Jan. 29, 2004 – Preliminary ground work began Thursday morning on the new "animal care campus" of the Humane Society of St. Thomas, planned as a state-of-the-art shelter for the island's abandoned and homeless animals to heal, rest and play while they await more permanent housing.
Workers with machetes and chain saws could barely be seen from the Weymouth-Rhymer roadside clearing a path through the thick bush on the Estate Hoffman hillside where the facility will be built. The site is across from Market Square East on land given to the society by the Lockhart family.
The property in Estate Nadir where the current shelter has sat for decades was condemned by the V.I. government in 2001 to make way for a federal highway project to link up stretches of road to what is commonly known as "the bridge to nowhere." The move forced the Humane Society to begin the search for a new home.
The Lockhart family stepped up with the donation of the property. And last June, Knight Quality Stations owner and philanthropist Randolph Knight pledged to match funds raised by the Humane Society for the effort, up to half a million dollars.
Through fund-raising and the sale of its Nadir property to the government, the society has amassed nearly a million dollars for the campus so far, with a goal of $2.2 million, according to Joseph Aubain, society board president. The target for completion of the project is late this year.
"We're designing a campus that will be much better for the animals," Aubain said. "It will have better and more kennels for the dogs where they won't see each other. Right now, the kennels for the dogs are built facing each other, which can be very bad for the more aggressive animals."
Aubain said consideration for the animals is central to the entire project. "There will be more play areas for the dogs, more play rooms for the cats, outdoor play areas," he said. And to serve the needs of pet owners in the community, there will be "a kennel where people can leave their animals when they go on vacation" as well as a trail "where people can come and walk their dogs."
Also in the plans are separate bird and iguana sanctuaries and a holding area for injured livestock, along with modern veterinary and administrative facilities. And, according to Aubain, the campus will have a communal courtyard for society functions, a library, and an outreach center for Humane Society staff and volunteers to utilize in educating the public about how better to care for pets and other animals.
The society is hoping to raise a sizable chunk of the money still needed to complete the project through its annual Valentine's Day Ball. Also known as the "Doggy Ball," the gala is set for Feb. 7 at Marriott Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort. Last year's ball drew a crowd of more than 500 people, and Aubain is hoping that this year's event will be even bigger. "It's a blast!" he said.
For further information about the organization or the ball, visit the Humane Society Web site, or call board member Dellia Holodenschi at 513-1854, or Aubain, at 776-0100.
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