Lake Norman pet education and adoption center planned

A nonprofit animal welfare group headed by Nicole Biffle, the wife of NASCAR driver Greg Biffle, announced a campaign on Tuesday to raise the final $600,000 to $700,000 needed to open a pet education and adoption center on Lake Norman.

Iredell County-based Friends of the Animals already has raised $2.57 million for the center, board member Jack Salzman told 350 community leaders at a luncheon at The Cove Church.

The center will be on 2.5 acres in the Langtree Lake Norman mixed-use community off Interstate 77 Exit 31. Ground is scheduled to be broken by year’s end.

The center will house up to 150 dogs and cats daily, with the goal of placing at least 2,500 into homes each year, said Salzman, who owns the Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership in Cornelius.

At least 36,000 dogs and cats are euthanized each year in a 10-county region from Wilkes County south into Mecklenburg County, according to Friends of the Animals. That includes about 9,000 in Mecklenburg and 5,000 in Iredell.

Salzman said the animal welfare group “will not stop” until no adoptable animal is euthanized in the counties.

“These animals don’t have a voice, so we have to stand up and be the voice for them,” Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said. Davis and Olympic swim coach Dave Marsh were guest speakers at the luncheon.

The center will initially focus on adoption and education and will phase in a low-cost spay/neuter clinic, community walking trails and a fenced dog park.

Nicole Biffle, the organization’s president, said she and her husband have been with the group since it started in 2005. “We’ve been working with animal rescue groups throughout the United States for many years now, and this is one of the most exciting developments that could happen in our area,” she said.

Greg Biffle was testing his race car and couldn’t attend the lunch, but he told the gathering by video that he and his wife will match the amount the 350 in attendance pledged to the campaign Tuesday. Jack and Robin Salzman said they would join the Biffles in matching the overall pledge.

Executive Director Patrice Reynolds said Friends of the Animals was still tallying pledges Tuesday night and would release the total amount on Wednesday.