BROOKSVILLE — With the stroke of a pen — plus a check for $39,000 — Humane Society of the Nature Coast executive director Joanne Schoch saw the realization Friday of something she's been hoping to see for years: the first step toward a multiphase expansion that ultimately will include new shelter facilities.
"It's a new chapter for us," Schoch said at the law office of Paul Nessler, where the deed for an 11-acre parcel of land on Wiscon Road was transferred. "There's still a lot of work ahead of us."
The acquisition of the property — 1 1/2 miles west of the existing Humane Society shelter — is the first step in a plan that will better enable the society to handle the increased demand for its services as a rescue shelter.
According to Schoch, the number of homeless pets taken in every year at the no-kill shelter far exceeds the capacity of the society's current facility, at Wiscon and Mobley roads.
The total intake of animals for 2011 was up over 26 percent over last year.
"We've been at a critical point for a long, long time," Schoch said. "The economy has had a definite impact on homeless pets. In a county this size, we should have more advanced facilities to handle them."
The facility that Schoch envisions would have a capacity to house between 40 and 50 dogs and between 150 and 200 cats. In addition, it would include a veterinary care center, an education center, plus the ability to operate as a pet hurricane shelter.
Schoch said the new facility will be built in phases over the next five years and will cost between $1 million and $2 million.
However, before the facility can be built, the existing shelter will require extensive renovations to enable it to remain as an intake facility, Schoch said.
"Right now, we're having to turn away pets because we don't have room to handle them," she said. "That's a sad thing for our community."
To raise money for the new shelter complex, Schoch is planning to launch a capital campaign and hold additional fundraising events.
"The people in our community have shown us through the years that they believe in what we're doing for homeless pets," Schoch said. "Whether it's $5, $10 or $25, those donations are valuable to us. They help make good things happen."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.