PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Central Aroostook Humane Society is launching a plan to replace its crumbling animal shelter.
Despite ongoing repairs, the 24 Cross St. building has structural problems rendering it unsafe, board members said. The nonprofit group has wanted to build a new facility for several years but couldn’t afford construction costs. But the pieces fell into place when three sizeable donations were willed to the shelter, expressly for a new facility.
The organization serves 28 communities in The County, acting as a drop-off point for animal control officers and a haven for rescued and unwanted pets.
“We have such a good crew and we want them to be safe,” said Chris Standefer, vice president of the humane society’s board. “It’s not safe for the employees, and if it’s not safe for them it’s certainly not safe for the animals.”
The shelter has been at its current location for more than 35 years, said Gloria Towle, Central Aroostook Humane Society board secretary.
The new shelter is projected to cost $806,615. Nearly two-thirds of that sum will come from three donations, but the group will seek to raise $200,000 or more through fundraisers and grants, Towle said.
“It has served us well, but over the past five or six years, we’ve been putting Band-Aids on it. The foundation has been crumbling [and] there’s black mold,” Towle said.
The society already has the land, an empty parcel located across from the General Aviation Terminal at the end of Cross Street, she said. The city of Presque Isle swapped the land for the current shelter building, so the site cost the humane society nothing.
Buck Construction of Mapleton has been hired to build the new 3,300-square-foot facility. The humane society expects to break ground in September and move in by early winter.
The society formed in 1966, aided by Presque Isle resident Roberta Dingwall, who cared for cats until she couldn’t accommodate any more, board members said. The first animal shelter opened in a former military building on the Presque Isle Industrial Park. The current building opened in 1992.
About 500 cats and 200 dogs are cared for and adopted out in an average year, shelter manager Betsy Hallett said.
A new facility has been needed for a long time, she said, pointing to a hole at the base of a wall from a frost heave. The cracks in the concrete floors keep spreading, which causes problems when those surfaces are constantly being washed down and disinfected.
“We can’t properly clean. The floors are cracked, so bacteria gets down into those cracks and then reappears,” Hallett said.
One of the shelter’s largest contributions has been promoting spaying and neutering, according to board members. Over the years, it has seen the numbers of unwanted animals, especially cats, diminish by half. Every animal up for adoption is altered with the help of a revolving fund.
The society provides pet care education on multiple platforms, including a weekly news column, said board member Carolyn Cheney.
Community education has also helped lessen findings of numerous neglected animals trapped in homes. The shelter has been involved in some rescues over the years with law enforcement and animal control, she said. The rescued animals have been cared for and, if healthy enough, adopted from the shelter.
“It’s been a long time since they’ve had a large raid,” Cheney said. “The public has a great deal of respect for the employees and the board of directors. It’s a hard job. They see things that nobody should see.”
The humane society’s $200,000 fundraising campaign will officially start with its annual Toast to the Animals, a beer and wine tasting event that usually nets around $10,000, Towle said.
In the past, as many as 50 sponsors have signed on to pay for the event, which also offers live music, light refreshments, door prizes and a silent auction. Tickets are $15 and all proceeds go to the humane society.
The event is from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, at the Northeastland Hotel in Presque Isle. For information visit the Central Aroostook Humane Society’s website or Facebook page, or call Towle at 551-6966. Donations may be sent to the Central Aroostook Humane Society, 24 Cross St., Presque Isle ME 04769.
Towle and her colleagues can’t wait to see the blueprints take shape on the ground. The new building will house dogs on one side and cats on the other, and will include dog runs, cat rooms and a dedicated food preparation area.
“Having someone donate a large amount for this project made us see it could become a reality,” Towle said.