NEW PORT RICHEY — Call it the "doggie in the window" concept.
Humane Society of the Nature Coast director Joanne Schoch has often envisioned a place where pet lovers could casually stroll past a window, peek inside and see cute, cuddly critters that they can't resist taking home.
After years of hoping and dreaming, that vision is about to come true.
In early September, the Hernando-based Humane Society will open its first reTAIL and Adoption Center at Gulf View Square mall in New Port Richey.
It is Schoch's hope that the new facility will capture the interest of the shopping public and ultimately result in more of her furry friends finding permanent homes.
"I think of it as a sort of one-stop shop for people who love animals," Schoch explained last week as she and an army of volunteers worked at readying the new venture, on the south end of the mall near the Dillard's store.
Once the center is open, visitors will be able to view a number of the organization's adoptable cats and dogs and buy pet supplies and gifts. In addition, the facility will host seminars and training classes and provide information about responsible pet ownership.
For Schoch, obtaining the 2,600-square-foot storefront in the busy mall was something of a stroke of luck. Although based near Brooksville, the 47-year-old nonprofit shelter has been trying to expand its operations beyond Hernando County in recent years.
A few months ago, Schoch was approached by mall operator Simon Property Group with a proposal of free rent if the organization would agree to pay a $200 monthly maintenance fee.
"It was a deal we simply couldn't turn down," Schoch said. "They wanted us here, and we wanted to be here."
So far, plans are to have a permanent cat section near the shop's entrance. Dogs available for adoption will be brought in daily and returned at night to the Humane Society's main location on Wiscon Road, southwest of Brooksville.
Because the facility is likely to operate at a busy pace, Schoch said that she and her staff are working to streamline the adoption process to make it go as swiftly and smoothly as possible.
"Our number one goal is to find as many permanent homes for pets as possible," she said. "I think the best way to do that is to not make adoption a big hassle."
The facility will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and from noon to 6 p.m. Sundays, staffed by volunteers.
Schoch said she would like to find more Pasco volunteers to help with the operation. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and willing to work a minimum of four consecutive hours. Responsibilities include assisting clients with purchases of appropriate items for newly adopted pets, stocking merchandise, light cleaning and other duties.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]