By Susan Spisak
“I feel like this shelter is stuck between being called a shelter and a rescue,” said Joan McBurnie, Executive Director and Manager for the almost 30-year-old Harvest Hills Animal Shelter in Fryeburg. “We run applications, we run vet checks, we don’t import [pets]. Not everyone else does,” she said. “And we continue to be different, and I think that is a good thing. But I love working with everyone,” meaning the shelters and rescues who collaborate with them.
One creative distinction is their Nine Lives Thrift Shop. Housed next door to the shelter, it supports the nonprofit year-round. Shoppers look forward to browsing through their donated home goods, furniture, current magazines, jewelry, games, toys, and more. There are vintage and antique items in the “Cat’s Meow” area, too. (Refer to their website link below for store hours, donation drop off hours, and desired in-good-shape items. Masks required.)
She believes the medical care their animals receive is extraordinary. All their dogs are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, dewormed, are microchipped, and have had preventatives. They take in hundreds of dogs annually (and scads of cats); many from their 20 contracted towns as local pets are their emphasis.
As far as owner relinquishments, Harvest Hills accepts animals from the western Maine region and nearby New Hampshire. McBurnie admitted their intake guidelines are not set in-stone. For example, many out-of-staters have second homes in their area. If they need to relinquish their pet, they’ll accommodate them.
Another difference that she’s proud of and wears on her sleeve: “We are blessed with cats and dogs that might not be perfect, but we think they’re perfect. We know it takes a little longer to get those guys adopted out; they’re quirky, and we’re okay with that.” Case in point is relinquished boy Kane who has two strikes against him. He’s black, a fur color that may be considered ordinary by adopters, and a new tripod. “He’s a cutie patootie,” McBurnie shared affectionately.
An online application must be filled out for all adoptions. Once approved, an appointment is scheduled. Some applicants are specific on the dog they want to meet, but staffers may redirect them based on information gleaned during the preapproval process. “They might have seen Fido, but [we may think], geesh, Shadow is going to be better.” That said, McBurnie said it’s their hour, so potential adopters can choose what pets they want to meet. She added some folks look at dogs and cats, too.
Harvest Hills had been very active in the community with events and rabies clinics, but the pandemic changed many. One event they’re hoping to bring back is Freezing for a Reason, their annual polar dip at Highland Lake in Bridgton. McBurnie said the board has approved the 2022 event, but that could fluctuate with CDC guidelines. If it’s a go, they’ll eliminate the hot tubs and changing area. Check website for updates and details.
For information on Harvest Hills Animal Shelter, including available animals, application, and adoption rates, visit harvesthills.org/about-the-shelter/.