It may be slow-going, but Lake Norman Humane has cleared nearly three acres on Templeton Road for the nonprofit organization’s new 12,000-square-foot pet adoption and education facility.
There’s a reason for the construction’s slow but steady tempo, said officials within the organization.
“Since we’re looking for gifts in-kind, it will go slower than most construction processes,” said Maria Roberson, Lake Norman Humane president. “When people are giving you items sometimes their time frame doesn’t suit yours. It’s going to take longer than one would necessarily think.”
To date, $2.6 million has been pledged for the project but not all has been collected, said Jorge Ortega, a consultant to Lake Norman Humane. Roberson says the campaign budget is $3.95 million, which includes the land, infrastructure, building and first year operational costs.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
The facility’s construction is based entirely on private donations, Ortega said.
“We want to build a quality product that lasts, so with all this donated money we want to make sure it’s used wisely, that this building is here in the community and providing resources for the community for a long time,” Ortega said.
In November 2016, two organizations dedicated to responsible pet ownership and reducing the number of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters, the Humane Society of Iredell and Friends of the Animals, merged to join resources and build a pet education and adoption center.
“It was an opportunity to combine forces, to give momentum to both organizations,” said Jonathan Zulman, Lake Norman Humane board member.
The organizations were then re-branded as Lake Norman Humane.
With more than 30,000 cats and dogs killed each year by euthanasia in Iredell and surrounding counties, the need is great, Roberson said.
Volunteers are key
Today, Lake Norman Humane is run primarily by volunteers and accepts and fosters owner-surrendered animals and rescues cats and dogs literally hours from death at area shelters, said Emily Beebe, Lake Norman Humane director of operations.
This year, Lake Norman Humane has adopted out 495 dogs and cats, said Roberson.
The center also has a “re-tale shop” where toys, beds, leashes and pet clothing can be purchased, and an animal food bank where county residents can come monthly and receive free pet food, Beebe said.
The capacity for the current center, an air-conditioned warehouse on Robinson Road in Mooresville, holds 20 cats and 20 dogs, said Beebe. The space is leased and the $4,000 monthly rent is paid by two generous donors, Roberson said.
The center is partitioned into sections for dogs and cats and has also been home to a recent influx of surrendered guinea pigs and a 9-month-old pot-bellied pig named Bella Leanne who was abandoned by her owner after she grew too large. Bella Leanne weighs about 65 pounds and will be about 200 to 250 pounds when full grown.
The noisy, shared space is not ideal for the animals who are already scared and nervous when they arrive.
In late 2015, $347,000 was spent to purchase land for the new pet education and animal adoption center, said Roberson.
Any claims of Lake Norman Humane completing construction of the center by the end of 2016 were “misinterpreted,” Roberson said.
“There’s no way we could have built it in a year anyway,” said Roberson.
Currently, the land is cleared but before infrastructure installation can begin, the site’s soil must be moved around, Roberson said.
“We’re trying to work with our neighbors with doing some soil swapping to try and reduce costs,” said Roberson. “So, everywhere along the line that we move on this building, we’re trying to do whatever we can do save costs.”
The future center, housing a minimum of 40 cats and 30 dogs, hopes to open by the end of 2018, said Roberson.
The new center will feature a cat area with individual cages for each feline, access to free-roam rooms plus a “catio,” an outdoors, screened-in porch area, Ortega said.
For dogs, the new center will feature an indoors-only area for small adult dog breeds and puppies and indoor/outdoor housing with an exercise yard, Ortega said.
The “hub” of the facility is the medical area where spay and neuter surgeries will take place, Ortega said.
These spaying and neutering surgeries will also be available to the public, he said.
Ideally, the plan is to have an in-staff vet with medical team to help reduce the cost of paying for private vet hospitals, Ortega said.
“We can stretch that dollar even further so we can help more animals since we’re doing all our services in-house,” Ortega said.
One of the center’s main foci is to help educate the community on how the births of unwanted pets can be prevented and therefore reduce the rates of euthanasia, Ortega said.
Through this education center, the facility will offer dog training and host birthday parties and children’s craft projects not just to generate revenue to help support day to day operations but also to engage with the community and have the public understand the mission of Lake Norman Humane, Ortega said.
Lake Norman Humane is still looking for more donations to help with construction costs.
“We’ve literally drawn a line in the sand on the site,” Zulman said. “We’ve been talking about it long enough that we’ve committed. We’ve broken ground. The next phase is about to start. It really is underway.”
Kate Stevens is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.