Humane Society breaks ground on ‘long overdue” new shelter

Officials break ground on the new Humane Society London and Middlesex shelter at 1414 Dundas St., May 17, 2022. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn Media)

With hard hats on, big smiles on faces, and a few tails wagging, the Humane Society London and Middlesex (HSLM) officially put shovels in the ground on its $21 million new shelter.

The ground breaking ceremony was held at 1414 Dundas St. near Hale Street on Tuesday.

“The new shelter will be four times the size of our current one. So it’s incredibly exciting, but long long overdue. This shelter probably should have been built 25 to 40 years ago,” said HSLM Executive Director Steve Ryall.

Fury the Cat and her owner Jen Rushton attend the ground breaking of the humane society's new shelter. Fury was adopted from the non-profit's current location on Clarke Road. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn Media)

Fury the Cat and her owner Jen Rushton attend the ground breaking of the humane society’s new shelter. Fury was adopted from the non-profit’s current location on Clarke Road. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn Media)

The new shelter, dubbed the Old Oak animal campus, will be built on 11 acres of land and include a dog park and walking trails. Inside, there will be an onsite veterinary clinic, a cafe, community rooms, and enough space to double the number of animals the humane society cares for.

“Currently, we are at a shelter that has about 175 spaces for animals and we average about 215, so we have had to be fairly creative with that space,” said Ryall. “The new shelter will be able to comfortably hold up to 400 animals. While our goal is never to have that many in our shelter we will be prepared for that.”

The non-profit organization has been located at 624 Clarke Rd. for more than 120 years. During that time it has undergone a series of additions and retrofits. But sitting on only one acre of land, there has been no room for the type of expansion needed. That realization, coupled with increased demand, prompted the humane society to apply for a zoning application for the new Dundas Street facility in December 2020. Since then, it has been working to raise the funds for the new build.

“We are just over half way there now and so we decided to take the campaign public to raise the other $10 million that we need for the animals,” said Ryall.

Donations toward the project can be made online at www.hslm.ca/newhomenewhope.

Becky Malacaria, chair of the capital campaign committee, stressed the humane society really wants to work with the community to personalize the donations.

“If someone wants to name a room, name a wall or purchase equipment there will be an opportunity. This is a community project and we want all facets of the community and walks of life and all donor sizes to be represented,” said Malacaria. “They’ll be able to walk through the halls or park space for years to come and say ‘I did this. I am a part of this.'”

The feature Malacaria is most looking forward to in the new facility is the teaching space.

“We really worked long and hard on coming up with a plan where we can teach young children how to treat animals well from the beginning,” said Malacaria. “Bring them in as school classroom trips or summer camp trips and teach them how to treat animals.”

Construction of the new shelter is expected to be completed by July 2023.