By Eve Kucharski
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter
Located at 7095 W. Grand River Ave. in Lansing, the 25-year-old Capital Area Humane Society building, or CAHS, building is part of an organization that has served the Lansing area and its animals for far longer.
However, the independently-run and funded organization currently isn’t able to perform at its peak, according to adoption counselor and entry staff employee Makenzie Giller.
“This building wasn’t made to house sick dogs and sick cats,” said Giller.
Eric Langdon, the shelter’s Director of Annual and Major Gifts, agreed. But said projects of this nature come at a cost, so immediately he and his team set to raise money.
Specifically, the project is a capital campaign that seeks to benefit the whole shelter by expanding it. According to the CAHS donation website, phase one will add 5,000 square feet to the shelter, and renovate another 6,000. It will also focus on the cattery, or area for holding cats.
“We will improve the cat area specific to the shelter,” said Langdon. “So we can get the cats out of the dog areas, give them access to the outdoors for the benefit of the animals, and improve our lobby and interface.”
And the need for the shelter has been very consistent since, even though it has changed locations since its start in 1936. According to the CAHS website, the organization fosters around 10,000 animals on a yearly basis.
A shelter’s role was very different prior to 1970. According to The Humane Society of the United States’ website, shelters were “routinely euthanizing over 100 dogs and cats per 1,000 people in their communities.”
Since then, shelters have made it their goal to save animals from that fate, and the CAHS is no stranger to that according to Langdon.
“Twenty-five years ago when the animals were brought, two-thirds were euthanized,” said Langdon. “[We have a] over 97 percent live release rate now because we treat unruly animals and questionable behavior instead of just euthanizing.”
Hence, the need for more space and resources now.
“It is months in the making, I can’t tell you exactly how long it took,” said Langdon. “Besides fundraisers, we did a feasibility study and we got that feedback. We got an estimate that it would be in the $4 million range. And we said to do it in two parts, so we did it in two phases.”
The full project cost turned out to be $3.9 million, and during the time of fundraising, the organization was able to raise $1.9 million. For CAHS this was excellent, because they raised essentially half of the funds in the first part of their project as they set out to do.
Also, because this amount of fundraising was in addition to the $2.1 million annual budget that the CAHS has to work with annually, Langdon said it was very “significant” to have raised that amount over roughly 18 months.
Even though the first phase of the project is over, Langdon said that the shelter is now fundraising for its second; and they hope to break ground by the end of spring 2017.
Phase two of the project will add 3,300 square feet and renovate 8,000, focusing largely on the quarantine areas for sick animals, while increasing the outdoor access that dogs have.
These renovations will not be involving Lansing’s Spay/Neuter clinic, also run by the same organization. The reason for this, according to Giller, is that both buildings have fundamentally different roles.
“We’re separate because they help with the public and we don’t,” said Giller, “they” being the Spay/Neuter Clinic. “We treat animals we have, and not the ones people own. The Spay/Neuter Clinic is like a cheaper vet clinic for people who may not be able to afford more expensive treatment at veterinary clinics.”
So as far as the reasoning behind their renovations, the CAHS has been transparent and evidently gained enough support to achieve their goals. However, even with their successful fundraising, many members of the Lansing community were not even aware that plans for the renovations have been set in motion.
Owner and Chef of Lansing doughnut shop Glazed and Confused, Pete Counseller, said he hadn’t heard of the plans, but his overall view of the shelter was as positive one.
“I mean I understand what The Humane Society is, I’ve adopted a dog from The Humane Society before,” said Counsellor. “So I’m well aware of what they do and how many pets they rescue every year and I think it’s tremendous what they do. Actually I know one of my kids actually volunteered there for a while.”
Personal Trainer and Wellness Director at The Downtown YMCA Wellness Center in Lansing Jon Greene said he felt similarly, having gotten a pitbull-labrador mix from them.
“I think they do a good job. I’ve gotten animals from The Humane Society before,” said Greene. “I’ve utilized their services so I think there’s a place for them. Yeah I think they will [put the money to good use], they’re a responsible organization, being a non-profit.”
Although unaware of the project when asked, Greene also sympathized with the fundraising efforts of the CAHS.
“Being at the Y, I certainly understand that,” said Greene. “We’ve gone through capital campaigns and there’s certainly a need for it, you know as far as the growth of the facility. So I think the space, if you’re bringing in those animals and doing those kind of services, that’s definitely something that the community would benefit from.”
Couple Chris Cantin and Taylor Reed also hadn’t heard of the project when they were adopting their cat Donna. They did however observe that the renovations would only serve to help people like them in the future.
“I haven’t heard of it, but I think it’s a good idea,” said Cantin. “Just because the barking of the dogs scares the cats a little bit.”
Reed added that even with the renovations “I’m sure [the animals] they’re always [going to be] a little nervous.”
Though still shy of its phase two goals, the shelter is continuing its efforts to improve the quality of life for its temporary pet residents, and for the morale of its volunteers and workers like Romblom.
So far, one of the biggest contributors the capital campaign has been the Petco Foundation, contributing almost $300,000 to the efforts of the the CAHS.
According to Langdon, the contribution was a great help and the result of an application and proposal to the Petco Foundation.
“The foundation has a great application process,” said Langdon. “Though I didn’t fill it out myself, Petco wanted to have recognition for their brand with the grant. We applied for the amount of the estimated cost for the renovation of the main entry and cat areas.”
One of the people who directly works in the area to be renovated, is CAHS Volunteer Emily Romblom, who has logged over 550 hours at the shelter as a volunteer and is approaching her fourth year as a volunteer in June. She said that for her, volunteering there is personal.
“I grew up with cats and kittens since I was a baby,” said Romblom. “It’s been my life, I just can’t say enough good things about this place. I have a developmental issue even though it’s not easy to see. Also because I have a medical condition, I’ve been in the hospital a lot. When I come out [of the hospital], pets are a huge comfort.”