Calgary Humane Society digs into $12.5-million expansion project

Carrie Fritz, executive director for the Calgary Humane Society, speaks with media at the ground-breaking ceremony for the organization's facility enhancement project on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020.

The Calgary Humane Society broke ground Thursday for a $12.5 million facility enhancement project that will allow them to better care for the thousands of animals they help each year.

An improved facility will enable them to keep up with advancements in veterinarian medicine, sheltering design, and care and enrichment practices that support animals while they await a forever home.

The organization

has already saved $8 million for the project and over the next two years of construction they’ll be fundraising the remaining $4.5 million through the For Them Campaign.

“For those of you who do not know, Calgary Humane Society has been planning for this renovation and enhancement for over 10 years. So I am delighted to be here, about to put a shovel into the ground, to begin making this dream a reality,” Carrie Fritz, the organization’s executive director, said during the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning.

Each year, the organization provides safe shelter for more than 4,500 lost and unwanted animals, until a new home is found for them. With all that it does for Calgary’s animals, the organization has outgrown its current 44,000 square foot facility which opened in 2006.

“This building put Calgary on the map when it came to animal welfare and we were seen as leaders in the sector, with people coming from across North America to tour our building before they commenced planning their own facilities,” Fritz said.

 Calgary Humane Society board chair Lisa Kindree, left, and executive director Carrie Fritz hoist shovels at the ground-breaking ceremony.

“It has served us well. Over 93,000 animals have come through our doors and we have been able to offer them a second chance.”

But there are studies that analyze animal stress, fear and anxieties and new strategies are being developed to mitigate these responses to the shelter environment, as well as to improve prevention of disease transmission and to encourage behaviour modification, enrichment and socialization. The current Calgary facility isn’t meeting the newest criteria in all areas.

Fritz said it was only four years after the facility opened that they realized there were deficiencies in their building design. For example, they found that animals of different species were housed too close to one another; there was limited noise control, due to the open floor plan; there wasn’t enough space outside for training and enrichment; and, there wasn’t enough natural lighting.

The expansion will solve those problems, while adding properly sized enclosures that are modifiable, a better-equipped veterinary clinic with separated exam, treatment, surgery and recovery areas, and a maternity and neonatal ward.

Construction of the expansion is expected to finish by August 2022.

Long-term supporter and former society board member Heather Bala Edwards donated $500,000 during the groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the fundraiser to meet the $4.5 million goal. Also present at the ceremony was supporter Laureen Harper and MP Michelle Rempel Garner.

Fritz understands the For Them Campaign is starting during a challenging economic climate, but she is confident the community will recognize the importance of the expansion to the quality of life for Calgary’s homeless and hurt animals.

“As they have done in the past, every time there is a need, Calgarians are there. The animal-loving citizens are a force when there is something we are driven to accomplish together,” said Fritz.

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