Kitsap Humane Society eyes $5.8 million expansion

BREMERTON — Neo, a 12-year-old rotund black-and-white cat, just doesn't do well in cramped confines.

A few years ago, staff at the Kitsap Humane Society carved out a "cat lounge," for such animals inside a closet-sized space at the Dickey Road shelter.

"He's a very friendly cat, extremely affectionate," said Sarah Moody-Cook, assistant director of animal welfare at the shelter. "But in a small space, he gets stressed really fast. He starts vomiting, scratching anyone who comes near — just extremely unhappy. I don't think he'd even be safe to touch."

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The diabetic feline, whose black fur makes his 18-pound frame appear like he's wearing a saddle, might have just been a statistic among the Kitsap Humane Society's euthanasia rates a few decades ago. But not anymore. A shelter that once put down more than half its animals has evolved to one that saves every last pet, if possible.

"We need a shelter that's designed for the kind of life-saving, individualized care we provide," said Eric Stevens, the humane society's executive director of six years. "Everyone here wants every animal to find a home."

Sarah Moody-Cook, director of animal welfare for the Kitsap Human Society, and Neo in the shelter's Kitty Lounge. (Photo: MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN)

In response to the increased workload, the shelter is planning a $5.8 million expansion that would double the size of Kitsap's biggest animal shelter.

A new adoption center, just south of the current facility, would be capable of housing dozens more cats and increase dog capacity by 15 percent, to about 76. Dog kennels would be flexible to meet the needs for a variety of pooches — including space for privacy at what can be a traumatic time.

Everything else would grow, too: A bigger lobby, larger veterinary clinic, more space to take in strays.

Demands on the shelter are surging, both from the community and through partnerships that bring dogs and cats from other areas of the country. Animals from shelters in the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey were brought to Silverdale, for example; so were pets from areas of California devastated by wildfires.

Toya Welch pets a young shepherd mix named Tuffy at the Kitsap Humane Society in Silverdale on Monday. The planned expansion at KHS would include expanded kennel space for dogs. (Photo: MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN)

The number of animals "rehomed" grew from 4,239 in 2012 to 6,810 in 2017. The strain is palpable for staff, which has grown from 42 to 65 in recent years. The shelter now has 350 trained volunteers, and its lobby is often standing-room only, particularly when a litter of puppies or kittens are available. Even the parking lot needs expanding, Stevens said.

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The humane society's "lifesaving" rate has surged to 96 percent.

Take Fats, for example. The nearly four-year-old pit bull with inquisitive eyes displayed quite a limp to potential pet owners. The humane society made him something of a cause célèbre, using online donations to pay for a more than $2,000 operation to reconstruct one of his knees.

He's become a fixture in the humane society's administrative offices, with a sign at the front door asking visitors for "calm and quiet. Fats is recovering," it reads.

JoAnne Schnyder (left) and Karen Tanner, who work in accounting at Kitsap Humane Society, share their office space with Fats as he recovers from knee surgery. (Photo: MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN)

The bubbly dog, following his recuperation, "should fly out the door," Stevens said.

The shelter has already raised $2.4 million but needs more than a million more if the project is to get off the ground this summer as scheduled. The new 9,500-square-foot animal adoption center could open in mid-2019, with renovations to the existing 9,300-square-foot structure completed by mid-2020.

In the meantime, Neo, the black-and-white cat, waits for his new owner to come. His last one died in 2017. It'll have to be someone willing to administer his twice-daily Insulin shots. But the humane society is confident someone will want such a lovey-dovey feline. And within the new campus, there'll be rooms for more cats like him.

"It will help us help more cats like Neo," Moody-Cook said.

Gracie gets a dish of food after veterinarian assistant Holly Hunter gave the cat her medication at the Kitsap Humane Society in Silverdale. (Photo: MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN)