MIDDLEBURY — The Addison County Humane Society (ACHS) on Thursday will break ground on a major renovation-and-expansion project that will substantially increase the organization’s footprint at 236 Boardman St. in Middlebury.
Once completed next spring, the project will give the ACHS 7,450 square feet of space in which to care for an ever-expanding herd of cats, dogs and other assorted animals that have either been abandoned or turned up stray. The current ACSH headquarters and outbuildings add up to 4,500 square feet and were designed to accommodate a total of 60 animals.
But Jackie Rose, ACHS executive director, noted the current shelter was built more than 20 years ago when the organization euthanized animals that weren’t adopted within a period of time. The ACHS adopted a no-kill policy around 15 years ago, leading to far larger numbers of animals under the Humane Society’s supervision. As of last week, the ACHS had responsibility for 208 animals, of which 157 were based at the shelter. The remaining 51 animals were in foster care.
“We are way over capacity,” Rose said during a Sept. 28 tour of the shelter. While the ACHS would prefer some advance notice before receiving an animal, it does not decline any that are brought to its door. Officials make do by stacking the regularly serviced kitty kennels higher and by making use of every nook and cranny in the building.
Humane Society board members decided last year that the cramped conditions can no longer be tolerated.
So they, in concert with an architect, designed a project that will provide for renovations to the current main building, along with a sizable addition that will include a new dog barn.
The new and reconfigured space will provide for:
• An inviting entrance/reception area to welcome guests and potential adopters.
• An intake-admission area to receive incoming animals, thus providing better privacy for people needing to surrender their pet and those seeking to adopt one. Those parties can currently cross paths due to limited space in the current building.
• An “incoming area” for newly admitted animals. This area, which will be able to house up to 40 animals, will provide an initial, more quiet space for animals to adjust to the shelter.
• Some “meet and greet” rooms for families to interact with pets they are considering for adoption.
• A more clearly defined quarantine area for animals that come in with illnesses and that need to be segregated from the rest of the shelter population.
• An expanded medical exam room.
• Creation of a “cat land,” including two community cat rooms with access to an outdoor “cattery.” Each cat room will house around 15 cats.
• A “dog barn” to provide housing and viewing area for dogs.
• An education/conference room to provide space for meetings, humane education/training events and a library of resources for pet information.
• A private bereavement room for people to say goodbye to their beloved animals before they are cremated.
• Better office space for staff, storage and laundry facilities.
It’s an ambitious project that has already earned a lot of support from the community. The ACHS board last year launched the silent phase of what it is calling the “Homeward Bound Campaign” to raise $1.12 million. Approximately $750,000 of that sum is being earmarked for construction costs; the remaining $370,000 will be set aside as an endowment to generate interest income to help relieve financial pressures on the ACHS in the future.
Rose was pleased to report that a silent phase of fund-raising has netted around $824,000. The organization will be holding special events and setting up “hay-bale art” to remind people about the fund drive. The ACHS is looking for landowners willing to host some hay bale art through the winter. Rose said Rouse Tire Sales on Route 7 South has agreed to host some art, as has a landowner on Route 22A, near Addison Four Corners.
Construction at the shelter is expected to last six months. Rose does not anticipate having to displace any of the animals during construction.
“We are very excited,” Rose said of the project.
Anyone wanting to contribute to the cause can make their checks payable to the Addison County Humane Society and send them to the ACHS at 236 Boardman St., Middlebury, VT 05753.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]