New shelter one step in WAIF’s goal for expanding service

If fundraising goes as expected, stray animals caught on Whidbey Island could have a new home.

If fundraising goes as expected, stray animals caught on Whidbey Island could have a new home.

Officials with the Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation (WAIF) are raising money and constructing a new campus.

Nearly $2 million has been raised and leaders are looking to collect another $1.8 million to pay for construction of a new 8,700-square-foot building on 9.8 acres of land located across the street from the current shelter near Coupeville.

WAIF’s current home is only 2,200 square feet in size, lacks potable water and is located on a former landfill that vents methane.

“It’s a pretty minimal space,” said Bob Rupp, WAIF board president who is also helping manage the project. “We’re grateful the county has let us use the building for as long as we have.”

He added the county-owned building was never designed to be a shelter and it’s a challenge for staff to meet health standards.

Officials announced the public portion of the fundraising campaign in August. The public portion of the campaign features a “Tag the Wall” medallion. Donors pay $50 for a custom engraved dog or cat medallion, which will be placed on a wall in the new shelter.

In the months since the public announcement, approximately $150,000 has been raised.

Rupp said a “friendly competition” is underway to see whether more dog lovers or cat lovers purchase a medallion.

Rupp described WAIF as a minimal-kill shelter, where dogs and cats, either too sick or too incorrigible, are euthanized. He added that about 60 percent of the dogs and cats are eventually returned to their owners.

In 2012, 320 dogs and 173 cats came through the WAIF shelter near Coupeville. For the dogs, 141 were adopted, 132 were returned to their owners, four were transferred to other shelters and 14 were put to sleep. For cats, 123 were adopted and 14 were put to sleep while the others remain in WAIF custody, according to information provided by the organization.

The new shelter would feature more space to house animals. Plus, the nearly 10-acre property would provide space for the animals to exercise.

Expanding the facility would also allow the non-profit organization to expand services such as the spay-and-neuter program.

The first building for WAIF’s new shelter is already complete. Thanks to the help of volunteers and grant funding, its new annex building was recently completed. Cindy Wilbert, WAIF board treasurer, said Internet was recently installed and the building will house the organization’s offices until the larger project is complete.

WAIF officials purchased the 9.8 acres of land in 2006. Since that time, they have collected money, searched for a well site far enough away from the old landfill to meet state regulations, and installed power and Internet access.

Rupp pointed out the advantages the property offers; it’s centrally located, easily contained and it provides enough space for the animals to exercise.

He said groundbreaking for the shelter will take place during the late summer/early fall. If the amount raised doesn’t pay for the entire shelter, then the project will be phased in and completed as money becomes available.

In addition to the continued fundraising, Wilbert said a water system and fire suppression system has to be installed before WAIF can try to obtain a building permit from the county.