Press Release: Getting There…An Update on the Haywood County Animal Shelter
March 5, 2018
The Friends want to give you an update about the progress at the new Haywood County Animal Shelter which is nearing completion and to let you know that we are “getting there” in our efforts to meet our $1M goal for the equipment, furnishings and supplies needed for operations at the new shelter. We pledged to raise these funds to ensure that the new shelter operates as effectively as possible. Following are highlights of our progress.
Friends of the Haywood County Animal Shelter, was formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, several years ago at the request of the Haywood County Commissioners. The purpose was and is to facilitate a public-private partnership to design and build a modern animal sheltering facility to replace the antiquated one in use at present. For anyone who has ever just walked in the door of the current shelter the need is patently obvious.
The Friends of the Haywood County Animal Shelter together with the Haywood County Animal Services Advisory Board spent months studying what animal shelters have cost in similar communities around the nation and found that to do this building correctly would entail considerable expense. The special needs of an animal shelter, when built correctly, requires specialized plumbing, ventilation, surfaces, equipment and sound dampening and typical construction costs run over $300 per square foot. During the initial needs assessment period, one of the experts we consulted told us that if we were to build everything the county, our local animal rescue groups, and the Friends wanted, we would have to spend over six million dollars.
We realized that our county could not build a $6M facility. So, everything was reviewed, all that could reasonably be removed was, leaving us with the basics that the shelter must have. Even this, at over three million dollars, we knew would be a hard pill for some to swallow. (Our smaller neighboring county also found similar results: the needs assessment for Jackson County’s proposed animal shelter also came in at well over $6M). Despite these facts, we realized that, as happened in 1988 when the current shelter was built, criticism would come from many directions from those who did not understand the needs or the attendant expense.
However, we also knew that there were folks who were passionate about animal sheltering and rescue and who would support our efforts. The public-private aspect of the project cannot be overlooked. Donations to the Friends are paying for a portion of construction costs and equipping the facility. Donors do not want their gifts to be associated with a substandard facility. They expect the finished product to be state-of-the-art…. a shelter in which they (and our community) can take pride in having helped make a reality.
The Friends have taken criticism for paying for “extras”. These “extras” are features that were included in the original, pared down proposal that had been approved, but which were eliminated in the details of the final approved proposal without the knowledge of the Friends.
These features included:
- A multi-purpose community room to be used for education, training and conferences for staff, shelter rescue partners, owners and the community as well as other uses. This room was added back to the project when it was approved by the commissioners as long as the Friends paid for it. In September 2017, the Friends handed a $175,700 check to the commissioners to ensure that this space would not be cut out of the project. We at the Friends know having this room on site is very important and we put our funds towards it.
- Sound dampening panels were also struck from the plan. Animal shelters can be exceedingly noisy places, as anyone who has visited our current shelter would know. The high noise levels are not just dangerous and uncomfortable to staff and the public, but cause high stress in the dogs and cats sheltered there, and dramatically increase the incidence of stress related illnesses. A donor who knew of the effect this would have on sheltered animals contributed $20,000 specifically to put these panels back into the building plan.
- Glass dog run doors, which included safe and efficient feed and water containers, went away as well. Studies have shown that adoption rates decrease when the public views dogs housed behind steel grates instead of glass doors. The lack of feed and water bowl devices would mean that staff would have to enter each cage to fill bowls and that the loose bowls would be easily, frequently, and messily overturned. For both staff time and safety issues, the Friends paid nearly $60K for these to be returned to the project. Had they been left in the original plan, it would have saved the cost of a construction change order and saved a 2-month delay in project completion.
- There was no county money in the budget for furniture; the Friends donated $100,000 for office furniture, computers, telephones, janitorial facilities, litter pans, food bowls, etc.
To date, the Friends has donated over $330,000 directly to the county for this project. The Friends will continue to invest more until we reach our goal. We already have an additional $500,000 in money and pledges. When we reach our goal, a portion of what we give over and above the facility and equipment costs will go directly to decrease the county’s loan for the debt. The Friends will make certain that we are good stewards of our donors’ money by making sure that the new building functions effectively. We want this building done right the first time.
We have an all-volunteer board, members of which have worked for several years toward making this building a reality. To date, the donated funds, received and pledged total over $800,000, so we are “getting there”. The new shelter is expected to be open by April 2018. Questions about our donations are welcomed and encouraged—we love talking about what we do and why—and we thank all of our donors who have helped us come so far with a new facility just around the corner. We will continue to support and partner with Haywood County. We know the animals we love, and support, will be well served for years to come in our new animal services facility. We look forward to your continued support as we reach our current goal and then move into the future.