MERIDEN – The Meriden Humane Society is taking steps, one paw at a time, to improve their relationship with the city, hoping to stay longer in the city-owned building.
In October, the group was told it had four months to vacate the Murdock Avenue property. City officials said the group overstayed its lease which expired in 2015.
This came after a series of controversies including the arrest of its director Marlena DiBianco for forging paperwork.
Since, the Meriden Humane Society Board of Directors pushed to bring about change in an effort to keep its home.
It removed DiBianco from her position and asked the city to extend the lease from the end of February. City Manager, Guy Scaife, said the MHS got an extension for three more months.
In the meantime, the Board of Directors said they began cleaning up a mess they were unaware of.
“I don't think the board had been privy to the full picture in the months leading up to this decision,” Board Secretary Karen Annis said. “We came in with just over $40 thousand in debt.”
In a few months, the group has paid off a third of its debt, including overdue vet bills, and said it’s on top of any current payments and payroll.
It also addressed some city concerns, including decreasing the cat population 50-percent.
Annis said there are about 60 cats in the building, prior to, there were over 100.
The group said it is also being more conscious of how many animals it takes in, making sure if there’s an alternative for the pet or its owner, they find it.
The Board of Directors is reaching out to other organizations for guidance. Annis said they got an independent shelter assessment from a vet and toured the Connecticut Humane Society.
“We’ve really reached out to some independent business leaders, folks that are successfully running businesses that are pertinent to animals,” Annis said.
The group is also mending its rocky relationship with the group it shares the building with, Meriden Animal Control.
A room between the two, which was once used to house small dogs, is now a shared storage space.
“This room is really where the conflict with the city started,” Annis said. “I think we’ve made some smart decisions about the physical space but I hope we’ve made some even smarter decisions about just changing the culture and changing the way we’re working with our partner agencies.”
Scaife said he is recognizing the changes with the organization saying they did a complete 180.
“No one has lost sight of the purpose they serve in this community and other communities around,” Scaife said. “Whether we find a relationship going forward or not, I think those folks, those new board of directors, really do deserve a lot of credit for doing what’s been a remarkable turnaround.”
Scaife said Saving Paws, the group which initially inquired about taking over some of the Meriden Humane Society Space, is no longer interested.
As of now, the Meriden Humane Society has until May 31st in the current building.
The Board of Directors Plans to present a proposal for a lease extension to the city March 20th.