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Inyo County is looking to its residents to help fund a better home for lost and orphaned animals after years of failed attempts to find state or federal money.
Local leaders on Tuesday approved a plan that relies on donations to fund the construction of a new animal shelter on county-owned property in Big Pine where the current facility is located.
Deputy Public Works Director Jim Tatum presented three conceptual drawings of a new shelter that range in price from $450,000 to $725,000 and would include 24 dog kennels and 24 cat cages.
Tatum said the proposed shelter plans will be a cost-effective way to replace the existing shelter, located on a piece of property off of County Road known as the County Farm. The plans include indoor/outdoor kennels for shelter dogs, an outdoor area where prospective adopters can â€śget to knowâ€ť the animals, a grooming and food prep station, euthanasia facilities and room to expand.
Tatum also said there is the potential of installing a photovoltaic solar system on the new buildingâ€™s roof to help manage energy costs, which are expected to go up if a new, modern building is constructed.
Sheriff Bill Lutze, whose department includes Animal Control, said the current animal shelter was built as a milk barn in 1929. The building was renovated in the late 1960s or early â€™70s to serve as the county animal
shelter. At that time, it had the capacity to house 12 dogs and nine cats.
The building was renovated again in 1986 to raise its occupancy to the current 15 dogs and 18 cats.
â€śYou can imagine that, because of the age of the building, major maintenance is needed regularly,â€ť Lutze said. â€śWeâ€™ve been looking for grant funding for a new shelter for several years, but, unfortunately, weâ€™ve struck out.â€ť
Lutze said that conditions at the shelter have been improved periodically over the years thanks to donations from ICARE and funding generated through animal license sales, but the bottom line is that the old building is too outdated to be cost effective.
Lutze said that the Sheriffâ€™s Department received a â€śvery, very generousâ€ť $150,000 donation from an anonymous citizen in 2011 for improvements to the shelter. That money, along with other donations that have come in, have been put in a trust. As of this week, the balance of that trust was about $175,000, â€śenough to get startedâ€ť on a new shelter project, Lutze said.
In addition to the money the Sheriffâ€™s Department has for the project, ICARE has vowed to donate at least $100,000 to the construction fund, and kick-off a fundraising effort to generate further donations.
Ted Schade, who founded ICARE with his wife Lisa in 1996, said the shelter is â€śsubstandard for the animals there and the staff.â€ť He added that he could personally guarantee the $100,000 donation from ICARE, â€śeven if I have to mortgage my house.â€ť
Short of mortgaging his house, Schade said he has several other fundraising ideas, including â€śsellingâ€ť or offering sponsorships for new kennels for the shelter. He said residents could donate $1,000 for cat kennels or $5,000 for dog kennels, in exchange for a plaque on the kennels when they are installed. â€śI think we could raise $100,000 with that alone,â€ť Schade said.
Schade also said ICARE has established an account for donations for the new shelter and that the Board of Directors may be able to identify other ways to contribute to the building fund.
With backing by Inyo County, ICARE is planning to officially kick off its fundraising efforts for the new shelter at its Saturday, April 13 dinner at the Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fairgrounds. Tickets for the annual dinner are available at Spellbinder Books and Radio Shack in Bishop and the Booky Joint in Bishop. The dinner has sold out in the past, so those planning to attend are encouraged to get their tickets as soon as possible.
Third District Supervisor Rick Pucci said he believes raising money for the shelter will be a simple matter. He advised the county to select one of the conceptual drawings, â€śput a dollar amount on it and letâ€™s go. With a good picture and a solid dollar amount, I think we can get the money.â€ť
Tatum said the project could feasibly be completed by the end of 2014.