Feb. 9, 2003 The final tally for money raised at the 25th annual Humane Society of St. Thomas Valentine's Ball isn't in, but at 567 attendees, it was the largest "Doggie Ball" ever.
But the big news was the unveiling of what the group's new animal care campus will look like when it is built on the Weymouth-Rhymer Highway on property donated by the Lockhart Companies.
Businessman and philanthropist Randolph Knight kicked off the capital campaign to raise money to build the new "campus," as Humane Society President Joseph Aubain referred to the new facility.
Knight had promised to spearhead the project last April. (See "Knight: private sector to build animal shelter".)
Knight, a vocal critic of the government's failure to support the community's needs, said Saturday night, "This is one of the vital things we need to do, because the government isn't going to do it."
When announcing the Lockhart Companies' willingness to donate the property, Etienne Bertrand, president of Lockhart Real Estate, said it was because of Knight's involvement that the company was especially happy to be part of the project. "Randy won't do anything unless it's first-class," Bertrand said.
The new shelter will include cutting-edge sound and odor-contained kennels where each dog will have complete privacy, dog play areas, a real cat house complete with window sills, dog runs and a dog-walking path where members can bring their canines and walk them on leashes.
Plans also include a state-of-the art administration building with separate entrances for different functions. It will also house the on-campus animal treatment center that will employ a full-time animal-care professional.
Another building will house an education center. The Humane Society has a large outreach program for local school children, Aubain said.
"We do sessions with the puppies and the dogs," Aubain said, but with the new center the children will be able to come there.
The center will have a library "for kids who may want to go into animal care fields," Aubain said, as well as conference and meeting rooms.
"Right now the board and committees meet wherever they can," Aubain said. "This will afford us a place to meet on the campus and offer space to other non-profits."
Aubain said, "Our goal is to do more with senior citizens too. Pets are extremely therapeutic."
One other coup announced Saturday: the inclusion of the V.I. Police Department's K-9 Corps headquarters at the facility.
Aubain said housing the K-9 Corps there would provide security and educational opportunities and noted it was a natural fit.
In Nadir, where the Humane Society facilities are located now, the V.I. government intends to take two of the shelter buildings and about half of the land, including the septic system, to complete a road project.
Knight, Aubain and architect José Ortega have been working on the new campus for nearly two years. But Saturday night marked the first time the donors and the vision came together publicly to start the fund-raising necessary to realize the project.
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