LAWS plans new animal shelter

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Darryl Enriquez
Sunday, May 8, 2011
— An economy that’s gone to the dogs has not slowed efforts to build a new $6 million animal shelter for Walworth County.

Shelter officials are poised to emerge from planning a new shelter to raising cash to build it.

Kristen Perry, shelter director, said the Lakeside Animal Welfare Society intends to buy 10 acres adjacent to the existing facility, which is a 30-year-old building on five acres at Highway 67 and Town Hall Road.

Plans call for new shelter of 23,000 square feet, including exterior exercise areas for the animals, she said.

The existing shelter was built in the late 1970s for what was then a daily census of 79 small animals. The shelter now cares for as many 60 dogs and 100 to 350 cats daily within its 2,800 square feet.

The cramped quarters are a problem for staff who care for the animals and prepare them for adoption, said Tiffini Heim of Elkhorn, kennel attendant and receptionist.

“Staff has no place for themselves,” Heim said.

They eat lunch outside or in the garage stuffed with supplies.

Most of shelter’s human space has been converted to animal space to accommodate the growing number of animals, Perry said.

Aging wooden shelves sag beneath stacks of pet food and cleaning supplies. Empty pet crates are stacked like toy building blocks behind the trailer used to house cats.

“We’re really cramped for space, and there’s nearly not enough space for all of the animals we get in,” Heim said. “Obviously, that’s not what we’re about, but we’ll make do until we get a new facility.”

Dymo, a chocolate Labrador; Wheelie, a pit bull; and Maggie, a border collie; joined the conversation from their kennels with abundant barking. They were in the rotation for daily outdoor exercise.

When a volunteer donates time to play with the dogs in a fenced area, Dymo, Maggie and Wheelie turn from barkers into tail-waggers.

But even yard time is affected by lack of space.

Perry emphasized that a crowded shelter has forced a reduction in the number of volunteers. Too many bodies cause people to constantly bump into one another.

Bryan Olson, president of the shelter’s board, said he’s confident they’ll find enough money for a new shelter.

“Even though the economy still feels depressed, we have a lot of support, and we’re going to be asking for it to continue.

“We’re still in the basics of setting up a capital campaign. We’re looking for people with connections to help us solicit funds from the local community.

“We must tap into those who are socially responsible and compassionate to humanity and animals,” he said.

Olson, a construction company foreman, said he has been on the shelter’s board for 18 years. He got involved after his dog died and he worked for the shelter as a volunteer. He later was asked to serve on its board of directors.

A confidence booster for Perry and Olson is that the shelter’s annual operating budget of more than $700,000 has been financed completely during the past several years with private donations, fees and the annual animal-control contracts with Walworth County.

At last year’s fundraiser and dinner, the shelter received $20,000 more than the previous year, which is a sign of support, Olson said.

Increased donations mean that the shelter has avoided dipping into its savings to augment its budget, Perry said.

Shelter officials must get the town of Delavan and Walworth County to change the zoning of the land they want to buy for a new facility. They also must get a conditional-use permit.

After the new building is occupied, shelter officials want to remodel the existing building to house large animals, such as horses, goats and pigs.

But first, Perry said, she wants to get a spacious shelter built to protect animals for another 30 years.

“As the human population of Walworth County grows, so will the animal population,” she said.

Last updated: 5:16 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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