More than a dozen volunteers helped with the transport of 11 dogs and 36 cats to the new North Country SPCA shelter in Elizabethtown on Feb. 28.
It was an emotionally charged afternoon for volunteers and friends of the North Country SPCA as 36 cats and 10 dogs made their journey in 11 cars from the 45-year-old aging shelter in Westport to the new state-of-the-art facility in Elizabethtown.
The 9-mile separation, though a brief drive, was the result of five years of hard work and $1.6 million of fundraising. For SPCA shelter manager Pam Rock, it felt like a dream come true.
The volunteers and workers took the animals from the old shelter on Lakeshore Road in Westport on Nov. 28. Using a bucket brigade, they passed kenneled cats and dogs to waiting recipients and into the back of vehicles.
“It feels great now that the day is finally here,” said Margie Reuther, co-chair of the Capital Project and member of the SPCA Board.
The volunteers then caravaned to the new shelter on Route 9N in Elizabethtown, where Reuther and a dog named Trooper were the first ones to walk into the Frances Miller Shelter.
“I cried all the way over here with the cats meowing in the back of the car,” said Keene Valley volunteer Sandy Burke.
North Country SPCA Executive Director Jessica Hartley and another volunteer took a second after putting every animal in their new quarters to embrace.
“It’s good to finally be here,” Hartley said.
The contrast between the two structures was evident with the new shelter’s open layout and generous sunlight from floor-to-ceiling windows.
The 3,200-square-foot building was designed by ARQ Architects, who were in charge of the renovation to the ASPCA headquarters in New York City. The New York City shelter is being used as a national model for its ventilation, lighting, for being nearly sound proof, energy efficiency and for providing a stress-free environment for animals. Like the shelter in New York City, Reuther said the Essex County shelter will be used as a model for small- and medium-sized communities all across the country.
“One of the things we are really hoping for in the new shelter because the animals will be healthier and under less stress, will be able to increase our adoption rate. We’ll be the go-to place,” Reuther said.
The metal doors on the animals cages, which rattled and vibrated in the former shelter, have been replaced with clear partitions on the animals’ condos to keep them relaxed.
“It’s going to be a life of Windex,” Reuther said as Trouble, a German shepherd and husky mix, tried to lick her hand through the window separating his room from the hallway.
The shelter also features a sophisticated ventilation system, which keeps the facility at a comfortable temperature and prevents illnesses like parvo, a highly contagious virus for dogs, from spreading from one animal to another.
From the Outside In
The shelter was built on the grounds of a former county gravel pit. Reuther said once the weather gets warmer, the 18-acre parcel will also provide a unique opportunity to create play yards for the dogs. They will be used for training exercises and for people to play with prospective new pets.
“It’s crucial for the dogs’ well being and health to have a chance to run around,” Reuther said. “Dogs live to play, and the more exercise they get the happier they’ll be.”
SPCA officials are working with Champlain Area Trails to develop walking trails on the property that will also be available for the public to enjoy.
“It’s going to be a true Adirondack Shelter,” Hartley said.
An official opening day will be announced once the move is complete. For more information, call 873-5000.