Can shelters co-exist with upscale homes?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2000:

For a number of reasons the site of our current shelter is not suitable, and about 10 years ago the municipality agreed to give us a new plot of land more accessible to city residents. It is in a ravine zoned for light industry. The shelter is to be built at one edge, beside a forest which is to be preserved. Bureaucracy here moves slowly, however, and as the development of the ravine and our shelter was approaching a final okay, another group of developers announced their intent to build luxury housing above the ravine. The housing developers are opposing construction of the shelter.

We understand that the municipality will be much more likely to give us the go-ahead if we can show that other successful shelters border on residential zones. Can you tell us of any ?

––Jackie Hahn-Efrati

Jerusalem SPCA

P.O. Box 4009 Jerusalem, Israel


The Editor replies: How a shelter is built has a lot more to do with whether it disturbs neighbors than where it is built.

For example, the San Francisco SPCA shelter was built in an industrial park, much of which has recently been redeveloped into pricey condominiums—and the SF/SPCA, with Maddie’s Adoption Shelter, is considered the magnet institution for the neighborhood.

The North Shore Animal League began in a back yard, expanded over a whole city block, and is now surrounded by singlefamily dwellings, which sell in a flash whenever they hit the market. North Shore puts effort into being a good neighbor, and the neighbors reciprocate.

Elsewhere in the U.S., the Women’s Humane Society of Philadelphia several years ago relocated to an upscale neighborhood in Bensalem, because the community wanted it. The Massachusetts SPCA headquarters in Boston is surrounded by condo apartment units, and has been surrounded by quality apartment housing for more than 80 years. The six shelters operated by the Connecticut Humane Society are all in upscale neighborhoods, by design. You can live next door to a CHS shelter for maybe a million bucks or so.

The Ellen Gifford Home for Cats, near Boston, was originally way out in the countryside. It is now ringed by homes selling easily for $350,000 and up.

Hundreds of other shelters are surrounded by middle-class and upscale residences, also including Dog’s Home Battersea and most National Canine Defense League adoption centers in England.

They tend to share:

• Landscaping, including hedges and trees to absorb sound and conceal institutional structures.

• Off-street parking.

• Intelligent design. Anyone building an old-style set of rectangular cinder-block-and-chain-link runs with a tin roof, in this day and age, should be locked inside one for 30 days on bread and water. Those arrangements are like putting the animals inside a bass drum. Dogs, in particular, should be housed so that they normally see only their own companions at close range (it is preferable to house dogs in compatible pairs), to minimize competitive barking and prevent fights. Ceilings and walls should be made of easily cleaned soundabsorbent material. Excellent air circulation is paramount, including fans to remove stale air from floor level, where animals poop. Drains should be covered and self-flushing, to prevent accumulations of fecal matter and urine.

There are some very inexpensive ways to build animalfriendly and people-friendly shelters. We particularly recommend to low-budget operations in dry climates the straw bale building method pioneered by Leo Grillo of DELTA Rescue. Grillo distributes a video about building straw-bale dog houses c/o DELTA Rescue, P.O. Box 9, Glendale, CA 91209, requesting a donation of $6.00 for reproduction cost and postage.</>

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