CLEARWATER – As the bulldozer blade smashed into the first corner of the dilapidated Humane Society of Pinellas facility on Friday, CEO Jeff Voelpel reflected on what was to come.
The nonprofit is now starting construction of a state-of-the-art, $ 4 million pet adoption center that will more than double the group’s ability to save and treat animals and replace the dilapidated complex at 3040 State Road 590.
“It’s not just a new building”, Voelpel noted. “It’s a reboot for us in how we’re going to expand our reach. “
The $ 4 million project is fully funded by founder of cybersecurity firm Clearwater KnowBe4, Stu Sjouwerman, and his wife, Rebecca. The couple were honored in a ceremony and received silver metal shovels that they hammered into the ground before the bulldozer got down to work.
The Sjouwerman Adoption Center, located just west of McMullen Booth Road, will have 14,000 square feet to house 76 cats, 102 dogs and about a dozen small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs. The building will be air-conditioned, replacing the partially open-air installation that dates back to 1949.
The three-story structure will also be built to withstand Category 5 hurricane force winds, a vital feature as an entire wing of kennels at the current facility has been unusable since damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Rebecca Sjouwerman said she was inspired to deliver the gift after visiting the facility in 2019 and seeing the conditions of some of the kennels, which were outside and outdated.
“I am absolutely delighted,” Rebecca Sjouwerman said on Friday. “I am incredibly happy.”
Over the past decade, the number of animals the association adopts each year has nearly doubled to reach 2,600 in 2019.
Normal adoption work will continue throughout construction until the planned completion date of fall 2021. In December, the Humane Society moved the adoptions of cats and small pets to a building. temporary on campus while dogs are temporarily housed at Pinellas County Animal Services.
However, the upgrade also brings changes to residents who have used the Humane Society for veterinary needs. On February 19, the organization will close its low-cost Pinellas pet hospital located half a mile at 2907 State Road 590 to continue medical operations of the shelters during construction.
Read inspiring stories about ordinary lives
Subscribe to our free How They Lived newsletter
You’ll get a keepsake of the residents of Tampa Bay we have lost, including heartwarming and fun details about their lives, every Tuesday.
You are all registered!
Want more of our free weekly newsletters delivered to your inbox? Let’s get started.
Explore all your options
Voelpel said the non-profit organization is still determining how the public clinical part of the operation will be structured in the future.
In addition to this $ 4 million animal welfare giveaway, the Sjouwermans also pledged $ 2 million in November to help the town of Dunedin and Pinellas County buy a 44-acre property on Keene Road for the preservation.
The couple are also major donors to the Church of Scientology, of which they are long-time members. In 2019, they donated at least $ 5 million to the International Association of Scientologists, which was created by Scientology chief David Miscavige to fund efforts to expand religion.