A crowd of around 40 people and dogs gathered at the future home of the Newtown Animal Shelter off of Trades Lane Wednesday for its long-awaited ground-breaking ceremony.
“This is the day that our dream was realized,” said Canine Advocates of Newtown president Virginia Jess.
For many, it was the culmination of 12 years of grassroots fund-raising efforts by Canine Advocates of Newtown and individual citizens to build a larger, cleaner facility for the shelter’s dogs.
The effort “reflects the passion Newtown owners have for their animals,” Jess said.
Maureen Donnel was on hand with her 14-year-old dog Misty, along with Judy Caracciolo and her dog Scooby-Doo. Both pets were former residents of the shelter. Donnel and Caracciolo have been instrumental in Canine Advocates of Newtown’s efforts to build a new shelter.
Donnel purchased a sponsorship of one of the new rooms planned for the shelter. Caracciolo and her granddaughter Leah Marie, also present for the ceremony, have done several fundraisers, such as jewelry-making for numerous tag sales, with the proceeds going to the shelter.
“It’s the story of the shelter,” Donnel said of the efforts.
Though the majority of the funding of the new shelter -- $750,000 -- came from Newtown’s Capital Improvement Plan, small-scale fundraising efforts such as Caracciolo’s have provided nearly $250,000 toward the new facility.
First Selectman Pat Llodra praised the fundraising drive as a very successful example of a joint initiative of local government and the public.
“We hope the shelter will open in December,” said Llodra.
Jess thanked several people who were instrumental in the drive for the new shelter including former First Selectman Herb Rosenthal and Newtown Public Works Director Fred Hurley “who have continued to be point people on this project.”
Thanks also went to Canine Advocates of Newtown board members Adria Henderson, Karen Nash, Phil Vail and Frank McCloskey as well as Municipal Animal Control Officer Carolee Mason and Kennel Keeper Matt Schaub “for taking care of the animals.”
Jess’s voice faltered as she spoke about “our dear Brian” referring to the late Newtown veterinarian Brian Silverlieb of Mount Pleasant Animal Hospital, who up to his death in February of this year was a benefactor of the shelter.
Silverlieb and his staff provided free veterinary services to injured animals and his hospital offered temporary housing to animals awaiting adoption.
“I know he’s smiling today,” Jess said.