By Jessica Lovell
Although the organization will not need to move until the middle of 2016, the Guelph Humane Society is feeling the pressure to find a new home sooner rather than later.
The organization is looking to find a new home for its shelter as soon as possible, because the humane society is expecting to have some work to do before it can start operating at the new location, including obtaining the appropriate zoning.
“The current city zoning does not allow for Humane Society activities in any of the zoning classifications,” explained board chair Shane Bateman.
The humane society provides animal control services for the city.
Because it is currently located on city-owned property, it doesn’t require special zoning. But when it finds a new location, it will likely need to seek a zoning bylaw amendment before opening up shop.
That is because “animal pound” or “animal shelter” just isn’t currently listed as an acceptable use under any of the city’s zoning classifications, said Bateman.
And it’s not just zoning that the humane society is worried about.
“Depending on how many renovations or what retrofitting needs to be done to a facility, that would take some time,” Bateman said.
Currently the humane society is located on property off Wellington Road that is shared with the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The city is scheduled to take over the entire space for its wastewater treatment operations in the next couple of years to meet the needs of the growing city, so the shelter will need to move.
“We’ve been looking around the city and trying to act on whatever properties have the criteria we’re interested in,” said Bateman.
The organization is looking for a place to buy – not rent – that has an existing building with between 6,000 and 8,000 square feet.
It needs to be within the city limits and, ideally, would have better visibility than the current location, be close to public transit and be near green space for dog walking.
“We didn’t think that would be too tall of a list, but it has not been easy,” said Bateman.
The organization has come close with a number of properties, but ultimately, cost has been the deal breaker, he said.
Bateman didn’t want to reveal the budget for a new property, but said the humane society has a fixed number in mind that will work for the organization and allow it to cover the necessary retrofitting costs.
“We’re like any business – trying to keep our costs low and invest wisely,” he said.
The humane society has been setting aside some reserve money for a few years and will also make use of support from donors to buy a new property.
It is also in a position to issue a tax receipt to a seller for a portion of the purchase price if it gets a good deal on a property.
Purchasing is thought to be the best option to eliminate some of the monthly carrying costs of having to rent, said Bateman.
It also stays true to the donors, who made contributions with the idea in mind that the organization would eventually purchase its own space, he said.
He’s hoping that by putting the word out, the community might be able to help find that new space.
The hope is also that the new space will be bigger and better than the old one.
The organization is looking for a building that is roughly double the size of its current headquarters.
The added space would give shelter staff the chance to take advantage of the latest research into shelter management, a news release said.
It would include quiet areas for animal intake, spaces for enrichment and group housing, as well as group play areas – all of which are meant to reduce stress and improve health of the animals, it said.
Ideally, the building will also have a more visible, more pleasant location.
The humane society’s current neighbours mean the air in the area is sometimes a little unpleasant for walking around outside, Bateman said.
And lots of people don’t even know where the shelter is located.
“Because we’re in such a poorly visible location, only people who’ve actively look for us know where to find us,” said Bateman.
The board has appointed a building committee made up of staff, some board members and some real estate experts, who are on the hunt for the new home.
“We’d really like to, by Christmas or shortly thereafter, have identified a location,” Bateman said.