SIDNEY — Stray and abandoned dogs and cats in Shelby County may not be aware of it, but they are well on their way to having a comfortable, safe place to stay until they find forever, loving homes.
The Shelby County Animal Rescue Foundation (SCARF) on Saturday formally announced its campaign to build a new animal shelter in Sidney. SCARF also announced that, thanks to major gifts from the Bob Sargeant family in Sidney and from Lawrence Piper, of rural Anna, as well as several other significant donations, Building a Pawsitive Future has already met just under 40 percent of its $2.4 million goal.
In ceremonies on the lawn near the Gay Smith and Associates ReMax One office along Poplar Street, SCARF President Eric Barr, spokesman Joe Laber, Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann and the SCARF board of trustees unveiled plans for what will be the Bob Sargeant & Family Shelby County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center.
The 8,152-square-foot building will more than double the space of the current shelter, which was built in 1971 and slightly expanded in 1998.
“Volunteers see what it’s really like there,” Ehemann told the group of about 20 people who attended the ceremonies. “It’s wet. Big dogs can’t stretch out in their kennels. There’s poor ventilation.”
The new facility, by Shelter Planners of America, will have a custom-designed heating and air-conditioning system that will help to prevent the spread of disease among resident animals. It will have a proper quarantine area, kennel floors designed for ease of cleaning, a records room, and expanded living quarters for dogs and cats. In addition, there will be a puppy room, a welcome center and “re-tail” shop, an exam room, areas for proper food storage, a laundry area, outside play areas, and space to hold 22 percent more animals than the current building can hold.
Bob Sargeant talked with the Sidney Daily News in advance of the announcement about why he offered a gift of $500,000.
“I believe in giving back to the community. I’ve tried to be generous to the community,” he said. “I’ve lived around Sidney all my life. I’ve seen animals that have been abused, underfed, come in and get adopted and the recovery is remarkable. (The current shelter) is outdated. It’s not conducive to adoption. The new one will be altogether different. There’s a great need for it. And I like their slogan, ‘(Providing pets) a new leash on life.’”
In addition to his making the lead donation in memory of his wife, Thelma, who died in 2014, Sargeant’s two daughters also have supported the drive.
“Pets are soothing for older people. It tends to extend their life,” the 91-year-old said. He admitted he has always been a dog person, and when the last family pooch died, it was decided there would be no more.
“We didn’t have a pet for three years,” he said. “Then a kitten in survival mode showed up at our door and adopted us. That was seven years ago and she’s still with us.”
Piper knows all about cats adopting people. He’s given homes to many strays and currently enjoys two, Blackie and Peanuts.
“They don’t care if you’re white, black, green or yellow. They love you,” he said. His gift to SCARF of more than $300,000 is in memory of his wife, Marcella, who died in 2003. It will support the cat wing of the new building.
“We both loved animals,” he said of Marcella. He had planned to make a donation to a national animal organization, but redirected the money when Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart told him about the SCARF drive.
“This is home. I know where it’s going, so I donated here. Maybe (my gift) will get somebody else to give some money. I’d like to see it and I know my wife would like it,” he said.
During Saturday’s event, Barr recounted that since SCARF was established in 2012, it has paid many thousands of dollars for veterinary care of shelter animals and promoted hundreds of adoptions.
“The adoption rate since we’ve helped out has skyrocketed,” he said. Shelby County animals have found homes not only locally, but also as far away as Seattle, Washington.
“A private jet came from Michigan to pick up a dog here,” he said. Another shelter dog has found a home in a multimillion-dollar house on a golf course where Tiger Woods plays.
The SCARF board showed a video that illustrates the need for the shelter and then proceeded to a painted “thermometer” that will record the campaign’s progress.
Sargeant was out of town Saturday. Piper and Marian Spicer, executive director of the Community Foundation of Shelby County, with an assist from Barr, unveiled the thermometer at the corner of Poplar Street and Main Avenue. The foundation is holding the funds.
Several sponsorship levels are open, which include naming rights to areas within the new shelter. They range from $1,500 each to $150,000. In addition, a plaque planned for the lobby will list Paw of Fame donors of amounts from $500 to $10,000.
All donations are fully tax-deductable and will be accepted in any amount. They can be mailed, payable to the Community Foundation of Shelby County and marked for the SCARF Pawsitive campaign, to the foundation, 100 S. Main Ave. #202, Sidney, OH 45365. They can be made online at www.commfoun.com. For information about donating, call the foundation at 497-7800.
To take a virtual tour of the current and proposed animal shelters, visit www.helpshelbycountyanimals.com.
The Pawsitive Future campaign committee are Ehemann, Laber, Dave Reed, Gay Smith, Paul Kindle, Karen Wise and Lisa Beigel.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.