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GCHS gears up for Cape shelter drive

By Staff | Jun 19, 2015

The ability to save more dogs and cats and get them adopted into loving homes is always a good thing.

Therefore, it was a day to celebrate at the Gulf Coast Humane Society on Thursday as the not-for-profit sought help from its friends for its planned Cape Coral shelter.

Many of the Cape’s administrators, as well as movers and shakers from the private sector, came by the GCHS offices on Arcadia Street in Fort Myers for the occasion. Attendees got to see the shelter and meet and greet those who may want to be part of the project.

Jennifer Galloway, executive director for the GCHS, said LAI Design, which has donated much of its time to do architecture, was invited to come and meet potential donors.

Galloway said the project is certainly an ambitious one.

“We’re looking at between 8,000 and 10,000 square feet for this project. There will be free-roaming cat rooms and dog-adoption areas. There will be an animal clinic and conference room for education purposes,” Galloway said. “About 80 dogs and 30 cats will be housed there looking for forever homes.”

Most important, Galloway said, it will give Cape residents, who live “across the river,” a place to go to adopt a pet or give a pet inexpensive health care.

“We want to be closer and more available to everybody because it can be a real chore to get here,” Galloway said.

The 4.4-acre facility will be near Sun Splash and is expected to cost about $2 million. Galloway said there will not be any plans put together until the details with the city are finalized, a process Galloway said has gone very smoothly.

The Fort Myers facility, which has been around since the 1970s, has 160 dogs and 60 cats, along with the stray rabbit and ferret.

Last month, shelter officials announced they were in the beginning stages of plans to open an animal shelter in Cape Coral. Fundraising efforts have raised more than $200,000, thanks to generous contributions from Wicked Dolphin Rum. Owners JoAnn and Robert Elardo, pledged $100,000, and GCHS supporters Lee and Stuart Myers, have pledged $50,000.

This has helped the plan, originally thought to be five years down the road, to gain such momentum that the GCHS now believes the project can be completed in as little as two years.

“We’re just showing the community and participants where we’re at and the vision where we want it to go,” JoAnn Elardo said. “It’s been a lot of fun and it’s so close to our heart. Who doesn’t love kittens and puppies?”

Jay Johnson, of Bubba’s Roadhouse & Saloon, which catered the event, said finally getting a Humane Society in the largest city in Lee County is a blessing.

“It’s a shame we’re the largest city in the county but have nowhere to bring our pets,” Johnson said. “We’ve done things with Wicked Dolphin. So we’re hoping to get our own Humane Society in town within the next year.”

Economic director Dana Brunett said the shelter would bring a quality-of-life improvement to the city that can’t be quantified in dollars.

“It’s an important part of our development. As you get more people you have more animals. Having a shelter like this will give people a place to bring them,” Brunett said. “I think because there isn’t a shelter, people won’t make the effort. We hope this will allow us to bring them something to help us grow.”

The Gulf Coast Humane Society is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, no-kill, animal welfare organization which does not receive federal, state, or county funding and no funding from the Humane Society of the United States or ASPCA.

It relies solely on donations, grants, bequests and fundraising events to care for the neglected and abandoned pets of Southwest Florida.

For more information on the project, including how to make a donation to the cause, content the society at 332-0364.