In The Dog And Cat House

Humane society moves happy cats and dogs into bigger, safer shelter

Raelene Ramirez, Shenia Wolf, Chandra Cushman and Rebecca James take four dogs out of their shiny new kennels.

Raelene Ramirez, Shenia Wolf, Chandra Cushman and Rebecca James take four dogs out of their shiny new kennels. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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The song goes, “How much is that doggy in the window?”

But at the new Humane Society of Central Arizona’s 7,000-square-foot animal shelter, the kittens are also the ones with the waggley tails.

Last week, the humane society capped years of dedicated effort by moving dogs and cats into the new shelter.

The adoption center off South McLane Road features three, glass-fronted rooms right off the main foyer with kittens and cats proudly on display.

 The cats are still getting used to their new digs — they only moved in last Friday — but already appear to enjoy the wall of shelves that staff installed so they could traverse vertically around the rooms.

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Sara Hock, director of the Humane Society of Central Arizona, comforts one of the cats after the recent move into a brand new animal shelter. The new facility’s cat rooms feature windows where cats can watch the world go by.

Shelter manager Sarah Hock said the cat community rooms are great because they are on their own ventilation system to cut down on odors and the spread of disease. Each room can house as many as 10 cats.

Just down the hall, the dogs are also enjoying a more safe and pleasant stay while they await adoption.

The shelter has 46 kennels, eight more than the former shelter. Each has more room and less chance of inflicting disease or injury. The humane society used to house a number of dogs in open-air kennels since the facility lacked enough indoor kennels. This posed a problem during monsoon season when severe winds once ripped the roof off several outdoor kennels. Luckily, no dogs were injured.

Such problems, combined with the steady deterioration of the 40-year-old converted A-frame house, spurred years of tireless, fund-raising efforts.

Eventually, backers collected nearly a million dollars — enough to build the new shelter.

While the animals appear to be enjoying the cleaner and more spacious environment, staff and volunteers are still getting used to all the room, Hock said.

“We even have a break room,” Hock said as she gave a tour of the facility. Also “three bathrooms” and “even a dishwasher” — small luxuries the old facility was sorely missing.

Staff was still unpacking boxes and figuring out where to store everything Wednesday.

One thing nobody was missing was the old space.

When everything usable is out, crews will tear it down. Demolition is slated to happen in a few months, which will clear a space for a new road leading to the new buildings.

The humane society will honor John and Sue Wilson for their part in making the new shelter a reality by naming the new road West Wilson Court.

Staff will also honor 11-year volunteer Barbara Brenke by naming the building the Barbara Brenke Animal Rescue and Adoption Center.

In addition, two walls framing the entry walkway will feature the names of donors and those who dedicated time and resources for the project.

Construction of the building couldn’t come soon enough. The former space was deteriorating more every year and the humane society had outgrown it years ago.

The new space has enough room to handle the 100 animals the center averages.

Originally, the humane society wanted to build a $5 million shelter, with offices, a community spay and neuter clinic, medical facilities and room to accommodate future growth. The recession upended those dreams, forcing the humane society to scrap plans and opt for a less costly facility. While the new shelter cannot handle many additional animals, it does have space for future expansion.

The new space has several features staff is excited to see made the budget, including four washers and dryers, a grooming tub, isolation rooms, a separate entrance for animal intake and enough outside space for each dog to roam.

“The whole goal of the project was to make life better for these animals and to help staff take care of them more safely and comfortably,” Hock said.

For information about future events, call (928) 474-5590; mail contributions to: Humane Society of Central Arizona, P.O. Box 242, Payson, AZ 85547.

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