As bad as the Mountain Area needs rain, the mild weather we have been experiencing this winter has provided at least one plus - construction of the Eastern Madera County SPCA no-kill animal shelter in Ahwahnee is ahead of schedule and could be open by the end of summer.
Commuters from Mariposa keep EMCSPCA President Sharon Fitzgerald updated on the daily changes at the site, located on 13 acres on Highway 49 across from Wasuma Elementary School. She, like Treasurer Lyle Swanson, is a weekly visitor that checks on progress and snaps photos to record site changes.
“Most of the framing is done and you can actually identify the rooms now,” Swanson said. “It’s amazing to see the changes each week. Randy (Papike) is moving along at a rapid pace.”
“Because we’ve had no rain, we’re ahead of schedule,” project contractor Papike explained. “We’re ready to put the roofing on, I’ll be ordering windows and exterior doors in a few days, and then we’ll move on to the electrical, heating, air, sprinklers and plumbing.”
Papike estimates the project, at an estimated cost of $3.3 million, will be completed in about six months.
It has been a 25-year, uphill climb, with determined EMCSPCA volunteers putting in exhausting hours to reach this point.
About 10 years ago, Fitzgerald, Linda Chappell and Swanson advised Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler that they were in need of land for an animal shelter. A staunch supporter of the project ever since, Wheeler was instrumental in urging the board of supervisors to approve a long-term lease of $1 a year for the site.
“Over the years, just as we have worked and planned, the community has rallied around us, donating everything from coins in dog banks to bequests from wills,” Fitzgerald said, “... and every one of these donations has brought us to this.”
The 8,000 square foot no-kill shelter will feature 20 indoor/outdoor dog kennels that will house up to two dogs each, as well as four puppy kennels to hold litters and moms. Dogs will have supervised outdoor time in the play/socialization fenced area behind the kennel wing.
As for the 40-plus cats expected to be housed at the facility, there will be four community rooms: one to introduce new cats following their health checks, one for kittens, and two with access to a secure outdoor enclosure.
Other shelter features include a grooming area, spay/neuter and vaccination clinic, and humane education center.
“The EMCSCPA Animal Care and Adoption Center will be more than a shelter to house dogs and cats. It will not be the prison we always think of when shelters are mentioned,” Fitzgerald added. “It will be a special place for animals awaiting their new families ... a place where they will be groomed, trained, vaccinated, spayed or neutered ... and loved.”
“The transition from helping area animals as a foster-to-shelter-based organization has brought many challenges,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re evaluating software programs for shelter/clinic, volunteer, and donor management, and are also working with several companies specializing in non-profit web design.”
At the same time, while relying upon invaluable guidance from Papike, grading contractor Kris Koontz, and architect Alan Hendry, decisions are being made on flooring, wall colors, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, as well as specialized equipment to maintain the health and safety of the animals.
“We’re excited to sit across the highway from Wasuma Elementary, and are currently working with Principal Heather Archer to develop an educational program that we hope to expand to other area schools,” Fitzgerald continued. “We can hardly wait to welcome the community to our new facility. It will be a joyous day when we open the doors to the EMCSPCA Animal Care and Adoption Center.”
The EMCSPCA, established in 1990, has spent up to $10,000 each month on emergency animal and foster care, spay and neutering, and feral cat feeding. This all-volunteer organization receives no governmental assistance, relying entirely on community support.
Of foremost concern is the animal over-population explosion. Educating the youth on the importance of spaying and neutering pets, as well as offering little-to-no-cost spay/neuter vouchers to Mountain Area residents remains a top priority for the organization, which has prevented the births of hundreds of thousands of puppies and kittens through the spay/neuter program at a cost of $1 million over the past 20-plus years.
There are several options in gift-giving. Naming a bench after a beloved pet, engraving a brick for the memorial garden wall, equipment for the dog park, Korunda dog beds for kennels and kitty condos.
The next phase in the fundraising efforts - to raise approximately $500,000 to furnish the shelter, with items such as veterinary equipment, surgical equipment and supplies, washers and dryers, chairs, tables and office equipment.
Once the shelter is up and running, ongoing monthly expenses of about $15,000 will also be needed to cover pet food, an on-site manager and veterinarian, utilities and maintenance.
Donations can be made online at www.emcspca.org.
The annual EMCSPCA plant sale fundraiser will take place 9 a.m. - noon, April 28 at the Swanson home in Oakhurst.
Details: EMCSPCA, (559) 642-6611.