Humane Society prepares to build expanded shelter

Animals at the Benton-Franklin Humane Society will have a new home this year.

For some, it might be their "forever" home that Humane Society staff hope to find for them. But for other pets, it will be the 9,902-square-foot shelter expected to open by late summer.

The new shelter will have room for 120 pets instead of the current shelter's capacity of 40. And that's space Ed Dawson, Humane Society operations manager, says the shelter already could use.

The Humane Society could fill three-fourths of the new shelter with its current waiting list of people who would like to surrender animals to the nonprofit, he said.

The new building, which will remain a "no-kill" shelter where animals are not euthanized,will help the group get to pets faster.

"The community needs it," Dawson said.

Tere Thornhill, the Pasco architect who designed the new shelter, said they will be applying to the city of Kennewick for a building permit within the next week.

Once the permit is approved, construction should take about six months, Dawson said. The shelter, at 1710 E. Seventh Ave., east of Chemical Drive, could be finished as soon as August or September. Masterson Construction of Kennewick is the builder.

The nonprofit still needs to raise about $200,000 to reach the $2 million goal for the new project, Dawson said. That will pay for the building, the 3.66 acres from the Port of Kennewick and some money for increased operating costs.

And that means the Humane Society likely will be able to avoid taking out a loan, he said. The organization started fundraising in 2008.

The organization is entirely funded by donations and does not receive city or county money, or financial support from the Humane Society of the United States, Dawson said. The shelter is not affiliated with the national Humane Society organization.

The local agency recently put its current shelter up for sale, Dawson said. The proceeds will go toward shelter operating costs.

Dawson said the new shelter will help address animal needs in the growing Tri-City community.

The organization hopes to be able to take in more animals that are at risk of being euthanized if they end up at Tri-City Animal Control, he said.

They could also help out the new Benton County animal shelter, which is expected to open Feb. 1.

"By no means is this going to solve the animal problem in the area," Dawson said. But he thinks it will help.

Last year, the Humane Society helped find new homes for 636 animals. That's down from 687 in 2009.

The large dog area in the new shelter will include 54 kennels with skylights that will bring natural light in for dogs and visitors, said Thornhill, who donated some of his firm's design services for the project.

The new shelter will include a small dog room, a nursery for pregnant animals, an area for hamsters, rabbits and other pets that are surrendered, according to the plans.

There also is an area connected to a medical room that will allow volunteers to process surrendered pets, Thornhill said. Plans also show several offices, two laundries, a staff lounge, a volunteer room and a meet-and-greet room for adoptions.

The shelter's property will include five fenced exercise yards for the dogs as well as a meet-and-greet outside area behind the shelter, Thornhill said.

The shelter is designed to be easier to clean, with staff entryways between the dog kennels that will allow employees to clean kennels while the kennel area remains open to the public, Thornhill said.

There is a similar layout to allow for cleaning of the cages in the cat and kitten room, he said. The cat room also has a play area attached.

The design is fairly high tech, and even includes devices that will automatically fill water bowls, Thornhill said.

"It's going to be great for the community to have a clean, fresh shelter," he said.

Dawson said the nonprofit also plans to remodel an existing cinderblock building into a low-cost spay and neuter clinic.

Dawson said they aren't sure if the Humane Society would run the clinic, rent it out to a veterinarian's office or have rotating veterinarians.

The property also has room for future expansion, such as boarding or grooming, he said.

Donations to the new shelter project are accepted at the current shelter at 8620 W. Gage Blvd., Kennewick, and can be mailed to the same location. People should indicate the donation is meant for the new shelter.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com