The Herald Chronicle, Front Page, December 19, 2014
by Assistant Editor, Linda Stacy

    After several postponed dates, Animal Harbor has opened its doors at its new location on 56 Nor-Nan Road off Highway 127 in Winchester.
    The past week has been busy with organizers and volunteers working diligently to move supplies and pets from the old location in Belvidere.
    Gail Castle, Executive Director of Animal Harbor, said she’s very pleased with the move and commented Wednesday about the progress. "This is certainly a dream come true for the staff and board of directors," Castle said. "We are so grateful for all of the support we have received from the citizens and businesses of Franklin County that made this possible."
“We did and are doing this together. We have raised $520,000 which means we only have $80,000 to go for our building campaign to be finished.”
     Among the key features of the new shelter are the quarantine areas for cats and dogs. This provides the ability to properly quarantine newly arrived animals until they’re sure they are disease-free before they go to the public areas where the adoptable pets are.
    During the transition, one rabbit, 13 dogs and 14 cats were moved, and Animal Harbor is now about to take in pets from its waiting list and from foster care until they reach capacity. The new building already seems to be making a big difference.   Pat Thompson, Franklin County Humane Society Board of Directors, said: “We have already had four cats and five dogs adopted at the new building. Our cats are so much happier being in community rooms rather than cages.”
    The three community rooms allow cats to be separated into groups that get along well. But they also have cages for cats who don’t get along well with other cats.
   “Another key feature,” Thompson said, “is heat in the dog kennel. Our dogs are no longer freezing in an unheated barn.”
    Having heated kennels makes a big difference not only in the dogs’ comfort, but in keeping them healthy and makes the job of cleaning the kennels every day a lot easier for the staff.
   Castle said, “It is so nice for the animals to be dry and warm and the staff are very happy about this too.”

Unfinished projects
   Remaining projects to be finished in the new building in the next few months are the paving of the front driveway and parking lot, landscaping the front and sides and the outdoor storage building that houses their mower, extra cages and equipment. But everyone is just taking it day by day.
   Amber Kelley, Shelter Manager, said: “It’s going great — it’s amazing. Several times a day I think wow, we’re really here. We are still getting settled. We spend time looking for things because they don’t have a regular place or haven’t been put away yet, but each day it gets better.” She added, “We will be selling the old property and facility which will help get us closer to finishing the campaign.”
   Castle said the ribbon cutting will be held sometime in January or February. In the meantime, they will begin working on the new Trap/Neuter/Release Program to help stabilize the feral cat colonies in Franklin County. Their first efforts will be focused in Cowan. The program is funded by a grant from PetSmart.

Holiday adoptions
   The staff at Animal Harbor offers the following suggestions for anyone thinking of adopting a pet for a gift for a friend or family member during the holidays.
   “Please make sure that the recipient is on board and is ready to take on the responsibility of owning a pet,” Kelley said. “If you want it to be a surprise, consider buying them a gift certificate or surprising them by bringing them to a shelter to adopt a pet of their choice. It’s important to match the pet’s activity level with the person.”
   She also wants everyone to know that Christmas morning is one of the worst times to introduce a pet to a new home, especially a puppy.
    “If you are adopting a Christmas pet for children, we recommend wrapping toys, bowls, and maybe a picture of the pet if you’ve already picked one out.”
   She explained that it’s very stressful for a new pet to try adjusting to a new home during the most exciting morning of the year.
   “Every year, Santa drops off pets at shelters all over the world, and we are happy to keep them safe until a day or two after Christmas when the excitement has cooled down,” Kelley said.

   A small animal room at the new shelter allows Kelley to keep pets other than cats and dogs, such as rabbits.
   “We had six rabbits throughout the summer and fall, and they lived in cages in our laundry room at the old shelter,” Kelley said. “All of them have been adopted now except one.”
   She offers the following advice for anyone thinking of adopting a rabbit.
   “Rabbits can live around 10 years and they are a big responsibility,” she said. “Rabbits can be litter trained much like cats, but they of ten cannot be perfectly litter trained, and they are also likely to nibble on anything they can reach.”
    Maxine, the lone rabbit currently available at Animal Harbor, would do best living in a big cage but with some exercise time in a room or two around the house also. She loves her rabbit food and timothy hay and also loves her daily romaine salads.