Humane Society proposing whole new animal for parkland

Artist concept of the new and larger Humane Society building proposed for Centennial Park. Courtesy, Robert E. Dale Engineering Consultants

Cathy Dobson

The local Humane Society is proposing to build a new animal shelter on three times the property it currently occupies in Centennial Park.

City council agreed unanimously last week to begin a public consultation process, but amid warnings from Coun. Dave Boushy.

“I think you’ll have a lot of people against it, but they’ll come around if you really explain it,” Boushy said at the April 19 meeting.

Boushy was a councillor in 1980 when the Sarnia & District Humane Society asked to lease one acre of public land at the northwest corner of Centennial Park for the current shelter.

Boushy said he voted against that decision, but later came around to support the location at 131 Exmouth St.

Mayor Mike Bradley recalled the decision to provide parkland was “extremely controversial” in 1980, although he wasn’t yet on council.

Humane society spokesman Miro Soucek told council other locations were considered but a new shelter on three acres of parkland is the preferred option.

Residents are familiar with the location, Soucek said, adding the use of public land will demonstrate the city’s partnership with the shelter.

A new and larger shelter will cost $2 million to $2.5 million, which is about what it would cost to renovate the 40-year-old building, he said.

Soucek said the shelter has developed a crack in the floor that runs almost the length of the building and is a significant health and safety concern.

The ventilation system is out-dated and larger kennels are needed to meet modern standards.

A new building would improve conditions for the animals as well as staff and volunteers, and provide a better facility for the public, Soucek said.

He also noted that accommodating animals during a major renovation would be difficult.

The three acres requested are on Exmouth Street between the current shelter building and a newer chiropractic centre.  A hill separates the area from the rest of the park.

Soucek acknowledged the request for three acres is a “substantial change” from the one acre currently occupied.

He suggested the city could “repurpose” the existing building for use by the parks department.

A fundraising campaign is planned if the city approves the location, with construction tentatively scheduled for 2022.