LAHARPE — After years of fundraising and wishful thinking, the Allen County Animal Rescue Facility is just about to open.
“The city has told me it’s going to be the end of February before they can lay the sewer line and that’s the biggest holdup,” ACARF director Art Chapman said. “The weather has a lot to do with it — it was holy terror to get the water lines laid in the last week.”
The delay has meant temporarily placing displaced animals in private homes.
“A lot of ACARF members are fostering animals right now,” Chapman said.
One, Ray Shannon, had about seven brought to him recently. With an already full house, he’ll be taking them to the shelter in Topeka, he said.
Despite the weather, progress continues.
Next week, carpet will be installed in the shelter’s office and conference room. Later, concrete floors will be etched and sealed.
Come March, Chapman said, the doors should be open to the public.
“We may be able to hold only 20 dogs and 30 cats, but we’re going to open the shelter.”
ALTOGETHER, the ACARF shelter boasts 5,400 square feet. It’s divided into three main sections: intake and animal care; dogs; and cats.
The new building is state of the art, Chapman said, with fiberglass-paneled walls designed to withstand regular washing and disinfecting, extra-heavy insulation in both interior and exterior walls to dampen sound and boost efficiency and an in-ground hot water heating system, which is “a lot more energy efficicent” than standard means, Chapman said.
The floors are also heated, Chapman said, “so when the animals lay down, they’ll be warm.”
Eventually a director will be hired, he said, though for now, all work will continue to be done by volunteers.
Still needed are more animal cages.
Each dog cage, which can hold two animals in two 4-foot by 5-foot pens, costs $4,400. Cat cages run $350 apiece.
Chapman is unabashed about what the center is willing to do for donations.
“If someone wants to purchase a cat (or dog) cage they can have their name on it,” he said.
For a larger donation, say $10,000, a person can “buy” a room and have it named after them.
Rooms include the main dog adoption room, which will hold 21 dog pens plus smaller puppy pens, a 30-dog stray intake room, where dogs will be kept until cleared for adoption, and a cat adoption room. Other rooms include cat and dog quarantine rooms, an exam room for taking blood samples and giving vaccinations, and cat and dog familiarization rooms, where potential adopters can spend time with animals in a cage-free setting.
In addition to donations, the nonprofit will take endowments, larger donations where the facility uses the interest earned on the principal which is invested.
Money also can be directed for specific purposes, Chapman said, such as for medical care, or spaying and neutering, or for cats or dogs.
They’ll also rent the conference room for birthday parties, Chapman said, and other events. Tours of the facility are also available.
IF CHAPMAN’S suggestions seem like crass salesmanship, they’re not. The shelter needs another $150,000 to be completed. “It takes time to raise all the money,” he said.
To that end, a spring fund raiser is being planned with the help of Chapman’s wife, Ona, who works at Iola Middle School with ACARF junior members.
Last year, Iola Middle Schoolers sold lollipops and raised enough funds to pay for one side of a double dog pen.
This year, proceeds will go to the shelter’s spay and neuter fund, which will allow reduced-price coupons for the procedures with each adopted animal, Chapman said.
In addition to lollipops, which still prove popular, a fund raising dinner at the VFW LaHarpe post is planned for April 9.
“They have a goal of $4,000,” Chapman said of the students.
To Chapman, student involvement means more than just another form of fundraising.“It’s our goal to work with young people as much as we can,” he said, to educate them against dumping, the need for spaying and neutering and in proper care of pets.
He is hopeful that through such work, the future will be different for animals in Allen County. So far, he said, enthusiasm at the middle school in support of the shelter holds promise.
For students, ACARF offers junior memberships for $5. Adult membership runs $25. You do not have to live in Allen County to be a member, Chapman said.
CHAPMAN noted that more people are surrendering their pets because of tight budgets.
To give up an animal to the shelter, a modest fee will be charged to help process information about the animal including its shot history and its personality traits, such as if it is a biter or scratcher.
“We would hope that the surrender fees will not stop people from bringing their animals in,” Chapman said, noting that in any event, animals will not be turned away.
“If we can get the cities or county involved, I’d like to have some strong anti-dumping laws with a stiff fee” instituted, Chapman said. Currently, there are no such fines in Allen County. Because of that, “We have a very serious problem in Allen County with dumped animals.”
On its Web site, www.acarf.com, the organization posts lost and found animals including photos.