Officials, volunteers, break ground for Cape animal shelter
Five years of effort came to a milestone moment Thursday as dignitaries and volunteers broke ground for Cape Coral’s first animal shelter on a 4.6-acre site next to Sun Splash Family Waterpark.
The effort dates back to 2013 when JoAnn Elardo, a Cape business person and founder of the Wicked Dolphin Distillery, asked the city why there wasn’t an animal shelter in Cape Coral. She ultimately spearheaded a campaign that slowly but surely helped to make the shelter a reality.
Thursday’s event featured speeches from Elardo, as well as Mayor Joe Coviello, new Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, City Manager John Szerlag, Rick Losee from LAI Construction Management, the general contractor, and Don Koogler from Koogler Homes, the project manager.
Elardo was presented a groundbreaking shovel by fellow board member Gloria Tate, and she expressed her appreciation for all the help she has received en route to the groundbreaking moment.
“I was walking on the site and a thought hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought ‘Wow, this is happening. We’re building a shelter,'” Elardo said. “All the asking and begging and the events and early mornings and late nights; we are building a shelter.”
Coviello said when the community comes together, it amazing how quickly things happen.
“For this type of a project to get off the ground and get started as quickly as it has, it shows the support from the community the city and the business sector,” said Coviello, who helped raise money for the shelter while still a candidate for mayor.
The modern, no-kill, 7,756-square-foot facility will feature an intake area with the newest dog and cat kennel housing; a reception and adoption center; medical, animal grooming and feeding areas; play yard; laundry space and retail sales for post-adoption products.
Cape Coral has leased city property to the shelter board for $1 a year for 99 years, and certain building permitting fees were waived by City Council, which also approved a reduction in the landscaping buffer requirements to further help reduce the shelter’s costs.
Meanwhile, the shelter’s board of directors raised $1.8 million in pledges and donations through events large and small.
Currently, teams are measuring and surveying the area for the building’s footing and working on underground piping. Once everything is laid out, Elardo said they will work on the foundation.
Rooms, offices and kennels have been laid out, too. There will be 12 air conditioner units and every area will be sealed to protect against pathogens and diseases.
The shelter is expected to open next October, meaning residents won’t have to cross the bridge to adopt animals that have been over.
Beth Rakestraw, who has adopted several dogs, including Luna, a 12-week-old lab mix, said she is looking forward to the “don’t shop, adopt” way of getting a pet.
“This is going to be great. Cape Coral needs a shelter because we’re growing so fast. All the other shelters are so packed, I think two more would be great,” Rakestraw said.
The shelter location is at 325 SW 2nd Ave.