MONROE - Janet O'Brien is realistic about the task at hand. It's going to be a battle, she admits, to raise an estimated $1.5 million for the benefit of cats and dogs in an era when the economy is decidedly down and people are worrying about their own livelihoods.
But if platitudes are to be of any comfort, even the longest leash begins with a single link.
Freshly armed with a design of exactly what they would like to build, the Humane Society of Monroe County is renewing its efforts to raise the funds necessary to replace its aging and inadequate shelter at 833 North Telegraph Rd. in Monroe. But Ms. O'Brien said the organization is still a long way from mounting the kind of all-out drive that will ultimately be needed to pay the price tag for a new 9,000-square-foot shelter.
"By no means are we starting a capital campaign," Ms. O'Brien explained. "We're trying to gather facts to find out what kind of land we're going to need to find to build the facility we need."
The current Humane Society shelter dates to the mid-1950s, and its roughly 1,200 square feet has enough room for just 33 dogs and 23 cats. The dogs are kept in the rear of the building, and only a portion of the kennels have outside runs.
To inspire the coming efforts, David Kubiske, of David Arthur Consultants, in Dundee, agreed to make a preliminary design for the new shelter free of charge. While the new building would be 7.5 times as big as the existing shelter, it would also incorporate some state-of-the-art features that help eliminate stress on animals as they wait to be adopted.
The proposed size of the building means that it would have to be built at a location other than the Humane Society's current site, meaning land acquisition will have to be added to construction costs, Ms. O'Brien said.
"When you look at the number of animals that we want to put in there, [the design] is not incredibly big. We want to double the dog space, and increase the cat space," Ms. O'Brien said. "Between us and [Monroe County] Animal Control, there will still be a number of animals we won't have space for. Especially cats. There are so many cats."
The Humane Society already has a $50,000 base upon which to build its eventual fund-raising effort, but Ms. O'Brien said the organization will look first for grants or wealthy benefactors from which to draw as much of the facility's ultimate cost as possible before going to the public.
Though the Humane Society of Monroe County has been trying to raise the funds needed for a new shelter for four years, the timing of that effort probably couldn't have been worse, Ms. O'Brien said.
"I think it's been a combination of the economy and that we've needed to deal with other issues at the Humane Society," she said. "We had to kind of put it on the back burner. I'd like to think now we're kind of taking it step-by-step so that it will succeed this time."