BELLINGHAM - Crews have begun the final phase of construction on a new shelter for Whatcom Humane Society, and staff members hope to move in just in time for kitten season.
The new shelter, located on more than 12 acres at 2172 Division St., is expected to be ready by early June, in time for the increase in shelter population that usually comes along with warmer weather.
"I can speak on behalf of everyone at Whatcom Humane Society, two- and four-legged, and say we are over the moon with excitement about this project and the reality of moving into our new home," said Laura Clark, executive director.
Once the new shelter is open, the Humane Society will be able to close its Port of Bellingham-owned Williamson Way shelter, which Clark described as "falling apart around us," as well as its county-owned Baker Creek location.
Consolidating the two shelters into one should help the organization be more efficient, and the new 19,000-square-foot shelter will provide more room and services for animals.
The new shelter will include special areas for dogs, cats, birds and small or exotic animals, as well as an expanded veterinary and surgery area for the diagnosis and treatment of animals. In 2012, the society provided care and services for more than 4,100 animals.
"We, for years, have been in a constant state of juggling, trying to figure out how to serve all the animals that come through our doors," Clark said. "It's a game-changer for the animals in this community in terms of how we'll be able to serve them. We'll have not only more room, but more options."
Cost of construction for the new shelter is $2.6 million, including expenses for kennels, veterinary equipment, laundry facilities, signs and grounds work. The shelter was designed by local architect Curt Carpenter, with construction managed by local contractor The Franklin Corp.
The society had raised nearly $910,000 for the shelter as of Tuesday, April 9. An anonymous donor in the community is matching donations through April 15, up to $1 million. If the match is fully utilized, the society will continue to raise money or finance the remaining $600,000.
Clark said she has been humbled by the community's support for the shelter and the animals it will serve.
"It moves me to tears some days," she said. "It's just so overwhelming."
Donations made to Whatcom Humane Society's building campaign through April 15 will be matched up to $1 million. People who would like to donate can go online to whatcomhumane.org and click on the "Donate Now" button, or call 360-733-2080, ext. 3002.