A purrfect place

The Marblehead Animal Shelter has been finding new homes for abandoned pets for more than three decades.

The non-profit organization located on 44 Village St. has provided a temporary home to countless creatures waiting for a new chance to be loved and cared for through adoption.

Katie Van Dorpe first moved to Marblehead in 1988. Within a year, she began walking dogs for animal control. After gaining interest from potential volunteers, a path emerged for the shelter to become what it is today.

“The police station right now used to be where we were,” Van Dorpe said. “We had cats in the garage that were strays and dogs that my sister and I would walk every morning.”

Former volunteers Karen Thrasher and Cheryl Fiandaca helped certify the shelter as an official non-profit charity organization in 1992. From that point forward, the support from Marbleheaders began flowing in many different forms.

“People just started supporting us and donating,” Van Dorpe said. “A lot of volunteers would join us and work with us for a while cleaning cages… then they might disappear, but new volunteers would always come in.”

She added that the shelter always has a base group of approximately 30 volunteers.

The majority of the shelter’s inhabitants are cats. They’re brought in as strays or are given up by seniors entering nursing homes. Throughout Van Dorpe’s career as the shelter’s director, she has taken in strays from other communities such as Lynn and Swampscott.

“Some of these places don’t have a rescue group,” Van Dorpe said. “So we help them out by taking care of the cats.”

She emphasized that every animal has its own unique backstory and individual qualities, offering an example of a dog that recently had a short stay at the shelter.

“We had a beautiful little Pekingese dog that was found in Marblehead,” Van Dorpe said. “It was groomed, and its fingernails were cut. It was a beautiful little dog. I thought for sure someone was going to call saying, ‘I lost my dog, is it with you?’ and nobody called about that dog.”

A couple adopted the dog shortly after it was put up for adoption.

However, more than just cats and dogs could be found at the shelter throughout the years. Birds, rabbits, rats, and even snakes have found new homes with the help of Friends of Marblehead’s Abandoned Animals.

The shelter houses an average of 15-20 animals at any given time. Van Dorpe remains amazed to this day by how many customers have interest in adding a new member to their families.

“Our cats are on Petfinder, and it amazes me when I see cats have been adopted by people far and wide,” Van Dorpe said. “People see a cat they like, and even if they’re from the South Shore somewhere, they’ll drive up to our shelter if that’s where the cat is.”