'No kennel in Watauga' without fast cash

Article Published: Apr. 29, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

It looks great on paper.

Thirteen acres, complete with adoption meeting rooms, heated kennels and right next to the dog park off Old U.S. 421, but, as Humane Society shelter board chair Shawn Lundy will tell you, there's a big problem with the new Watauga Humane Society facility.

"We need money to pay for this," he said.

The new animal shelter isn't an option. It's a necessity.

State agencies have promised to "shut [the old shelter] down."

Not only is most of the facility out of code, but it's on a flood plain. Currently, the facility is leased from the town of Boone for $1.

The new facility, however, isn't cheap. While the land is paid for, weather delays have increased expenses on the already costly construction project.

"Weather has killed us," Lundy said, pointing to the red soil.

"See that? It's because of rain."

To save its own dollars, the Watauga County Animal Shelter is combining forces with the Watauga Humane Society and closing its current shelter when the new complex is complete. This means, instead of spending seven digits to build its own new facility ("Their building could also be shut down [due to code violations]," Lundy said, they're adding $400,000 to the Humane Society effort. The county has allocated $75,000 each year for operation costs for the next 25 years.

This should give the county significant savings over the long term and implement a "no-kill" policy countywide, except in cases of illness or aggression with animals.

The lack of overall project funding, however, brings a significant problem to the partnership.
"If we can't pay for this thing, there won't be a kennel in Watauga County," Lundy said.
That's where the community can step in.

"We need donations as soon as possible," he said. "We need money bad. Short term and long term."

Several naming opportunities are still available, but, in the tough economy, donors aren't stepping up like Lundy anticipated.

The contract was initially for about $2.35 million, but Lundy says corner cutting has allowed them to drop that to $2.18 million. Approximately $600,000 is already in the bank - not including the county pledge - and, while Lundy says WHS has "a substantial number of pledges over and above that," they still need "more pledges and more money."

Since donations are less than Lundy anticipated, the bank loan that's "still in the works" may be more significant, meaning an increase in interest.

Shelter construction began last August with the understanding construction would finish in July, and the new facility could open in October. Significant weather delays meant months without any work on the project. That means it may not be finished until mid-fall.

The state-of-the-art facility will have plenty of areas for dogs to get exercise and trails cut into the wood line, so volunteers can still spend a relaxing day of dog walking. The complex even includes a residential house so someone can be on-site at all times, especially important during inclement weather.

"It's going to be big," Lundy said of the complex.

Lundy invites the public to stop by the construction site and see what it's all about.

To donate, contact the Watauga Humane Society at (828) 264-7865, or visit http://www.wautaugahumanesociety.org.

Additionally, a Shag n' Wag dance to be held by the Boone Shag Club will benefit the effort. The party happens Saturday, May 1, at the American Legion Hall in Blowing Rock (333 Wallingford Road) from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. A buffet of snacks and appetizers will be served. Tickets are $10.

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