Home improvements: Humane Society for Boone County to renovate, add ‘catio,’ dog kennels

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Humane Society for Boone County pet residents soon will have more space to stretch out.

HSforBC started renovations to its building at 5366 S. Indianapolis Rd. in Whitestown earlier this month.

The expanded “catio” will provide a sunroom-like setting for adoptable cats. The project includes expanded dog runs and additional storage. Construction will be completed in two phases. The second phase begins in October. HSforBC will also improve walls within the building and move the cat area from the front of the building to the back. HSforBC Executive Director Susan Austin said cats will be less stressed and less irritated by noise, such as barking dogs, in their new location.

“Reducing stress for the cats will help reduce vet bills for us because they remain much healthier and are able to go into their forever homes much faster,” Austin said.

Improvements are slated to cost $800,000. Austin said HSforBC has worked hard to keep the price as low as possible.

“Part of it we saved for, and we are getting a loan for part of it and actively fundraising for the other part,” Austin said.

Fundraising activities include pitting Boone County dog and cat lovers against each other. Each group will try to raise the most money. Donations will be memorialized in the shelter.

The current free-roaming cat room. (Photo courtesy of Susan Austin)

When renovations are complete, the catio will nearly double the size of the current free-roaming cat room. Cats will not be in cages and will be able look out the windows. Austin said native flowers will be planted so cats can watch bees, butterflies and birds.

“It gives them something other than sleeping all day to do,” she said.

Up to 10 cats currently can fit in the free-roaming room.

HSforBC Cat Coordinator Dawn Walker said the new catio might lead to better adoption rates for cats.

“The benefit to that is the cat is already in their comfort zone (when in the free-roaming room),” she said. “If we bring them into a meet-and-greet room, they are in a totally different area with funny smells. (When adopters visit them) in the free-roaming room, the (cats) have already been there and it already smells familiar. The adopters can sit in the chair and have the cat come and sit on their lap.”

Dogs will have an additional six runs when renovations are complete. Austin said the runs also can function as isolation space for sick dogs.

“We can treat them if they’re sick without getting the rest of the population ill,” Austin said. “They can still receive the same care and concern every other dog gets. It helps keep the resident population much healthier and helps them transition into the shelter easier.”

The majority of HSforBC’s pet residents are housed in foster homes. There are 35 fosters available to temporarily house cats. Austin said HSforBC is in desperate need for dog fosters. July is always a busy month for HSforBC, as dogs run away during Fourth of July fireworks. HSforBC can house nine dogs and up to 20 cats at the shelter, including the cats in the free-roaming room. It only has one full-time staff member and one part-time staff member.

“We are primarily volunteer run,” Austin said. “Every foster is a volunteer.”

For more, visit hsforbc.org.

A floor plan for the proposed renovations. (Image courtesy of Humane Society for Boone County)

More growth to come

HSforBC Executive Director Susan Austin said the shelter is a no-kill shelter and is funded through donations. She also actively writes grants to help fund improvements and provide supplies. Still, the shelter struggles to keep up with Boone County’s demand.

“The county has grown more than 25 percent in the last 10 years,” Austin said. “It will grow exponentially over the next 10 years. Almost 68 percent of the population has a dog or cat. So, when you look at those numbers and think about how many households have two (pets) or more, that’s a lot of pets that could potentially come to us. That’s a lot of pets that could potentially get lost and have to be re-homed. It increases the need for our services more than anybody can even anticipate.”

Recently, the Town of Zionsville awarded a $2,500 community enrichment grant to HSforBC to help trap, spay, neuter and release feral cats into the community.

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