Area residents participated in Friday's Wag Around Downtown. In addition to providing their best furry friends a chance to tour the downtown area, participants received a pet gift bag, a t-shirt, dog treats from various downtown businesses, and photos taken. Proceeds from this event benefited the Van Wert County Humane Society shelter. (DHI Media/Sherry Missler)
Area residents participated in Friday's Wag Around Downtown. In addition to providing their best furry friends a chance to tour the downtown area, participants received a pet gift bag, a t-shirt, dog treats from various downtown businesses, and photos taken. Proceeds from this event benefited the Van Wert County Humane Society shelter. (DHI Media/Sherry Missler)

VAN WERT — The Humane Society is now in the process of constructing a new shelter on Fox Road in Van Wert. This new facility will have modern HVAC and ventilation systems, sealed concrete floors, dog kennels with indoor/outdoor access, free-roam cat rooms, and separate medical isolation areas for dogs and cats.

Kirsten Barnhart, a member of the Van Wert County Humane Society Board, recently spoke on some of the challenges the Society has faced in its goal to build a new shelter.

"Originally the cost of the shelter was $600,000 and we raised money during the pandemic. But due to the pandemic, the cost of building materials increased. We should have broken ground in the spring but that didn't happen due to the increased costs," Barnhart said.

Realizing the increased cost had put the shelter out of the local group's financial reach, Board members sought out other businesses in hopes they could still achieve their goal.

"We contacted Alexander & Bebout and they told us what they could do for us. It was a lot closer to the original quote we had been given before building costs went up," Barnhart said. The new cost is approximately $760,000.

Most importantly she noted that the new quote is not going to negatively impact the facility. "The only thing that is now not being done in that shelter that was supposed to have been done before is a little bit of landscaping and an outside cat area. But those are things that can be done later," she said.

Since all of the funds raised for the building were raised through business and individual donations and grants, the Humane Society sought to find local contractors to help build the new shelter. "We tried to make sure as many of our contractors as possible are local. Alexander & Bebout is the general contractor, Overholt Electric is providing the electric work, and Ayers is doing mechanical."

Barnhart stressed that since so many in the local community came together and provided funding for the new shelter the Society felt it needed to give something back. "I think it's important to find ways to give back to the community while we're building this shelter and we can do that by choosing to subcontract to local people," she said.

The Humane Society does need additional funds to complete the project and Barnhart said they were still taking donations. "We've had to go back and ask some donors to dig a little deeper and we are still fund raising for the project. Doing Wag Around Downtown with Main Street Van Wert will net a couple of hundred dollars. Billy Knoll has donated a little over $4,000 and people are still donating through our website or by contacting Michelle White or the Van Wert County Foundation where our funds are now held," Barnhart said. She added that a 50/50 fundraiser is being planned for sometime in October.

Barnhart said the Society would continue to raise funds even after the facility is built. "Our needs will include things that people don't even think about," she said, including furniture.

Plans are to have the new facility up and running by late winter or really early in 2022. Since the current facility was sold, the Society is having to pay the buyer to use it. Barnhart reiterated that no taxpayer money was being used to finance the new facility. "The shelter is not being built with taxpayer money, it is being financed 100% by donations and that is how we run the building too," she said. She added that the sale of dog tags doesn't pay the day to day needs the Humane Society experiences.

"It's really amazing that the community has come together and given us almost $700,000 right now. That's just awesome so we're really, really close. Any more that people can give will make it better in the long run," she said. She noted that every pet owner may have a pet that may wind up in the shelter and knows those pet owners want to know that their furry friends would receive the best care possible.