- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - The Kokomo Humane Society shelter project is almost one-third of the way toward a $2 million planning goal, and organizers are readying a big push to the finish.

“We want to let people know we’re still working on this, and we’ve gathered some substantial donations,” board chair Dave Kitchell told the Kokomo Tribune (https://bit.ly/PiNU4a ).

They’ve purchased the land where the new shelter will sit on the southeast corner of Home Avenue and Hoffer Street. Older Kokomo residents will remember it as the site of the former Jefferson School, which was torn down in the 1970s.

Given that one of the Nov. 17, 2013, tornadoes ripped directly through where the shelter will one day be, it’s perhaps a blessing that the new facility hasn’t been built.

But humane society backers already have pledged $650,000 of the goal, and the next milestone they’re hoping to reach sometime this year is the $1 million mark.

KHS Director Jean McGroarty said the new shelter will make a huge difference for local animals, both by increasing the number of adoptions done each year and by being a healthier environment for animals when they’re brought to the shelter.

The current building, erected in 1952, was constructed as a classic “dog pound” - as shelters were called back then, McGroarty said. It abuts a trash transfer station, which is typical for shelters built in that period.

“In the summer time we have all the doors open, and in the winter time, we have none of them open,” McGroarty said. “That leads to upper respiratory problems for the animals.”

The new facility will be visible - sitting on two main thoroughfares - and will offer both air conditioning and improved ventilation for the animals, with air exchanged for fresh air every 12 minutes. It will have more indoor runs to make sure the animals get enough exercise while they’re awaiting adoption.

And every animal will have its own space, apart from cat “colony” rooms where several felines will share the same space, complete with perches to lay on and objects to climb. There will also be a puppy room and a room for small animals, reducing stress on the little critters.

Everything is being done with the welfare of animals in mind, including the need to increase the society’s social media outreach and help prospective adoptees feel more comfortable when they visit.

“Let’s be honest, our current place is not a destination point,” Kitchell said. “If your grandkids are in town, you don’t say, hey, let’s go to the animal shelter. This is just going to make the animals a lot more adoptable.”

Fundraising for the new shelter is going on at the same time as fundraising for a new downtown YMCA, which hasn’t been ideal for the humane society, and Kokomo can expect to hear quite a bit about both projects between now and late fall when the United Way campaign begins and other fundraisers observe a blackout period.

“Different people have different passions, and a lot of people we’ve approached are really excited, but have donated funds elsewhere. But a lot of people are really excited about animal welfare,” Kitchell said. “Ideally we wouldn’t be raising money at the same time, but that’s just the way it happened, and it’s OK.”

The fact the project has received so many commitments prior to an actual public fundraising campaign shows the level of support in the community, he added.

Even people who aren’t “animal people” can see how investments in animal welfare say something positive about a community, he said.

“People who are thinking of moving to Kokomo would want to see we care about animals, and we have a beautiful facility. I think it just says something about Kokomo and Howard County.”

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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