Enough money has been raised to fund a new animal control and rescue shelter, and the project is entering the design phase of the building.
The new facility, located on the east side of town off Corporate Drive, will replace the building currently in use at 701 SW Lower Lake Road which dates back to the 1970s and was never intended for pets for extended stays. The Friends of the Animal Sanctuary have been instrumental in raising funds for the new facility.
“Sometimes getting there is all about doing what you have to do,” said Ed Vanover, president of Friends of the Animal Sanctuary. “That’s when we stepped in and said we were going to have a new shelter… In our minds, good or bad, we thought that was the only way it was going to happen.”
A misconception some may have is that Friends of Animal Refuge and St. Joseph’s Animal Refuge are the same entity, but are entirely separate. FOTAS is a non-profit organization that started in 2010 to support the shelter and the animals therein, while the shelter houses the animals themselves.
A new animal shelter is needed for several reasons including the current space is too small, it is not in a central location for people to get to, the kennels are not big enough for the dogs , there is no space to store food and other necessities and there is a lack of neutral meeting space for pets and potential families.
“In the ’70s, animal shelters were like the pound, you know, it was a place where animals were held for a short period of time,” said Aubrey Silvey, the animal shelter’s humanitarian director. “They didn’t have the animal welfare standards that we have now, so this building limits us. We don’t have the capacity here to grow up and do everything we want to do now because we don’t want to do the bare minimum for the animals, we want to do more.
Plans for a new building to alleviate these issues have been in the works for 10 years, but financially it was a challenge until a new deal with the city.
“At some point, the friends decided, ‘Well, we’re not going to get there in a reasonable amount of time if we don’t get some help,'” Vanover said. “So the city agreed to give us a million dollars in CIP money if we raised a million and a half. Well, we raised a million and a half.
According to the current agreement between the group and the city, the Friends and the shelter must spend this $1.5 million before receiving the additional $1 million in funds from the PIC.
FOTAS has had its new property for four years, initially renting it and now owning the building. With the group responsible for mortgage and utility bills ever since, the pressure to get construction started has grown.
“Before it was just everyone’s vision of what it was going to be, now we’ve written what they want from the shelter,” Vanover said. “It now gives us the opportunity to move into the design phase and have a design of what the shelter will look like, which is a monumental phase, as far as I’m concerned, because we can go to the donors and say, ‘This is what it’s going to look like.
Vanover said continued fundraising efforts will be imperative for this new facility to come to fruition.
“I’m not going to throw in numbers, but I’m pretty sure the $2.5 million isn’t going to be enough,” Vanover said.
The design phase is expected to last a year, taking into account suggestions from the group of friends as well as shelter workers who have a better understanding of what an improved facility will need. Once a project is agreed, it will be presented to the city council for approval before moving on to the construction of the new building.