetts have to be quarantined for up to 48 hours. If Angels Helping Animals has to find a new space to operate in, they will no longer have the ability to isolate dogs brought in from out of state, and will have to do it off-Island before bringing them to Island homes.
“It’s just frustrating because we have a great thing going,” Hurd said. “We’re saving dogs that would otherwise be euthanized.”
The town informed Hurd in April that her lease would be up in a month, and the space would be used by the animal control officer.
“At the end of this period, our feedback from the selectmen is that the town will need the facility as our Animal Control Headquarters. As such, we will not be issuing another lease term. I am glad we were able to assist your agency in getting off the ground,” Whritenour wrote in an email to Hurd.
Hurd then asked for additional time to stay in the space, and was granted a three-month extension that ends on Sept. 22.
Hurd said she’s appealing to selectmen to extend her stay again, or to be able to share the space with the town’s animal control officer. If that doesn’t work out, Hurd says she’ll find another place to house animals until a permanent space is made available — no matter what happens, Hurd said her rescue program will continue.
Selectman Brian Packish told The Times that after housing the town’s animal control officer in the police department building and then in the basement of the town hall, the time had come to find a proper facility.
“It was a mutually beneficial relationship, and at this point we’re going in a different direction,” Packish said. “It’s a great organization.”
Hurd works in tandem with Bill Smith of 1 Love 4 Animals, a Pennsylvania-based organization that rescues dogs from unlivable situations. Smith was disappointed to hear Hurd’s lease was running out and not being renewed, considering the large demand for adopting dogs on the Island. “The dogs we send up are the most adoptable dogs,” Smith said.
While waiting for further word from selectmen and making sure she has a backup space to operate in, Hurd said community support has been vital. “We want to work with people. It’s about rescue; we’re not looking for controversy, we’re just trying to get everyone’s needs met,” she said.