Belchertown dog rescue group buys Dakin site in Leverett

Dakin Humane Society announced Wednesday that it has sold its property at 163 Montague Road to Better Together Dog Rescue, a nonprofit founded by a Belchertown resident two years ago.

Dakin Humane Society announced Wednesday that it has sold its property at 163 Montague Road to Better Together Dog Rescue, a nonprofit founded by a Belchertown resident two years ago. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 11-30-2023 10:26 AM

LEVERETT — For almost 25 years, a property at 163 Montague Road has served as a sanctuary for dogs, cats and other small animals, ensuring that otherwise unwanted and homeless pets would get love and attention, and eventually be adopted.

Now, more than a year after the Dakin Humane Society announced that it wouldn’t be reopening this Leverett location, closed at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the property has been sold to Better Together Dog Rescue, a nonprofit organization founded by a Belchertown resident two years ago to serve western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut.

“Better Together Dog Rescue is thrilled to finally have a home,” Jenny Franz, founder of the organization, said in a statement. “Our mission to support dogs and the people who love them will continue to grow within the facility. We cannot wait to open our doors to the public.”

The 3,480-square-foot building, located on five acres of land, sold for $575,000.

Franz established the foster-based rescue in February 2021 from her home and completed the first dog rescue that December, with work focused on placing dogs with their forever families.

“Having a building will not only provide additional space for dogs that need placement, but it will provide a space for the community to visit and volunteer,” Franz said.

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Better Together Dog Rescue has been growing, recently receiving a grant from Tito’s Vodka for Dog People Foundation to purchase a van to transport dogs, and next year will be launching a mobile pet food pantry, providing supplies and a free store to increase access and assist more people with their pets.

The organization also runs the FACT Program, supporting the Forgotten Animals of Cleveland, Texas, by supplying food, preventatives medication and resources for the dogs and cats living on the streets there.

Dakin’s decision to relinquish its Leverett property, made last year, came as part of consolidating its operations to its Springfield location to improve efficiency. With more dedicated foster caregivers, Dakin was seeing reduced need for additional shelter space, said Meg Talbert, executive director at Dakin Humane Society

“Before the pandemic, more and more animals were being placed in foster homes, since they simulate a home environment, are less stressful for animals, and can accommodate those pets who have additional needs,” Talbert said.

Talbert said Dakin appreciates that another nonprofit is able to use the Leverett location, noting that the building’s structure and surroundings, which had been a smaller kennel when Dakin acquired the site in the 1990s, are ideal for an animal welfare organization.

Dakin, which shelters, treats and fosters more than 20,000 animals and has performed over 100,000 spay and neuter surgeries since 2009, will continue to provide services in Hampshire and Franklin counties, like supplying pet food to the Northampton and Amherst Survival Centers, assisting pet owners and animal control units by taking in cats and dogs when hoarding or other pet emergencies arise, and arranging “Snip Trip” rides to the community spay and neuter clinics for people who otherwise aren’t able to drive to Springfield.

Dakin’s Pet Health Center, a non-emergency veterinary resource for pet dogs and cats, has treated more than 2,500 pets since opening in 2022.

“We are eager to explore additional partnerships and opportunities to provide Dakin’s services and resources to Upper Valley pets and their people in the future,” Talbert said.

Founded in 1982 as the Friends of Amherst’s Stray Animals by Janet Wilder Dakin, Dakin and other women would gather around her kitchen table out of concern that no place to protect stray dogs and cats, with abandoned dogs spending the maximum of 10 days in the town of Amherst’s care being euthanized. Dakin died in 1994, just as the organization was purchasing the Leverett kennel that would become its shelter.

In 2006, Dakin Animal Shelter and the Pioneer Valley Humane Society merged, and three years later, the organization extended its reach to the entire Pioneer Valley when it bought the Springfield building owned by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as the MSPCA pulled out of western Massachusetts that March.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.