After Sherman house fire, all 20 animals placed in new permanent homes, rescue groups

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox
Jasper was one of 20 animals placed from a Sherman house fire in September.

Jasper was one of 20 animals placed from a Sherman house fire in September.

Gina Gambino, Regional Animal Control /

SHERMAN — A September fire left 20 animals - 19 dogs and a chicken - without a home. Their owner, 76-year-old Richard Genalski, was killed in the fire.

Taking in that many animals and finding new homes for them promised to be a challenge for the Regional Animal Control in New Milford. But the situation was complicated by the condition of the animals.

“The dogs were tied up outside all over the yard and under stuff and it was a real terrible situation for the animals,” said Curtis Read, the Bridgewater first selectman and chairman of the Regional Animal Control. He added that a lot of the dogs “were starving and hungry.”

In a community-wide effort, with the help of multiple organizations and individuals, as of Dec. 8, all 19 dogs — and one chicken — have been placed with rescue groups or found permanent homes. The last to be placed was Jasper, a brown and white coonhound, described as “lovable but rough around the edges.”

Gina Gambino, an officer with Regional Animal Control, said the dogs’ path to adoption was “tough.”

“This was one of the biggest cases of placement that the organization has handled in quite awhile,” she added.

Organizations involved with the rescue and funding for the care of the dogs, who were mostly coonhounds, included the Connecticut Humane Society in Newington, the Animal Welfare Society of New Milford, the New Fairfield-Sherman Animal Welfare Society, and Northeast Coonhound Rescue.

The chicken was placed by Gambino’s friend who has a farm.

While being cared for, the dogs were given services such as spaying, neutering, dental treatment, parasite testing. Some, that came into care with existing conditions, had surgeries.

Most of the animals who were rescued had heartworm, which is a serious parasite that infects the internal organs.

“They had to be treated before they were released for adoption,” Gambino said.

Jasper is now in foster care through Northeast Coonhound Rescue in Massachusetts. Gambino said because Jasper was “the toughest case, he really tugged at my heartstrings.”

Gambino said it’s very common for people who work with Northeast Coonhound Rescue to expect those dogs to come from rough and “outdoor tie-out situations.”

Placing Jasper with this organization “was probably the best medicine, the best remedy and the best avenue for him, so we really did open up new avenues in the shelter by reaching out to a group that was so closely appropriate for him.”

Rescue groups shared many stories with Gambino, in regard to the care of the dogs they took in — one of which involved an elderly beagle named Lady Clara.

“Animal Welfare Society took her in. They initially thought that she had a tumor on the underside of her belly but it ended up being a large hernia,” Gambino said. “They raised money to have that large hernia repaired and they adopted her out to a home.”

Another dog, Mable, was an elderly Treeing Walker Coonhound that the Connecticut Humane Society said needs to have “a calm, quiet home where she can lie next to a fire,” Gambino said. “She matched the exact description that an applied adopter with Northeast Coonhound was looking for, so she was matched up and placed with that very home.”

A great deal of planning and driving time went into Regional Animal Control’s transport of the animals back and forth around the state for housing, veterinary care and treatment, Gambino said. While doing so, she said, each of the dogs showed their unique personality and needs, and adapted well to their new surroundings.

“Though some dogs seemed timid and were confused by the changes of being taken into animal care facilities, all of them came to us with voracious appetites. With appropriate meals and rewards in training, a great deal is possible,” she said.

Gambino said placing all of them gave her “an amazing sense of peace.”

“We are very proud to have been able to save all dogs that were at the location of that house fire in September. It was a huge undertaking,” Gambino said. “It takes a village for all these dogs to be adopted.”

‘Here to serve the public’

Regional Animal Control, which serves Bridgewater, Brookfield, New Milford, Roxbury and Sherman, is going through a lot of changes “to help better serve the community,” Gambino said.

Aside from the addition of many new staff members and sharing resources with other rescue groups, the organization is “focusing on the humane aspect of placement in bringing our facility up to industry standard,” Gambino said. “We are here to serve the public and are all very excited to move the shelter in a positive direction and motivated direction.”

For information on adopting an animal in need, contact the Animal Welfare Society in New Milford at 860-354-1350. 203-948-9802