The Susquehanna Animal Shelter was given something to purr about Tuesday.
The Otsego County animal shelter will receive $500,000 in state funds to upgrade its facilities over the next two years.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday the allocation of nearly $5 million dollars to 14 shelters throughout the state through the New York State Companion Animal Capital Fund.
SAS Executive Director Stacie Haynes said the shelter was very excited to get the news.
With the money, the shelter intends to build a new home adjacent to the existing one.
“We all agreed that the long-term plan was not to stay in the building we are in, so we quickly decided how best to spend the $500,000 while we were writing the grant,” Haynes said.
SAS is affiliated with the advocacy group New York State Animal Protection Federation, through which they learned about the state funding. Haynes said the grant became available in October and in November SAS submitted its proposal.
“The new building will enhance the experience of the shelter, which is an asset to the whole community,” Haynes said.
State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said in a written statement after the announcement: “Animal shelters are a haven for the animals they care for while also providing a vital community service. Unfortunately, many shelters are in desperate need of funding just to provide food and basic care for the animals they house, and capital improvements are routinely placed on the back burner — this new state grant will change that.”
The current structure, which houses 30 kennels and two cat rooms, used to be a motorcycle repair shop. It has been retrofitted several times to accommodate the needs of the shelter but does not have proper ventilation, and new animals come through the same door as customers, which Haynes said presents a health risk.
The new building will be able to take in more dogs and cats and will be more efficient for staff members to care for the animals. Haynes said the shelter has had a consistent wait list of 80 cats this year and it's a top priority of the organization to address this need. Additionally, there will be room for volunteers to take the dogs on walks and an isolation space for disease control.
Once the new building is up, the thrift store that sits on the other side of the shelter's parking lot will expand into the existing structure to include furniture.
The thrift store, owned and operated by the shelter, generates close to 40 percent of SAS's annual income, according to its website, which keeps the shelter operational.
Looking ahead, Haynes said she sees the new building as both a more efficient and healthy place for the animals and a community hub.
“The board of directors doesn't have a place to meet in the shelter. Having a meeting space in the shelter is one possibility,” she said. “And thinking long term, another goal is to have community space we can host birthday parties and other events.”
SAS employs 16 people and has 50 volunteers between the shelter and the thrift store.
Haynes said the shelter will kick off a capital campaign in the spring to raise more funds for the building project.
Whitney Bashaw, staff writer, can be reached at (607) 441-7218 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Twitter @DS_WhitneyB .