The Case for an Animal Community Center
11SHELTER HISTORY & MISSION
In 1975 Marquette County Humane Society (renamed UPAWS in 2010) was founded to serve homeless and stray animals in the community filling the void left by the limited services provided by municipal pounds. The current UPAWS facility, built in 1978, operated as a temporary shelter housing animals for short periods of time. Animals considered not adoptable (older, temperamental, sick) were euthanized immediately.
Today, an average of 1,500 animals come through UPAWS open-admission, no kill shelter each year. Our mission is to improve the quality of life and welfare for domestic animals by providing a safe haven while finding lifelong homes for the animals in our care. The shelter is a busy place providing animals and pet owners with critical pet services. Since the transition to becoming a no kill shelter in 2006, UPAWS was awarded several Outstanding Medium Size Shelter in Michigan awards from the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance. Additionally, UPAWS staff and board have presented as keynote speakers at no kill shelter conference in Washington, D.C. and throughout Michigan.
Today animal shelters, at a minimum, provide a place for lost or abandoned animals during the wait for a new home. UPAWS performs this crucial role of finding homes for homeless animals as well as reuniting lost pets with their families and is a leader in the no-kill movement. We consistently reach an award-winning 98% Save Rate. Services for the community include low cost spay/neuter services, microchip placement, humane education, law enforcement services, a food bank, and end of life services including meeting cost effective pet needs for low-income residents of Marquette County.
Animal intake and services at UPAWS has grown dramatically since its inception 40 years ago, but not the shelter space. Beyond the small building size, many other issues compound the problem of providing a healthy and comfortable space for homeless animals. Building issues include: poor ventilation, power shortages, low water pressure, uneven heat distribution, mold, leaking roof, and close, small quarters creating high stress levels for animals, generating a tougher adoption environment.
In the past, animal shelters, built like warehouses, had little regard for or value placed on function of the facility. Caring staff and volunteers at UPAWS have succeeded in making the best effort to run the shelter effectively and efficiently, but the building still lacks in meeting the basic needs for both animals and the community. UPAWS is a part of the movement in redefining the shelter as a beacon of hope, a place where the environment contributes to successful adoption rates and decreases the number of stray animals through aggressive messaging on the importance of spay/neuter programs and responsible pet ownership. UPAWS has a dream of building a shelter that is more than just a shelter, it’s an Animal Community Center. The Animal Community Center will provide better comfort and care for our animal companions, as well as community space and expanded services.
UPAWS has purchased 20 acres of land in Sands Township next to the county fairgrounds. The new facility quadruples the current space and addresses current ventilation issues. Proper air handling and ventilation, one of the key issues for shelters, contains the spread of illness and makes the shelter a comfortable, healthy, and calm environment for both pets and people.
The design is one of efficiency and comes from many months of working with pet shelter design firms and discussion on both shelter and local community needs. The new configuration of kennels reduces stress for dogs by limiting smells, noise, and site lines to other dogs. Outside exercise and play areas with various fenced spaces offer an area for dogs to play (an important outlet for high energy dogs) and be walked safely. Cat spaces are designed to allow cats to have a home-like environment for those who are sociable as well as spaces that feel safe, secure, and quiet for those recovering from illness and/or abuse. A fully enclosed outdoor area presents cats the opportunity to be outside as well. Small critters will have their own corner away from other animals and activity and no longer live in our lobby or lunch room.
The Animal Community Center gives space to efficiently serve animals and the public. Meet and greet rooms allow those looking to adopt private space to get to know an animal in a quiet area away from other animals, people, and distractions. Offering the community low-cost spay/neuter services will continue on site for low-income Marquette County residents, as well as microchip placement, and a food bank.
New services will help fulfill our mission. A multi-purpose community center provides space for education on the responsibility of pet ownership, hard-to-adopt animal topics such as information on specific breeds or advantages of the older canine companion. Adoption events will be held along with youth programs, dog training, community meetings, and more. Education events can include school districts for ‘Read to your Shelter Pet’ programs or ‘What makes a dog bite?’ awareness. We expand to include professional development for law enforcement officers on animal control laws and ordinances or identifying the signs of neglect. We can work with civic clubs to develop opportunities for expanded volunteering in adoption counseling, canine playgroups, cat socializing, and more.
Additionally, a health clinic allows for volunteer vets to help us offer quality care for animals with medical needs. This feature allows for sick animals to heal without infecting the other animals. The shelter will include a functional pole barn to allow for cases of large or farm animal abuse- the only shelter run facility in the Upper Peninsula. This is a key change as we have not been able to help as often or as effectively as we need for horses and other large animals. Adequate parking for visitors, staff, and volunteers is offered and a year-round outdoor dog park makes available community space for dog lovers to come together.
FINANCING THE SHELTER
The Imagine the PAWSibilities Campaign to raise $3.7 million is underway. As of December 31, 58.4% ($2,160,840) of the funds dedicated to the Animal Community Center are in place, but we have a long way to go. The campaign plan includes seeking funding from individuals, businesses, special campaign events, and grants from foundations. UPAWS will also seek in-kind donations for the building process from local construction companies. Construction will depend upon reaching 80% of the fundraising goal.
All UPAWS services work towards our mission and vision of the humane treatment of animals, reducing pet overpopulation, and contributing to a community where there are no abandoned, homeless, or abused animals, and where everyone understands and practices the level of commitment and responsibility that pet guardianship entails. As animal shelters are held to higher standards, as well as serving more diverse needs, it takes a cooperative spirit to fulfill the goal of a new shelter that serves our animal companion needs and the community as a whole.