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Birch Hill Kennel makes its case for contract renewal in Sanbornton


June 16, 2010
SANBORNTON — With Sanbornton selectmen weighing their options for contracted services for lost and stray animals, Don Carpenter of Birch Hill Kennel came to their meeting last Wednesday to explain the policies and procedures for handling animals brought to his Northfield facility.

Birch Hill, which currently holds the contract in Sanbornton, also provides services for Tilton, Northfield, Belmont and New Hampton. Carpenter said he has been approached by Meredith and Laconia but would prefer to work with the smaller towns that typically don't have as many strays.

"I'm just (a) small country business," he said.

Carpenter is a former animal control officer in Sanbornton, attended the FEMA school for animal behavior and is a member of the New England Canine Search and Rescue team. Besides wilderness and water searches here in New England, Carpenter spent time in New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks assisting in the search through the rubble of the World Trade Center. Carpenter said he has owned Birch Hill Kennel for 18 years and is a hands-on owner. The kennel is state licensed and inspected.

"It's not a $2 million facility; we just love animals," he said.

One benefit to Birch Hill, he noted, is its proximity to Sanbornton. There is a police drop-off area at the kennel for nighttime arrivals and officers are not taken away from their duties in town for long when transporting a stray to his facility.

Over the years Carpenter said he usually sees somewhere in the vicinity of 20 animals a year from Sanbornton. Noreast Veterinary Associates in Belmont perform microchip scans for him in an effort to return an animal to its home. He said it is in his best interest to find the owners of a pet so Birch Hill can then charge for boarding fees and any veterinary expenses.

If an animal arrives sick or injured, he takes them to Noreast right away, otherwise his procedure is to hold it for seven days. After that time Carpenter takes it to the veterinary clinic where they receive a check up, shots and any other care required before he looks for a new home for them. In those instances Birch Hill Kennel absorbs the expense of feeding and caring for the animal. Carpenter said that, unlike the Humane Society, which charges fees from $75 for adult cats to $215 for puppies, he re-homes unclaimed animals at no charge and they are kept at the kennel until a proper home is found.

"We get their health certificate and put them up for adoption. People are interviewed and we don't give them away until we find a good home for them," he said.

Last year six dogs and two cats from Sanbornton were put up for adoption.

Selectman Andrew Livernois asked Carpenter about his record keeping practices and was provided with a sample of an intake sheet for animals brought to the kennel. The date the animal was taken in, its description and what happened after its arrival, including any health care from Noreast Vets, are noted on the form. Also included is the name of the owner if available, the date it was returned or the person who adopted the animal.

Carpenter said he has on rare occasions had an animal put down for extreme behavior issues, but typically he can return an animal or re-home it.

"There's no such thing as a no-kill facility. That's just impossible when there are situations like feral cats and other animals that might be a hazard to the public," Carpenter said.

He said he sees only a few stray animals in Sanbornton but has been working with landlords in towns with large numbers of rental properties where pets are often abandoned by renters who leave them behind. To help control the pet population, Carpenter said he would like to see landlords change their rules to state that pets must be spayed or neutered.

"We need to make people more responsible," he said.

The contract with Birch Hill Kennel will expire on July 1. Selectmen will tour Birch Hill and the New Hampshire Humane Society before making a decision as to which facility they will contract with.

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