The 1,600-square-foot building will include a training room, a bathroom, a kitchenette and two “real-life” rooms to be set up like living rooms in a home. Those rooms would be used to properly assess dogs without the distractions of all the other animals in the facility, as well as give dogs a place to be taken when they need a break.
“One of the things about Harbor Humane, if you’ve ever been to our building, is it’s very small. It’s kind of every nook and cranny is stuffed with either people, supplies or animals,” said Jen Self-Aulgur, executive director at Harbor Humane. “It made it very hard for us to engage the community as much as we would like to.”
Self-Aulgur said the plan is to add educational programs for the community.
“I used to work at Humane Society of West Michigan and started the education programs there, and that’s something I would love to see us do — things like dog-bite prevention and responsible pet care, and just building on those skills of empathy is really important, and it’s a really good place to do it when you have this many animals.”
They also want to offer opportunities for clinic care for people struggling to afford pet care.
“Really our goal is to help people keep their animals in their house, whether through training, helping with vaccines or spaying and neutering,” she said.
The groundbreaking for the new Community and Training Center took place Wednesday.
Harbor Humane is raising $350,000 for the new building and some improvements to the existing facility — upgrading the floors and cages therein. It’s about 40 percent of the way there through individual donations, grants and a sponsorship through the Bissell Corp.
Those interested in giving a donation can visit the website at harborhumane.org. One option for giving is to purchase a brick through the Buy a Brick, Leave a Legacy program, where donors can put their name on a brick making up a walkway for gifts of $100 or $250.
Self-Aulgur said they hope the new building and increased community engagement will help Harbor Humane become more than just a shelter where people come to drop off and pick up pets.
“We’re really just wanting to make us kind of a destination for people,” she said.
The facility will be built by Van Eck Construction.