The fundraising campaign to rebuild the Waco Animal Shelter has passed the $2.4 million mark, and preliminary construction work has begun on the project.
But city leaders still are encouraging the public to donate to the project and consider fostering animals that will be displaced when aging kennels are razed in October.
The $2.4 million includes $1.4 million from foundations and private donors and about $1 million from the city of Waco, McLennan County and cities around the county.
The official campaign goal was $2.5 million, but the amount raised is enough to move full-speed ahead on the project, Assistant City Manager Wiley Stem said.
City officials are hoping to collect on some informal commitments, and any money over the $2.5 million goal could be used to upgrade the design of the shelter clinic, Stem said.
“We’ve got really high expectations in the community,” he said. “This is our chance to really fix something. How often do you get a chance to do that? . . . Donors have stepped up with real money and put a lot of trust in us, and we don’t want to let them down.”
Since last week, city crews have razed 11 old kennel spaces to make room for an enclosed animal drop-off bay, or sallyport. Built Wright Construction will build the structure this summer for free, with materials donated by Pioneer Steel.
Also in the works for this summer is a new parking lot, which will serve during construction as a site for temporary kennels.
Starting in October, buildings B and C will be razed, temporarily eliminating 88 kennel spaces. Once the four months of construction is complete, the old kennels will be replaced with 128 kennel spaces, which will allow the shelter to keep animals longer in hopes of adopting them out.
In the meantime, about 50 temporary spaces will be available on the parking lot under tents, Stem said.
That means a loss of about 38 spaces. To compensate, city and Humane Society officials will seek help from the community to foster animals while working with rescue organizations and partner cities to keep intake down and placements up.
“Our biggest challenge is going to be keeping the shelter open while this is going on,” Stem said. “We don’t have the option of taking it out of operation.”
The Humane Society of Central Texas, which handles adoptions for the shelter, will be seeking foster volunteers for animals.
“We’ll definitely make a plea to people once we know what the dates are going to be,” Humane Society Executive Director Don Bland said.
He said volunteers fill out an application form and commit to care for an animal until it is adopted. The average time for adoption is about 40 days, he said.
The new U-shaped kennel building will be air-conditioned, keeping the kennels at 85 degrees when the exterior temperature is 100 and improving the air flow to minimize contagious disease. The kennels will have stainless-steel cages and coated concrete floors for better sanitation.
The shelter project also will create a new adoption center, veterinary clinic and animal play areas.
Stem said the new shelter will be a pleasant place that will make people want to visit and pick an animal to take home.
“It’s going to be light-years ahead of where we’ve been, and in line with the character of the community coming together to make it happen,” he said.
Since the city took over the shelter in late 2012, it has been working to achieve a “no-kill” standard, which means 90 percent of animals admitted are released. For the year so far, the rate is about 88 percent, Bland said.