New Animal Care Facility In Newtown Opens With A Celebration
By Kendra Bobowick
The 90-degree heat Sunday did not stop animal lovers from gathering outdoors to celebrate a project that started nearly one year ago.
Filling folding chairs beneath a tent facing the new Brian J. Silverlieb Animal Care and Control Center for its grand opening on July 8 were roughly 70 guests — town officials, pet advocates, and supporters — eager for a look inside the center located off Old Farm Road below the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard.
Noting the hard work and commitment to a project “done well and done right,” First Selectman Pat Llodra said the $1 million cost for the new pound “has a million-dollar value. It’s a far cry from what we have now.” The current pound sits behind the town’s transfer station on Ethan Allen Drive, and is an old facility that no longer meets animal care or animal control staff needs.
Inviting Canine Advocates of Newtown (CAN) President Virginia Jess to speak, Mrs Llodra thanked her organization for raising roughly $250,000 to contribute to building the new animal care center, saying, “[Ms Jess] is the drive and energy behind CAN.” Through Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) funds, the CAN donation, and private contributions, the town had the funding to cover project costs.
Noting Brian J. Silverlieb’s name on the facility, Ms Jess remembered and praised the late veterinary medical doctor and founder of Mt Pleasant Hospital for Animals and devoted advocate of pound pets. She said of her longtime friend, “No one would have been happier than Brian.” Quiet for a moment, she then added, “We are so proud to do this for Brian and his family…” Dr Silverlieb gave much of his time to caring for pound pets. He died in February 2011.
Ms Jess said, “We hope this building will reflect Brian’s compassion and love.” She thanked him and “everyone who made the day come true.”
She soon welcomed Dr Silverlieb’s brother Richard Silverlieb, who also spoke. He reminded the crowd of his brother’s belief that a society is judged by how it treats its animals. He said, “We thank you so much [for the building dedication]. It’s a remarkable legacy to Brian.” Dr Silverlieb’s son Darryl soon stood beside Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia, joined by Mrs Llodra, and from a bucket of names of dogs and owners who renewed their dog licenses recently, he reached in and selected the year’s honorary number one dog. Ms Aurelia read the name Cinnamon, a Brussels Griffon.
Also at the grand opening Sunday were Dr Silverlieb’s brother Frank Longo, cousin Barbara Roy, and his brother Richard’s wife Bell.
As the ceremony ended and guests toured the new facility with its many kennels and rooms, Animal Control Officer Carolee Mason stopped to thank Richard Silverlieb for his brother’s hard work. “He did amazing things,” she said, telling stories about injured animals that Dr Silverlieb had helped.
Viewing the new space were Anne Rothstein and Jane Hellman with their therapy dog Jeanna, who visits residents at Masonicare of Newtown. One of the kennel rooms is named for one of their dogs, Mae Rose. In the reception area reading over plaques and other items that will soon hang on the facility’s walls were Ben and Judy Rubackin with their Italian greyhound Coco.
The new facility was designed by Jacunski Humes Architects of Berlin. Public Works crews also contributed a great deal of site work at the location. The animal care center will also accept cats.
In addition to the town and canine advocate funds is money from late residents Frances Hair and Hazel Bouchard, who left more than $2 million to the town for animal care. The bequest became available earlier this year. Ms Mason said she was “absolutely” happy to learn about the funds.
“With that money we will have a trainer working with them,” she added. Dogs often need time to settle in at a new home, she said. “When dogs are adopted out, they’re hesitant and nervous and have things to work out.”
To have funds for training and helping the dogs acclimate to new homes leaves her “ thrilled,” Ms Mason said. “It’s a lot of money and a good thing. I am happy for the animals, the dogs and the cats. Hopefully this will make it easier on the town.”
Frances Hair was 98 when she died in April 2008. The widow of Val Hair, she had been a resident of Sandy Hook for more than 30 years at the time of her death. She was owner and operator, with her late husband, of the former Pine View Nursing Home in Monroe.
Hazel Bouchard died this past January. She was 78, and had long been the proprietor of Hazel’s Liquor Store, which was located on Route 25 at the Monroe town line.
Both women have been laid to rest at Newtown Village Cemetery.
Before their bequests became available to the town, work had already begun on the new animal care facility in August 2011: in hard hats and holding ceremonial shovels, officials and volunteers gathered in the shade to break ground. They stood at a spot on Old Farm Road at what was then an open field.
Acknowledging first the “incredible accomplishment” of the years-long pubic and private partnership to build a pound, First Selectman Pat Llodra had said the moment represents the successful effort to “do better by our animals.”
Ms Jess had said the new facility “represents a dream,” that became a reality for her that day. Contributions including “all the little things” coming from the community have added up, she said. She turned to former first selectman Herb Rosenthal saying, “Herb spoke up for the animals for 12 years.” Looking toward her various board members she said, “You worked effortlessly; you stuck through it.” And remembering longtime advocate and friend of the pound, she said, “Brian [Silverlieb] is smiling down. God has blessed this project.”
A month later officials chose to name the pound after Dr Silverlieb. According to Ms Jess, Dr Silverlieb may have done more to make Newtown nicer for animals than anybody. And there may have been no one more passionate about improving the conditions under which the town’s cast-off and abandoned pets were forced to live after being impounded.
“He was the only vet in town to offer a deep discount for the care of pound animals,” she said. “And when there was no room for an animal at the pound for any reason, Dr Silverlieb offered shelter in his hospital at no cost.”
During the August groundbreaking, gathered supporters included residents such as Maureen Donnel and her dog Misty, who sponsored a room in the new building, and Ms Mason and Assistant Animal Control Officer Matt Schaub received a brief applause for their continued care of Newtown’s animals.
As summer turned to fall and then winter, the new year brought with it new construction. Standing on January’s frozen ground in early 2012 were the foundation and bare plywood walls of a new animal control facility.
“It’s exciting!” said Mrs Llodra. “This is a big deal.”
“We’re getting there,” Public Works Director Fred Hurley said then. “It’s actually going to happen.” Already adding its shape to the landscape was the building’s stone façade.
Nearly a year since the groundbreaking Mr Hurley stood with the others this past weekend during the grand opening ceremony. Although the old facility is still in use, staff and animals will soon relocate their offices and operation to the new site.