Humane society seeks to upgrade facility
MIDDLEBURY — The Addison County Humane Society (ACHS) is seeking to renovate and expand its Middlebury headquarters at 236 Boardman St. in order to better serve the area’s homeless animals and enhance their prospects for adoption.
The Middlebury Development Review Board on Sept. 27 will review the humane society’s plans, which call for:
• Replacement of a combined total of roughly 1,500 square feet of exterior sheds and outbuildings with a new 2,800-square-foot barn.
• Renovation of the existing 2,700-square-foot main building, erected around two decades ago.
• Construction of a 1,650-square-foot public and administration area off the west side of the main building.
ACHS officials stressed the project is not aimed at ramping up the number of animals the organization serves, but rather to provide better space to handle the current population.
“The newly designed and renovated facility will provide a healthy, low-stress, family-friendly environment to house cats, dogs and other adoption animals,” reads a project narrative on file at the Middlebury town offices. “It will create animal housing that promotes health, socialization and medical care to animals in need.”
Jackie Rose, executive director of the ACHS, said the current shelter was built as an “open-admission” facility designed to accommodate up to 60 animals. That means animals that weren’t adopted within a certain timeframe were euthanized.
Around 12 years ago, the ACHS adopted a no-kill policy. The organization did this by maximizing use of its space and by signing up “foster parents” to temporarily care for animals. As a result of its no-kill policy, the shelter is currently caring for around 140 animals — more than twice the number the building was designed to handle.
And the ACHS is seeing no let-up in the numbers of animals coming through its doors, and Rose said the project will provide larger living quarters for the shelter’s population.
“We have definitely seen an increase during the past three years,” Rose said, citing the economy as a factor producing more strays and abandoned pets.
Jeremiah Parker, vice president of the ACHS board, said the new and better-configured space will not only benefit animals, but also the people who come to consider adoptions because the current shelter setup is not ideal for people to get secluded, one-on-one time with the animals they are considering bringing into their homes. A better space to enhance such encounters could make the difference in a dog or cat finding a permanent place to live, ACHS officials said.
Plans also call for a small, private area where people can share a quiet, contemplative moment with each other and a deceased pet they are dropping off for cremation at the facility.
Employees and volunteers — whom Parker credited with doing “an amazing job” in tight quarters — would be afforded more office space if the new project is built. And that space is to be more accessible and energy efficient than the current building, according to Parker, a professional builder based in Shoreham.
“Right now, we are trying to do things around the animals; with the new space, we will be able to do things with the animals,” Parker said.
The ACHS is in the silent phase of a fund raising campaign for the building project. Anyone wanting to contribute to the effort should make their checks payable to the Addison County Humane Society and send them to the ACHS at 236 Boardman St., Middlebury, Vt., 05753.
Humane Society officials hope to see the project launched next year.
“If you’re concerned about animal welfare, it is something we should support any way we can” Parker said, adding, “We have to do this; it’s either that, or we have to turn people away, and then it just becomes a bigger problem.”
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.