BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After reaching a deal to take ownership of the land the current PAW animal shelter sits on, officials are now looking to the future, including building a new facility.
The animal shelter’s board of directors recently reached a deal to take ownership of about 4.5 acres of property south of the Hoenig Brother’s dairy farm. It’s the first time the the shelter has owned the property since the shelter opened there in the 90s.
Director Sandy Brown said the shelter will now spend the next two years paying off the mortgage held by the Hoenigs, for the property.
“The Hoenig brothers have been more than gracious to us,” she said. “We’ve never owned the property until now.”
PAW Board President Tom Schulz said the next step will be to look into building a new structure that will take the shelter into the future.
“We’ve got a two-step process. The first thing was that we needed to secure the property,” Schulz said. “We were leasing and everything there didn’t belong to us. If we vacated, all the improvements would revert to the property and we’d lose all that we’d put into that little shelter.”
Now that PAW has secured the property, a new shelter is being planned, and the current facility will still serve as the shelter during construction.
“We’re hoping to raise enough money to have the $130,000 paid off over the next couple of years,’ Schulz said.
He didn’t know the actual cost of the new facility because the board hasn’t secured a design or pricing.
“I would assume with ventilation and code requirements, I could easily see that building costing a half a million,” he said.
“We needed something to take us into the next decade. The last time we talked with them they had no interest, but things have changed on that end with their circumstances and they made us a very good deal.”
Schulz said the new building would probably be functionally similar to the current facility but larger. They would look at a metal framed building that’s more pet and consumer friendly.
“The current facility isn’t consumer friendly and it’s not what we wish it was, but we’re cognizant of our primary responsibility which is to get pets into people’s homes,” he said.
He said Fort Madison through the years has been a tremendous help to the facility.
Brown said it’s just too early to tell what the cost of the building would be.
“In that two years we’re paying that off we will start getting a design on what we need. We don’t want a bazillion dollar building, and it won’t be designed to care for more animals. We have 200 a day and that’s enough with the staff and budget we have that is at max,” Brown said.
“But we would like a facility to care for animals with separate laundry rooms, an isolation room for new animals, and a nursery for puppies and kittens so we don’t have moms trying to nurse with barking dogs.”
She said the current facility is very confined with a very small area to receive customers and handle the transfer of pets. Then the main room houses the smaller dogs, laundry, food, and dishes all in the same room as the animals. Larger dogs are still housed outside the shelter in kennels.
An open house is being planned in either the first or second week of October and Brown said she welcomes everyone out to see the shelter and kennels.
“We are the largest no-kill animal shelter south of Des Moines and I think there are still people that don’t know what we do here. We take animals from all over if we have the space and there is a need. We are much more than a Fort Madison animal shelter.”
In 2017, the shelter found homes for more than 600 animals, which is the biggest year they’ve had. And animals from the shelter are now in homes across the continental United States.
She said a capital campaign will begin after shelter staff and the board have worked out what it will look like. Brown said she didn’t want to jump right into the campaign without having everything planned out because that’s how most of them fail.
“The property is easy because people can see it, it’s right there. I’m assuming to get the building up and get what we need, it’s going to be a couple million. So we want to make sure we talked to the right people and have our ducks in a row.”
PAW staff will be at Riverfest selling t-shirts this year and will also be taking over the Santa Store in Fort Madison, but officials have yet to find a place to hold the fundraiser.