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Sofia, an occupant of the new Stray Animal Facility at Sigonella, Sicily, stares out from her kennel.
Sofia, an occupant of the new Stray Animal Facility at Sigonella, Sicily, stares out from her kennel. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy)
Sofia, an occupant of the new Stray Animal Facility at Sigonella, Sicily, stares out from her kennel.
Sofia, an occupant of the new Stray Animal Facility at Sigonella, Sicily, stares out from her kennel. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy)
Gunnar Gorder, a photographer's mate third class stationed at NAS Sigonella, Sicily, socializes with an occupant of Sigonella's new Stray Animal Facility.
Gunnar Gorder, a photographer's mate third class stationed at NAS Sigonella, Sicily, socializes with an occupant of Sigonella's new Stray Animal Facility. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy)
Shelly Kennington, a ship's serviceman third class with NAS Sigonella, Sicily's Stray Animal Facility, hugs an occupant of the new facility, which opened Monday.
Shelly Kennington, a ship's serviceman third class with NAS Sigonella, Sicily's Stray Animal Facility, hugs an occupant of the new facility, which opened Monday. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy)
The hands of Shelly Kennington, a ship's serviceman third class with NAS Sigonella, Sicily's Stray Animal Facility, check on two of the occupants of the new facility, which opened Monday.
The hands of Shelly Kennington, a ship's serviceman third class with NAS Sigonella, Sicily's Stray Animal Facility, check on two of the occupants of the new facility, which opened Monday. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy)

Stray dogs and cats on bases in Sicily are being treated to new digs.

The indoor Stray Animal Facility, which opened Monday at Naval Air Station Sigonella I, replaces a rundown, outdoor shelter.

“It’s like walking into doggie heaven,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Shelly Kennington, one of three servicemembers working there.

The Security Department runs the facility, attached to the new security building. The former shelter had five winter and five summer kennels. “It was basically tin, wood and a chain-link fence,” said Kennington, 24, a ship serviceman from Mesa, Ariz.

Eighteen dogs can now stretch out in 5½-by-6 kennels. A separate room has cages for 14 cats. There are plenty of amenities the old shelter lacked: ceiling fans, air conditioning, lighting, space heaters, storage space and a washer/dryer.

“It’s all enclosed now, so it prevents strays from getting in the kennel,” Kennington said. “Before, we had strays that would come from outside the base and feed on the bags of food that were just laying around because we didn’t have proper storage.”

Only dogs and cats caught on the bases are taken in.

“We do not accept animals from off base because of infection and diseases, plus there’s way too many,” Kennington said.

Most strays are either abandoned by families moving, or rescued by Americans off base and dropped on base because they know they’ll be taken care of at the shelter, she said. A few times a year, litters of puppies and kittens are found abandoned in base trash containers.

All animals put up for adoption are spayed and neutered, given their first vaccinations and a microchip.

“The Army veterinarians are the ones who really get in there and do the work,” said Gerald Garner, security administration officer. “They deal with strays, dogs that could have rabies. They really do a lot for us.”

The base also has established a cat colony. The chicken coop-like safe haven allows cats to come and go. Strays are caught and spayed or neutered before being released. Domestic cats are taken to the kennel for adoption.

The animals live in the shelter until they find a home. Italian law prohibits euthanization unless animals are aggressive or diseased, Kennington said.

Mama, a shepherd mix, was the shelter’s longest resident. After three years, someone took her to the States.

Garner said that the adoption rate is very successful. More than 50 animals were adopted the past year.

“The turnover ratio is very quick with adopting out,” he said.

The facility relies on donations and volunteers. Call 624-3936 for more information.

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