BY ALVIN REINER
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — North Country SPCA has opened its new 3,200-square-foot shelter after 45 years of caring for thousands of animals in its cramped former site in Westport.
North Country SPCA is the only animal shelter in Essex County. Each year, it takes in more than 300 homeless, abandoned and abused cats and dogs.
Since it was founded in 1969, the no-kill shelter has helped literally thousands of abandoned animals find homes.
Located about 4 miles east of Elizabethtown off Route 9N, the $1.6 million Frances Miller Adoption Center — named for the mother of one of the major donors — was constructed by the Bread Loaf Corp.
“Bread Loaf really went the extra mile for us and found ways to value engineer the shelter to help lower costs yet maintain our high standards for animal care,” said Patricia Tivnan, vice president of the SPCA Board and chair of the Building Committee.
The facility includes six “colony” rooms for up to 14 cats living together in large, light-filled spaces; two intake “condo” rooms for isolating 18 newly arrived cats; featured cat and dog rooms in the lobby; 10 dog adoption rooms, including three extra large for co-housing two dogs; five intake rooms for isolating newly arrived dogs; a get-acquainted play area for adoptive families; and a large multi-purpose room for working with dogs.
The 18-plus-acre site has seven outdoor runs for dogs, an 80-by-80-foot fenced play area and trails for dog walking.
SPCA Board member David Reuther located the land while perusing estate sales. It had previously been owned by Ray Manley, who operated a gravel pit on the property.
The shelter has numerous green features, including a high-performance, air-sealed, insulated building envelope; thermal windows with coatings to reduce energy loss; a design that allows future installation of photovoltaic or solar thermal panels; water-conserving faucets and flush valves; high-efficiency light fixtures, many with daylight or occupancy sensors; an exhaust air-recovery system from animal rooms that captures energy; and natural light, to improve health and well-being of the animals.
“It’s beautiful though confusing right now,” shelter maintenance technician Tim Rock said. “Once we get a pattern down, it will be even better.
“The dogs love it outside, and we have trails everywhere on our 18.6 acres. It’s totally awesome. We’re getting a lot of positive comments on the place.”
Board member Cindy Ayres agreed.
“It’s like night and day,” she said. “Before this was built, the cats never saw the light of day. They look so happy.
“We also have featured pet rooms in front and an isolation area, which we never had before. We’re hoping the adoption rate will go up.”
Professional dog trainer Emily Lewis, who comes from Vermont twice a month, was busy recently working with the canine Brandy.
“Who doesn’t want to pick up a dog? The animals seem so much happier here,” she said. “Most of the dogs don’t know how to play yet, and this shelter provides an amazing opportunity.”
Shelter Manager Pam Rock knows each animal as if it were a family member and describes to prospective adopters everything from potty training to how the pet gets along with people and other animals.
“I just think this place is fabulous,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming. Both the board and the staff have worked hard to get where we are now.
“There is more traffic by here (Route 9N), which will most likely mean more adoptions,” she added.
“(And) people can spend more time with the animals. It’s good for the people and animals to intermingle.”
After touring the shelter, Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas said it was “a great feeling to know that these helpless and homeless animals will have a safe and healthy environment in which to await their forever homes.”
Margaret Reuther, capital-campaign co-chair, said more than 1,000 people contributed to the fund drive.
“The tremendous support from our community has made this exciting new building a reality.”
Area veterinarians are also pleased with the new shelter.
Dr. David Goldwasser of Adirondack Veterinary Hospital noted that “people from all walks of life have given their time, money and expertise to this project.”
The 1960s building “had outlived its usefulness,” said Dr. Sue Russell of Westport Veterinary Hospital. “A new shelter was a necessity.”
And Dr. James Mack of Ticonderoga Animal Hospital called the facility “a welcome addition to the North Country.”
Email Alvin Reiner at:firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW TO HELP
North Country SPCA pays for all animal tests and inoculations, as well as spaying and neutering. Then the staff and volunteers groom, train and socialize the animals to give each one an opportunity for a new life.
NCSPCA does not receive any state or federal funding. Town contracts and adoption fees account for less than 15 percent of the annual budget. Private donations from area residents provide the other 85 percent.
Donations may be mailed to: North Country SPCA, PO Box 55, 7700 Rt. 9N, Elizabethtown, NY 12932
Shelter hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. It is closed on Monday.
For more information and to volunteer, call 873-5000; email email@example.com; or go to www.ncspca.org or www.facebook.com/NorthCountrySPCA.