The Lawrence Humane Society has launched a public campaign to fund the construction of a multimillion-dollar animal shelter.
The new shelter will be funded in partnership with the city, and Humane Society Executive Director Kate Meghji said the public phase of the campaign, which launched Friday, comes on the heels of a year of securing grants and larger donations.
“Now that we’re in the public phase, we’re asking everybody in the community who cares about the pets in our community and wants us to continue doing the work that we do, and do it even better, to make a donation to help us build this facility,” Meghji said.
The $7.5 million facility will replace the 21-year-old shelter in eastern Lawrence, and will be funded in part by a $2.5 million grant from the city. The Humane Society will be responsible for $5 million of the project’s cost, and Meghji said it needs to raise about $2 million more by the end of this year.
The shelter will be built on the Humane Society’s current site, and once it’s complete, the old shelter will be torn down. Plans call for the 20,000-square-foot facility to have an expanded medical clinic and up-to-date isolation rooms for sick animals. Meghji said the new facility will bring the shelter in line with best practices, and help it provide better care.
“The facility that we have now has never been the best facility for housing animals, reducing stress, reducing the spread of disease,” Meghji said. “And (the new facility) will allow us to treat and rehabilitate animals that also deserve a second chance.”
The building plans also call for each kennel area to have a dedicated outdoor play space. Other benefits of the new shelter include a multipurpose room for pet education courses, pet training, and staff and volunteer training. The approximately 1-acre site of the current facility will be turned into a fenced dog park that will be accessible to the public, Meghji said.
“We want people to come here and bring their pets and bring their families — not view it as a scary, noisy, sad place, because it shouldn’t be,” Meghji said.
City ordinance requires that stray animals be impounded, and funding the construction of a new animal shelter was first discussed last summer as part of the city’s five-year capital improvement plan. In January, city commissioners approved a first step toward backing the new shelter: a resolution of intent to issue $5 million in bonds to fund the project.
As currently laid out, the $5 million bond issue would provide a $2.5 million grant and a $2.5 million loan for the Humane Society’s new facility. Finance Director Bryan Kidney said the city’s involvement in the financing allows the Humane Society to get better rates.
“We’re able to get lower financing costs through the bond issue, and so we’ll do the bridge loan for them through our bond issue,” Kidney said. “They’ll use future pledges over the next 'X' amount of years, depending on what their cash flows are, to pay us back for that portion of it.”
Kidney said the next step on the city’s end will be City Commission approval of the financing and lease agreement between the city and the Humane Society.
Donations to the campaign can be made via the Humane Society’s website, and it plans to have various campaign events in coming months, Meghji said. If the Humane Society is able to meet its fundraising goal by the end of the year as planned, Meghji said construction would begin by early 2018.