The Lincoln County Humane Society moved into a brand new shelter building just after Christmas at the corner of Sixth Street and Memorial Drive in Merrill. On Saturday, Feb. 27, the Humane Society will offer an open house from 1-4 p.m. to give the public an opportunity for a full tour of the new building.
The new shelter is about twice the size of the old one, which will be torn down by June.
“There’s so much more useable space,” said LCHS board member Kari Kercher.
“The animal capacity is about the same,” added shelter manager Liz Friedenfels, “but the new environment is making a difference in the quality of life for the animals. For example, they can see out the windows and there are separate ventillation systems for different parts of the building.”
The old building, opened in 1979, was not designed for the way modern animal shelters operate, Friedenfels said.
“The mentality of caring for animals in shelters has changed dramatically,” she said. “This building is actually designed to take care of them safely for longer periods of time.”
The old building was sorely lacking adequate space to quarantine animals that had just come into the shelter so they could be examined for sickness or injuries before joining the other animals in the shelter.
A separate entrance of the new building is dedicated to bringing in stray animals. Strays won’t mix with the general shelter population until after the waiting period for the owner to reclaim them has expired and the animal has been medically cleared.
The laundry room is a big deal for the staff, as laundry is an ongoing activity at the shelter. Gruett’s and Hargrave’s appliance stores both gave the Humane Society good deals on washers and dryers, so two sets of machines are in use.
“We go through a gallon of bleach a day with how much laundrey we’re doing,” Kecher said.
Storage space was another area of concern with the old building, so ample storage was designed into the new facility.
The new building is drawing people in, it seems. The shelter had 77 cat adoptions in January, which is high for that time of year.
For cats, there are the two new colony rooms, which offer social interaction and more space to move around. The cats are free to roam about the room and get up off the floor on the installed fixtures.
“The colony rooms are much more relaxing for cats and it gives us a more user-friendly environment for people to meet the cats,” Friedenfels said.
Time spent in the colony rooms also show staff how the cats interact with each other.
Each of the two colony rooms has been set up with access to the outdoors, In the summer, outdoor cat kennels will be set up so the cats can get outside.
For dogs, the larger kennels all can be opened to 14 individual outdoor runs. A private room for people to get acquainted with a dog is available. The shelter was designed with soundproofing to keep the noise of barking dogs inside the building.
The new shelter was constructed with funds raised over the past couple of years. A total of nearly $800,000 was contributed by the community. A donor recently came forward to pay off the last $150,000 so the Humane Society can operate mortgage free.
The open house is a way to get the public into the shelter and see what their contributions built.
“We really want the community to feel involved and have that sense of ownership with this place,” Friedenfels said.
The open house will also include education for the public on the shelter’s operation, “getting people familiar with what we face,” Kercher said, “how much food and litter it takes and the cost of vet services.”
The shelter’s annual budget is about $250,000, which includes payroll and medical expenses for the animals. The Humane Society will continue with its usual fundraising activities to cover those expenses, as it does every year.
There is still some work to be done in the spring. A fence will be constructed around the perimeter of the property and some landscaping work will be completed.