PITTSFIELD — On Christmas Eve, the staff of the Bangor Humane Society found a dog tied to the front door. They weren’t surprised.
“Unfortunately, this happens all the time,” humane society worker Laura Dow said Tuesday. As she spoke, she cuddled two kittens that also had been abandoned — a maintenance man found them in the hallway of a Bangor building Tuesday morning.
Animal agents, shelters and pet activists scramble to take care of abandoned and castoff animals throughout the year, but especially when temperatures drop and the weather turns sour. The recent ice storm hasn’t increased the number of castoffs, according to animal control officers.
“People find these animals and call us, asking what to do,” said Dow. The problem usually ends up in the lap of local animal control officers.
Rick Curtis has been Pittsfield’s animal control officer for more than five years. He said Tuesday that one of the hardest parts of his job is dealing with castoffs.
“You never get used to it,” he said. “You see it all the time, but you never, ever get used to it.”
This week, Curtis is trying to find the owner of a white German shepherd that was abandoned Saturday in the parking lot of the local Shop ‘n Save supermarket.
Someone dropped off the dog, thin and frozen and walking on only three paws because the fourth was frostbitten, along with three handfuls of dog kibble in a paper bag.
“She is incredibly thin,” said Curtis. The dog is about 6 months old. She was wearing a black spiked collar, and a blue leash was beside the bag of dog food.
“Someone has seen this dog. Someone knows who abandoned her,” said Curtis. He hopes that person will come forward and notify Curtis so the owner can be prosecuted.
The animal control officer said prosecution is the only effective tool to curb pet abandonment. “We see cats dumped all the time too. They are dumped everywhere,” he said.
Curtis said one of the worst cases in his career was that involving a dog thrown off an Interstate 95 overpass onto the roadway below. The puppy recovered and was adopted.
But the case that still gives him nightmares was the abandonment of seven puppies in a grain bag on a rural road. They were left without water or food in sweltering summer temperatures. The puppies had chewed their way through the bag, and several died before being rescued.
Pittsfield and Bangor aren’t the only Maine communities dealing with castoff pets.
Barbara Muir of the statewide group Friends of Feral Cats said that an established waterfront colony of wild cats in Portland can soar to more than 400 when kittens are born in the summer. The colony began with abandoned pets, said Muir.
“It is unbelieveable that people think pets are disposable,” said Muir. Friends of Feral Cats receives calls daily to assist with castoff cats, she said. Most recently, the group dealt with a colony of 10 cats and kittens at Thomas Pond; a group of 15 at a house in Portland; and a colony of 14 in Durham.
“We find them behind stores and restaurants, gathering by Dumpsters for food. They’re left behind on college campuses when the students go home for semester break. We find them at summer camps, when the season is over, and the kitten that was so cute at the cottage all summer is now left behind when the family goes home,” said Muir.
“Abandoned pets lead a very horrible life. They suffer from disease, pain, hunger and predators. It is a huge, huge problem,” she said.
Sid Cooley has been caring for the abandoned dog in Pittsfield this week, along with a menagerie of other strays and castoffs.
“Just this week we found a box of kittens, very malnourished, thrown up against our outside wall,” said Cooley. Another night, he found two tin popcorn cans filled with mother rats and their babies, leaning against the back door. “One can had been stuffed down inside the other, and one litter had suffocated,” he said.
Cooley said the abandoned German shepherd already has found a home, if she is not claimed by an owner by the end of the week. “Sometimes there is a happy ending,” he said.
Curtis is still searching for whoever dropped the dog off in the parking lot. Anyone in the Pittsfield area who might recognize the description of the abandoned white German shepherd may call Rick Curtis or Pittsfield Police Chief Steve Emery at 487-3101. The information can remain confidential, and the caller can remain anonymous, said Curtis.