The Humane Society of London and Middlesex says it is “overwhelmed” by a planned investment by the city.
The tentatively agreed-upon amendments to the 2023 portion of the multi-year budget include $3 million for the humane society.
The funding will go toward the building of HSLM’s new animal campus. The new facility will double the capacity of the humane society’s current location.
Steve Ryall, executive director for HSLM, says the humane society greatly appreciates the support from council.
“We’re incredibly thankful and excited,” said Ryall. “It was a very emotional day for all of us to reach this milestone.”
The $3 million from the city would bring the money raised to around 76 per cent of the $21-million goal. The funding was passed unanimously, but with a change in the source of the funds.
Originally slated to come from the community investment reserve fund, the money will now come from the operating reserve fund. Neither the original nor the agreed-upon source of money will affect the 2023 tax levy.
Ryall says the need for the new facility is high as the current one is aged and no longer up to industry standards. With over 30,000 square feet, the new facility – which will be called Old Oaks Animal Campus – will meet the city’s needs, says Ryall.
An education centre offering youth programs and space for day camps and school field trips will be built. Training space will also be available for students.
Ryall singled out the impending companion animal hospital space as something that will positively impact both the animals and the community.
“We’ll be able to provide veterinary care to not only the animals in our shelter … but also provide that to the community,” said Ryall.
Veterinary care will also be offered at discounted rates for those with financial difficulties. Ryall says the number one reason for animal surrender currently is the cost of animal care.
“If people have affordable care for their animals, that’s another reason why they wouldn’t need to surrender, which I think is so important for the future of animal welfare,” added Ryall.
During Thursday’s budget talks, HSLM staff informed council the hope is to have the shovel-ready project get underway by April with a 14- to 18-month estimate of construction time.
Councillors spoke highly of HSLM and the incoming new facility during Thursday’s meeting, noting the additional services the new facility will offer the city and surrounding area.
“I know as our city grows and population grows, the need is great,” said Coun. Anna Hopkins.
Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis says the funding can be a catalyst to get HSLM to the finish line for its goal.
“We can really set a tone here and we can also help leverage some money from other levels of government,” Lewis said.
“Caring for the animals is very important, but there is a community benefit as well,” Lewis added, referencing the educational programs and ability to accept animals from police for pet owners in custody.
Ryall confirmed the humane society will continue to reach out to surrounding Middlesex County municipalities for additional funding.
Coun. Elizabeth Peloza noted to HSLM staff in attendance that the money will not be final until the Feb. 14 council meeting when the 2023 portion of the multi-year budget is confirmed.
However, the budget chair added, “it seems you have support and I look forward to seeing the facility built.”