- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2006

A deluxe homeless shelter is scheduled to open tomorrow in Northwest, complete with waterfalls, memory foam mattresses and piped-in harp music.

But this high-tech hostel is only for the four-legged denizens of the District.

The Washington Animal Rescue League is set to present its $4 million renovation during its “Pawfest and Shelter Dedication” tomorrow from noon to 3 p.m.

Featuring cat condos and doggie dens, the cageless shelter was designed to help rehabilitate traumatized animals and better prepare them for a new home.

Glass bricks allow light to flood every inch of floor space while separating the pets’ pens.

Corian, a material produced by DuPont that usually covers kitchen countertops, is used as flooring and walls in the shelter, providing a germ-resistant surface for the dogs and cats.

Rescue league Executive Director Scotlund Haisley says he hopes the facility will set the standard for animal care.

“Animal shelters aren’t built for animals,” Mr. Haisley says. The traditional cinder-block and steel-bar aesthetic of most shelters creates a stressful environment for the animals, he says. “Caging animals works against our very goals.”

“There are millions of animals euthanized every year,” Mr. Haisley says. “But if we build more of these, this will save thousands of animals from euthanasia.”

He developed the shelter’s concept after touring the country’s animal shelters, veterinary hospitals, doggie day care facilities and even prisons.

Natural light and soothing sounds were a priority.

“We create the illusion of freedom,” Mr. Haisley says.

A holistic veterinarian suggested harp music would calm the animals, so each enclosure has its own speaker.

In addition, every doggie townhouse has radiant heat beneath half of the floor and its own supply of fresh air to prevent airborne illnesses.

And pooches never go thirsty here, thanks to a self-filling water dish.

Speaking of water, the whole facility has a “water therapy system,” creating the soothing sound of trickling water to calm frayed nerves.

Each of the shelter’s enclosures cost the rescue league about $10,000, which was provided by private donations. The designer of the renovation — Damon Philip Ward, an architect at Stoiber and Associates — was killed in a shooting on U Street Northwest in February.

The rescue league, located at 71 Oglethorpe St. NW., also operates a free spay/neuter clinic and offers obedience training for young dogs.

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