On Thursday, state animal welfare officials seized 50 dogs and 11 cats from an Alfred shelter because the facility allegedly failed inspections and failed to meet licensing standards.
The seizure follows a search warrant executed at the Saving Lives animal shelter on Sanford Road (Highway 202), but the dispute between the facility and the town of Alfred dates back months.
According to minutes of a Board of Selectmen meeting, the city told owner Brenda MacKenzie in January that she had 30 days to obtain a license because a shelter or legal action would be taken. Selectmen learned that within that 30-day window, state officials were called to the facility to investigate a case of parvo, a highly contagious and sometimes serious virus found in dogs.
City officials consulted legal counsel last month.
“Although we want to speak about the incident, we must respect the integrity of the case until it makes its way through the justice system,” said Jim Britt, spokesman for the Department of Maine Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which oversees the animal welfare division. “We can say that all the animals were seized and removed due to the living conditions and medical issues discovered during the search.”
Shelter owner MacKenzie did not respond to a message or email on Friday, but says NewsCenter Maine that she did not mistreat any of the animals and said the seizure included both rescue dogs she had taken and her own pets.
“I don’t think it was supposed to happen the way it did,” she said. “I wouldn’t have objected to them taking animals, but I don’t think it was necessary to take my personal animals.”
According to its website, Saving Lives Animal Shelter “is a cat and dog rescue service in Alfred, Maine dedicated to improving the lives of the animals we rescue and help find their forever homes. We focus on preventing animal cruelty, neglect and euthanasia through our advocacy campaigns and information initiatives.
The state is still investigating the circumstances that led to Thursday’s seizure, but charges are likely.
Britt said all of the seized animals have been moved to other shelters across the state, “where they are safe and receiving proper care.”
“We couldn’t do the work we do without the help of Maine animal shelters and the foster programs they’ve created,” he said.
The seized animals are unlikely to be up for adoption anytime soon, Britt said, but many other pets are available from shelters.
“And there are different ways to help, like volunteering at local animal shelters and supporting local shelter fundraising efforts,” he said.
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