The long awaited animal adoption center planned in the Meadows community is close to becoming a reality and is expected to be complete within the next six weeks.
The Friends of Stokes Shelter, which was formed in 2013, is spearheading the project and initially planned to construct a 90-foot by 40-foot metal building on property beside the existing shelter and tie into their sewer and water utilities. But soon after a preliminary building layout, the non-profit discovered issues and began the search for a new site.
At one point there were nine different local options for the adoption center before the group settled on a county site on the northern side of the old prison camp beside Dodgetown Road where they will lease the land from the county for a nominal amount.
The non-profit continued to move forward, although slower than anticipated.
“It’s been a long process,” said veterinarian Debbie Cowan, who serves as the Friends of Stokes Shelter chairperson. “We had to find land, it had to perk, there had to be a lease and in the meantime, animal laws changed dramatically. No longer could we do the building we were going to get for $40,000.”
Cowan explained the group reviewed plans with a representative from the N.C. State Department of Agriculture to create a list of mandatory requirements of the center.
“I agree fully with the changes that the law has made, but the problem is it has caused the costs to go up. We understand, but it’s something we want the community to know,” she said. “Every single penny that we have been given has gone into this building.”
In February of this year, James T. Matthews GC Inc. began construction and the foundation and underground plumbing work is complete.
The new adoption center will adhere to all state regulations, which will limit the number of animals it can house.
“We will be able to house 13 large dogs, possibly 26 medium dogs or 39 small dogs depending on the size of the animal. We have housing for 20 kitties and we’ll also have an isolation area,” Cowan said. “We’ll have outdoor runs. We have two that are individual runs for those who don’t get along with others and we’ll have three runs where they will all be able to comingle.”
Cowan noted the property is an adoption center and won’t take the place of animal control.
“No tax money is coming to us,” she said. “We’re in contact with the Stokes County Animal Shelter right now so we’re all working together. If they have an animal and they can only hold them for 28 days, if it’s on the last leg of its journey, they’ll call us and then we’ll take him. Our goal for both the shelter and the adoption center is that we can come together with other rescue groups and adoption groups.”
Cowan works closely with the county’s animal control and said without proper funding, there is only so much they can do.
“They are trying. They’re not taking in every 12 kittens and 12 puppies that you decided to let you pet have because they don’t have the room and they can only take in so much. Other counties have larger facilities and a bigger budget,” she said.
In other parts of the country, there are extremely tight regulations on spaying and neutering, Cowan said.
“In the north, shelters don’t have all these unwanted puppies and kittens and dogs. What they get is actual bites, abandonment, cruelty, that kind of animal. For that reason, they will work with us because they want adoptable animals. If we can get them transported, they’ll take them because they want and need animals to adopt.”
Cowan added, there is a “throw away” mentality when it comes to pets.
“Don’t spay, don’t neuter because you can just get rid of them and someone else will take care of them,” she said, as a veterinarian who sees it too often. “This is an old mindset that has to switch. People have to understand, especially in Stokes County, if you have a pet, you have a responsibility to spay or neuter. They’re yours; you took them.”
“And if don’t want them, get a stuffed toy,” she said flatly. “You can pet it when you want and throw it in the closet when you’re done.”
Community involvement, volunteer opportunities available
Cowan said Friends of the Stokes Shelter have raised more than $330,000, but are still short $100,000 needed to ensure long-term operations at the facility.
According to state regulations, the center requires one full-time paid position.
“Everyone else will be volunteers. When we can afford it, which hopefully will be a year after we open, then we’ll hire an additional part-time person. For every 10 animals you have in a building, you must have two people working. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being paid, but you must have people there. That’s why we’re really going to be counting on volunteers to help.”
The success of the adoption center will be in hands of the community, Cowan said.
“The exciting part is that this is something we’ve never had as a county and it’s needed. We’ll be relying on people from Sandy Ridge, King, Walnut Cove, Danbury. This is something for everyone and not just one area,” she said.
The Friends of Stokes Shelter are also looking to expand their board and create a volunteer advisory board.
“We’ll need volunteers; I can’t emphasize that enough.”
On August 25, the non-profit will be hosting their fourth annual fundraising gala. Wags and Whiskers will be held at Snyder’s Barn in Germanton. Tickets are $75 per person.
“We are fully funded through amazing citizens who donate their pennies, quarters and nickels to this cause. Without their contributions, the adoption center would not be possible,” Cowan said. “Thank you to those who have been patient through this process and to those who are getting ready to get involved. It’s something to be proud of in our rural community.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.