Job No. 1 for Berkshire Humane Society: Find home for pets


PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- There are a number of programs for adopting pets from the Berkshire Humane Society, all of which are on their website.

It is clear, however, that the main strategy is simple: Get people in the door.

The dogs are quartered to the left of the front door. The cats to the right. The dogs are delighted to see visitors. The cats? They're a little more laid back, relaxing in their little beds. But as a reporter walks by one cage, a black-and-white mix looks up expectantly, eyes wide. The reporter stops. Then moves on a bit sadly.

The Humane Society is an independent, nonprofit organization that has been in town since 1992, essentially taking over from the Pittsfield branch of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), when it closed a year earlier.

One can adopt dogs, cats, rabbits and even ferrets. Since it opened in 1992, more than 16,000 pets have been placed in homes. In 2011, more than 1,300 animals were brought to the shelter by either their owners or animal control officers. All the adoptable dogs and 100 percent of the cats were placed, according to the Society's website.

The good news is, the number of animals brought to the shelter has declined over the past four years, a fact that Humane Society officials believe is at least partly due to the efforts of their organization and others at educating the public and spaying their animals.

The not-so-good news is that there always seems to be dogs and cats that need homes.

But there are also people willing to give them one.

On Sunday, Judy Williamson and her partner, Peter Whitfield were looking at a black Labrador retriever, named Ross.

Ross has a backstory. It is not a good one. He is one of the 31 dogs rescued from the North Adams home of a local dog breeder a few weeks ago.

Ross is pretty frisky, and a little nervous. Given his circumstances, that is understandable.

Williamson and Whitfield already have a dog, but after seeing Ross' picture in The Eagle, decided to take a trip to the Humane Society.

"He's a dog that hasn't had a lot of success," said Williamson of Ross. She and Whitfield huddle with a trainer to discuss it.

A few minutes later, Skylar Pietras, 14, and her friend, Aryonah Buffoni, 13, both of Pittsfield, are sitting in the shelter's waiting room, filling out volunteer forms as their respective parents stroll around the shelter looking at animals.

Shelter volunteers can be assigned a variety of duties, from walking dogs to supervising cats in the Society's "cat room," which looks like a condo for wealthy felines.

Neither Buffoni nor Pietras say they care what they are asked to do.

"We're signing up," said Buffoni, "because we love animals. I think it's so horrible what people do to them."

She is asked if she knows what type of people would abuse animals, or abandon them.

"I don't know," she said. "I think they must be crazy."

Pietras is also asked why she's signing on.

"I'm alone sometimes," she said. "And I don't want these animals to be alone."

It is time for the reporter to leave. He takes several pamphlets and says good-bye to the animals. Walking out the door, he sees the volunteer sign-up form. He takes one with him.

For more information about the Berkshire Humane Society and its adoption programs, go to


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