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In the Doghouse No More
In 1998, the Town of Truckee built a temporary animal shelter near the Truckee River that was meant to last five to seven years. Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe Executive Director Stephanie Nistler calls it “a big tin shed,” and it is still standing today, a 900-square-foot building where dogs and cats from Truckee and North Tahoe come as their first stop on the road to adoption.
Within months, that “big tin shed” will be vacant, and area homeless pets will be whisked to their new shelter, a $6.8 million building between the Truckee Community Center and downtown Truckee. The 10,000-square-foot shelter will be able to house approximately four times as many dogs and cats, saving the lives of animals on kill lists in overcrowded urban shelters. The new building will also keep the nonprofit from being forced to send so many pets out to foster families and give pets a more spacious and comfortable living environment.
While the new shelter will not change the way the humane society approaches local pets — “We have an open-door policy in our community. We don’t say no to any animal in our community,” said Nistler — it will allow the nonprofit to seek out more dogs and cats from across the region that are about to be euthanized and bring them to Truckee for adoption.
“There is no doubt that we will be able to rescue more animals,” said Nistler.
The new shelter is a product of a partnership between the humane society and the Town of Truckee. The organizations are splitting the cost of construction, and they will both share space in the building. The joint construction project highlights how the town and the humane society have worked hand-in-hand on pet issues in the area.
“Our relationship is one-of-a-kind and something we are really proud of,” said Nistler.
Dan Olsen, Truckee Animal Services manager, said the building will combine four offices into one central location — the old animal shelter, the trailer at the shelter that serves as a human society office, the town’s animals services offices, and the humane society’s downtown Truckee offices.
But perhaps the most important upgrade from both Olsen and Nistler’s point of view is the ability to separate sick or aggressive animals from each other.
“The way the old shelter worked, there was no specific isolation room where we could isolate an animal entirely,” said Olsen. “We have been very, very lucky that we have not had an outbreak of disease.”
The isolation room will be supplemented by a state-of-the-art HVAC system that keeps the air from each room separate so that a pet with an airborne illness will not spread its infection.
It’s both little, and large, details like this that will make the shelter a valuable community resource for decades to come — full-sized rooms for dogs with natural lighting and outdoor access, colony-style rooms for cats with areas to climb and play, and a shelter that will be open to the public for adoptions five days a week, said Nistler.
The public access to the shelter — the old facility was only open to the public one day a week — is expected to increase the adoption rates at the new shelter by more than 50 percent in the first year, said Nistler, and by 80 percent in the second year the shelter is open.
FIVE YEARS OF FUNDRAISING
When the shelter opens this September, the celebration will mark the end of five years of hard fundraising work by humane society staff and volunteers. The nonprofit is still working to raise the final funds to meet their $3.4 million share of the building.
While the fundraising is not complete, the Town of Truckee has committed to completing the shelter project and allowing the humane society to pay the shortfall once their fundraising is complete.
The fundraising effort began in 2008, in the middle of a struggling economy with a generous bequest of $500,000 from the late Truckee lawyer Ruth Frishman. The campaign continued despite the difficult times and gained steam with a range of gifts from $1 to $1 million.
“This community is truly amazing. In our toughest times people have always come through,” said Nistler.
Nistler said the new shelter will not only be a building that will allow the rescue of more dogs and cats, raise the adoption rate in the community, and increase the comfort of homeless pets, it is also an example of a perfect public-private partnership.
Instead of the town and taxpayers footing the entire bill, the humane society and the town shared the cost of construction to create a facility that the community can be proud of.
“It is the best bang for the buck. The best possible arrangement for the community,” said Nistler.
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