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The Build-Out

  • Adoptable pooch Loki chills out in a dog display area at Helping Hands Humane Society in Topeka, Kan. Jayme Walshire/Helping Hands Humane Society

A Cool Shelter

There’s one thing Helping Hands Humane Society (HHHS) in Topeka, Kan., can finally remove from its annual budget: ice. The shelter’s new, $7.2 million facility, which opened in January, now has air conditioning, so staff won’t have to buy ice and blow fans over it to cool the kennels in the summertime. “We spent $6,000 in 90 days this last summer on ice alone, to watch it melt down the drain in a matter of four hours,” says Bill Acree, executive director. Not only will cats and dogs rest comfortably, they’ll have plenty of room to spread out: The facility more than quadruples HHHS’s former space, from 13,000 square feet in the old building to 52,000 in the new one. Rather than building a new facility from the ground up, HHHS purchased and retrofitted a building that used to house a supermarket. The shelter worked with Peterson Architect Group in Topeka and the local Senne Co. as general contractor, utilizing a design-build process, in which the project moved forward in stages as more funds became available. Retrofitting saved money, plus the location’s perfect: Acree says an estimated 25,000 cars go by the site every day. The shelter, which can house about 150 dogs and 145 cats, is a much-needed replacement for the 35-year-old one, which was designed for an intake of 5,000 animals per year, but was handling 9,000 to 10,000. HHHS plans to use 20,000 square feet at its new location as an “engagement center,” offering training and agility classes to the public, with reduced rates to adopters. Acree also wants to install a walking track, and invite seniors to walk there instead of the local mall. “We’ll give them four legs and a wagging tail to walk with … then they’ll go home and call their niece or nephew and say, ‘I’ve been at the shelter three days walking a dog—go out and adopt it,’” he says. Visitors can’t get over the change from the old shelter. “They love the fact that it’s so open and bright, that the animals really and truly are on display.”

  • An adoptable cat at the Washington Humane Society in the District of Columbia checks out a different view on one of Kitty City’s towers. Beau Archer/Washington Humane Society

A Towering Success

When the paint in your cat colony room is starting to peel, and your kitties are scratching it off the walls, you know it’s time for a renovation. “It was just looking not so great,” says Beau Archer, director of the Washington Humane Society’s New York Avenue facility, in the District of Columbia. Over the course of two days—Christmas and the day after, when the shelter was closed—Archer, three volunteers, and a couple of staff members repainted the room, patched holes with drywall and sanded them, and moved in two new, specially made Crijo cat towers. “Then I added wall decals that I got from Target,” Archer says, laughing. The shelter chose the towers because their components can be completely disinfected, removed and washed, or—like sisal—replaced when worn out. Archer estimates that they cost several thousand dollars, but are durable, and are a hit with the residents of the colony room, dubbed Kitty City. The room, which has windows to let in natural light, and shelving that provides resident kitties with catwalks, can house up to 17 adult felines. And there are two new cat beds, donated to the shelter, that attach to the windowsills. Aside from the expense of the Crijo towers, renovating the room was cheap— “definitely less than $300” for materials, Archer says. “My real goal with this was to get as much stuff off the floor as possible, so we can actually clean the room really well.” He deems the renovation a success: “I think the cats are comfortable, and they don’t necessarily care about the decals on the wall, but when people go into the room, and it’s a lot more welcoming, I think that really helps the experience.”

Read the rest of this issue from Animal Sheltering magazine

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