The Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin plans a new home for its animal shelter and hopes to involve the community in planning as well as paying for it.

The cost is estimated at $4.5 million.

Land along County G south of Janesville is already chosen. It will cost $220,000. The rest of the money would pay for the building.

The new shelter would encompass 19,000 square feet, more than double the current 9,000 square feet at 222 S. Arch St. in Janesville.

The new building would be built on 45 acres in the town of Rock now owned by Vivid Inc. The parcel is south of the new Dollar General complex and north of Sunny Lane.

The land will cost $220,000, while a new, 19,000-square-foot building will cost around $4.28 million, humane society Executive Director Brett Frazier said.

Additional land on the property can’t be used for buildings but would be ideal for walking trails, and there’s talk of inviting other animal-oriented organizations to share some of the space and perhaps offer demonstrations, Frazier said.


The smell of animal feces was thick in the air in the shelter’s lobby Thursday.

The air-handling system connects the entire building, so if a dog has a digestive problem, that smell goes everywhere, Frazier said.

Bringing that system up to modern standards along with plumbing and electrical systems was estimated to cost well over $1 million, so the society’s board decided it was best to build anew, Frazier said.

One office is in a closet. Another office is boxed into the corner of what was the community room. But it’s not just a matter of room, Frazier said.

Much of the need has to do with the services offered by a modern shelter—on-site spaying and neutering and other health care, foster training, even dog dental procedures and much more—that the aging building was never set up for, Frazier said.

“It’s a daily battle to keep animals healthy,” Frazier said.

A turtle is living on top of a file cabinet. There’s no designated place for these companion animals and others—ferrets, turtles, snakes, birds—but staff do the best they can, Frazier said.

The shelter’s vet works in the back of a truck that has been outfitted with cages, cupboards and a tiny operating room.

The shelter was built in 1976 and added to in the mid-1990s. It’s gone from an animal storage facility to a resource and adoption center, Frazier said.

A new or improved shelter has been discussed for years.

Decades ago, most animals brought to the society were killed. Now, 95 percent survive and are adopted, Frazier said.

Design phase

The new building probably won’t hold more animals on a daily basis than the current one, but it will help staff work more efficiently and reduce stress on the animals, resulting in fewer sick animals, so animals will spend less time in the shelter, Frazier said.

“The new facility will be specifically designed to facilitate what we do on a daily basis,” Frazier said.

The design process allows input from outside the organization.

“There’s a lot of different people we want to get input from, including the community,” Frazier said.

Frazier hopes community involvement in the project will foster a feeling of ownership among residents.

The Madison architectural firm Dimension IV has been hired to design the project. The Batterman Family Foundation is paying for some of the design work.

A way for residents to have their say will be created and announced in the weeks ahead, Frazier said.

Land search

Shelter leaders in 2015 sought donated land but found that no one was willing to donate land suitable for the humane society’s needs. The society’s board formed a property search committee to find land that would cost no more than $250,000.

The board liked the selected site because it was between the county’s two main population centers, and the total project cost was estimated to be slightly higher than building at the current site while offering much more space, according to the release.

Two estate donations will pay for the land, according to the release. The humane society intends to acquire it by year’s end.

A capital campaign to raise the rest of the money will start in January or February, Frazier said.


The local humane society serves as a stray holding facility for most of the municipalities in Rock County. Donors, volunteers and adopters come from across southern Wisconsin and beyond, Frazier said.

Similar nearby facilities are in Madison, the Lakeland Animal Shelter south of Elkhorn and in the Rockford, Illinois, area, Frazier said.

The organization serves about 4,000 pets, mostly cats and dogs, every year.

Work is done by 11 full-time staff members, including a veterinarian; 15 part-time staff members and about 175 volunteers, backed by more than 70 foster homes and charitable contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations, according to the release.

Frazier said little thinking has gone into the future of the current shelter building and property.

That would change once the fundraising appears headed in the right direction, he said.

“There’s a ton of capital campaigns out there,” Frazier said. “We think this is one the community will support.”

But Frazier said he’s not taking that support for granted. He said many humane societies have gotten this far in their planning only to be stopped when the funding didn’t match plans.

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