Humane Society prepares for move

The Humane Society of Concord and Greater Cabarrus County is on track to open its new shelter facility next month.

Officials behind the effort say the new facility can cater to at least twice as many animals while providing better care than the current shelter.

The new shelter at 2010 Wilshire Court in Concord will replace the society's current space on Betsy Carpenter Place in Concord, which it currently shares with the Cabarrus County Animal Control. These separate organizations work together and share the goal of saving and improving the lives of feral, surrendered or abandoned dogs and cats.

The humane society seeks volunteers and donations to help it continue its mission; it is among the agencies listed in the annual Giving Guide by Cabarrus News. "This new shelter is a dream come true for us," said Harrisburg resident Judy Sims, who serves as CEO of the Cabarrus County Humane Society. The longtime animal lover owns 13 dogs; all but two are rescues.

"We have been working on this for a very long time," said Sims. "This was the dream of the women who originally started this shelter so, in April, when I became CEO, I continued the quest to make it happen."

The Humane Society of Concord and Greater Cabarrus was formed in 1996 and operated out of the home of Karin and Ralph Britt. About 100 dogs were adopted during its first year. Two years later, the group moved into the current county facility, which was built in 1998 and adopted out about 400 animals.

In May 1998, the group applied for and received nonprofit status. During the next decade, adoption numbers grew. In 2007 more than 1,100 animals were adopted.

But due to the declining economy the last couple years, Sims said, adoptions have decreased while the surrendering of pets has grown - possibly because owners could not afford to care for their pets - and this increased area euthanasia rates.

This year, adoptions have picked up and are expected to exceed the 1,000 mark.

"I expect to be able to double our adoption numbers next year because we will be able to offer extended adoption hours," said Sims. "This new shelter also will give us the outside space we need to safely allow our dogs to exercise and get fresh air while being protected by an exterior 8-foot fence that surrounds the side and back of the building."

Before the new facility, dogs spent most of their time in kennels and were only exercised on leashes during walks by volunteers.

"Further boosting our adoption rates this year is the fact that animal control has opened more kennels to us, which will allow us to make more dogs available to the public for adoption - this also will create an added ripple effect of less animals being euthanized," said Sims.

The facility will continue to be a no-kill shelter, and the group will continue to maintain its space at the county's facility while working with other rescue groups to move animals out of that shelter.

"Our relationship with animal control is very strong, and we work very well together with them," said Sims. "I do not expect that to change."

The Cabarrus County Animal Control facility is off N.C. 49, south of U.S. 601, in Concord. A cage-free cat adoption site, Princeton's Meow, is at 29 Brookwood Ave. N.E., also in Concord. The new facility will focus mostly on dogs.

The new shelter will cost $310,000 and will be paid for with funds raised through donations from the public and grants.

"We have been able to put down a sizable down payment on our new property and have been approved for a loan for the rest of the balance," said Sims. "To help us reach our goals and accomplish our mission, we need more volunteers willing to commit some time and energy in working at the shelter. ... In addition to human resources, we need monetary donations, office and medical supplies for our new shelter."

The group also teaches young people about responsible pet ownership through its Kid's Club animal camp; helped draw media attention to an over-population of cats and kittens throughout Cabarrus County; teamed up with other animal interest groups to raise funds for spaying and neutering; and offers assistance to Cabarrus residents who need help feeding or caring for their pets.

About 65 active volunteers donate time to the organization, not including the 25-plus foster families that care for animals outside of the shelter. She said the work at the shelter involves many emotions.

"You have to have the passion and not everybody has it,' said Sims. "We love these animals as though they are our own. We mourn for them, protect them, cry with them and rejoice when they have found a great home."