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Animal group still looking to raise $50,000

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The Bartholomew County Humane Society's new building, pictured Wednesday, June 11, 2014, is nearing completion, and leaders say getting into the facility can't come soon enough.
The Bartholomew County Humane Society's new building, pictured Wednesday, June 11, 2014, is nearing completion, and leaders say getting into the facility can't come soon enough.

Volunteers expect to be a bit disoriented when the Bartholomew County Humane Society moves into its new, larger facility at the end of this summer.

“It’s going to be like anyone who has ever moved into a new type of house, especially if they are moving from something like a studio apartment to a four-bedroom home,” shelter manager Jane Irwin said.

After a decade of fundraising and planning, the new $1.5 million Humane Society shelter will open on 5 acres of a 10-acre parcel at 4415 E. County Road 200S.

Extra land surrounding the shelter will allow for future expansion and building additions, including an enclosed outdoor area for cats to play which was cut from the original building design to save money, she said.

The humane society serves county residents outside the Columbus city limits who don’t use the city’s Animal Care Services.

The new shelter has 8,600 square feet of space, nearly triple the size of the current 2,400-square-foot facility, with everything brand new.

There will be room for about 32 dogs, nine puppies or small dogs and about 40 cats, Irwin said.

The current building allows only 16 dogs and three puppies to be housed indoors. Another 16 dogs are housed in outdoor kennels. With the new space, all of the dogs will have room inside, Irwin said.

“They could have designed a building with twice as many kennels, three times the amount of cat room, but that’s not the point anymore,” Irwin said. “The point is not to warehouse animals.”

Instead, the humane society is working on increasing the number of pet adoptions, educational programs and services such as spaying or neutering and microchipping.

The humane society does euthanize animals if they have certain conditions the shelter cannot correct, said Cheryl Zuckschwerdt-Ellsbury, a humane society board member.

“We euthanize animals that are dangerous, too aggressive to other animals or to humans, animals that are in chronic pain from extreme old age, trauma or serious injury or animals whose medical condition would require extreme expense to rehabilitate,” Zuckschwerdt-Ellsbury said.

She said there is no time limit for animals to stay at the shelter — and some have stayed as long as two years before being adopted.

The new, bigger facility will be a healthier living space for all of the animals, said Brownstown veterinarian Dr. Robert Gillespie, who has been performing surgeries at the humane society for about 10 years.

Gillespie helped design the surgical, pre-operation and treatment rooms and expects that an in-house veterinarian will be part of the shelter’s future staff once he retires.

The shelter currently has two full-time employees, two part-time employees, a veterinarian technician employee and about 12 volunteers.

The new facility will have room for community events and meetings, treatment areas for animals, office space and public restrooms, Zuckschwerdt-Ellsbury said.

Planning for the new shelter began nearly 10 years ago when the humane society purchased land for the new facility.

Construction on the shelter has been underway since August 2013 and was delayed for about seven weeks this past winter because of the harsh weather, construction project manager Mark Mensendiek said.

This month, workers are completing painting and installation of interior flooring, doors and windows and exterior siding. A paved parking lot is expected to be completed within the next few weeks.

The shelter should be completed by the end of August, Mensendiek said.

Once the facility is complete, the Humane Society will schedule a public open house, Irwin said.

Raising the money for the shelter has been a long and tumultuous process — complicated by the recession — and is still underway, Zuckschwerdt-Ellsbury said.

“If anyone has ever tried to raise $1 million during a recession, (we’re) the definition of the difficulty you’ll have,” she said.

About $1.2 million has been generated, most of it from donations, Zuckschwerdt-Ellsbury said.

Donors include the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, Columbus Youth Hockey League, Carl Marshall and Mildred Reeves Foundation, the C.J. Titus Foundation in Oklahoma, the Nugent Foundation and the Custer Foundation.

Some donors have contributed furniture and items that the shelter would have otherwise had to purchase.

Much of the office furniture and conference room, for example, was donated by Gordon Miller Insurance of Columbus, Zuckschwerdt-Ellsbury said.

The Humane Society is still trying to raise about $50,000 to purchase equipment through fundraisers, including selling customizable paver bricks, exterior bricks and tiles that are being used in the building’s construction.

The bricks and tiles are engraved with the names of family, friends and pets who have died or have ties to the shelter.

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