Since 1949, the Humane Society of Pinellas County has often become home before home for countless stray or unwanted pets.
And most of the time, the animals housed at the Humane Society of Pinellas County (HSPC) facilities in Clearwater were kept in cages close together, sometimes without air conditioning or much room to interact with people or each other. . However, this outdated facility to primarily house cats and dogs that end up at HSPC will soon become a state-of-the-art “pet adoption center.”
The new Sjouwerman Adoption Center being built just west of McMullen Booth Road, will be approximately 15,000 square feet and will accommodate up to 200 dogs and cats – representing approximately 95% of the animals protected – and smaller animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs or ferrets.
The adoption center was named after Rebecca and Stu Sjouwerman, owners of cybersecurity firm Clearwater KnowBe4, who donated $4 million to build the new complex.
Currently under construction at 3040 State Road 590, the new pet adoption center is being built on the site of the 71-year-old facility, which was razed in late January 2021, says Jonathan Moore.
Moore is the HSPC Owners Representative and owner of Invision Advisors, Tampa. His nine-person, 10-year-old company manages the design and construction process for organizations needing assistance in these areas and advises the CSSP during the construction of the adoption center.
Moore says that over the past 30 to 40 years, the former HSPC Adoption Center has been expanded, remodeled, remodeled and “rebuilt multiple times” to the point that it needed a completely new structure. He says the new adoption center will more than double the Humane Society’s capacity to house and process rescue animals.
Reconstruction of the adoption center is currently in the permitting process and what Moore says is its “vertical construction” is expected to begin within the next 30 to 45 days.
“It was and is a very run-down campus right now,” Moore says. “That being said, my perception is that the Humane Society has been much more, especially with COVID, a place to go to find that ‘forever pet’ rather than going to pet stores; it has become a very popular adoption solution.
The new three-story adoption center will be built on five acres and will be able to withstand a Category 5 hurricane while providing on-site shelter for its residents.
“What this will become is a safe place to take in strays and pets that need to be left behind and make the adoption process a whole lot easier,” Moore says. “It will be such a wonderful transition for the organization and for being able to take care of the animals.”
When completed, the first phase of the adoption center will include the adoption center, an administrative office and teaching facilities and will have a total cost of just under $5 million. Moore says Sjouwerman’s donation would have originally covered the cost of the entire building, but due to changes in the economy and the construction market, as well as additional material costs, HSPC staff are always looking for donations to cover the remaining capital needed.
Among the amenities that the new adoption center will include will be: an outdoor patio on the second floor for gathering; expanded retail areas and large meeting rooms for adoption, education and outreach; and indoor and outdoor play space for animals. Moore adds an effort to save as many trees on the ground are also in the works.
“The new building gives the impression of being by the sea, coastal – it is a residential type building, in which it is very comfortable to enter,” he says. “I think there’s going to be a huge spike in adoptions when this building opens because it’s going to be a great place to come to, even if you don’t end up adopting.”
Over the past decade, the number of adoptions at HSPC has nearly doubled to about 2,600 in 2019.
This growing number makes it more imperative that the new adoption center be completed and opened, which should be by March 2023, said Jeff Voelpel, chief executive of HSPC.
In his second year as CEO, Voelpel said the old adoption center was “in dire need” of demolition and replacement. He says parts of this building have become unusable since Hurricane Irma hit in September 2017. The new facility is being built on the side of a hill at the highest point in Pinellas County and additionally to be able to withstand hurricane force winds, will have a natural gas generator on site to maintain electricity.
Voelpel has his own pets, Murphy, an 8-year-old Goldendoodle, Rufus, a 2-year-old mongrel, Blakely, 4, a pit bull and Leroy, a bearded dragon lizard.
“This is going to be fantastic for Pinellas County because it will more than triple the number of animals we can save and the impact it will have within our community,” he says. “This will be the largest non-kill animal facility in Pinellas County. This will allow us to continue to provide care and assistance to animals in need within our community.
Future plans for the adoption center call for phase two: creating a new 20,000 square foot animal hospital behind the new shelter. On February 19, 2021, HSPC closed its low-cost Pinellas Pet Hospital at 2907 State Road 590 so it could continue to house medical operations during construction.
“We had to close the sterilization site when COVID hit; we want to bring that back and have facilities that will allow surgeries to happen and have important medical treatments on campus,” says Moore.
All demolition, planning, and construction efforts are made to help Pinellas County grow – not just with people and places, but with four-legged residents with no place to go. Moore says the adoption center fits “wonderfully” with the county’s growing needs.
“The adoption experience is really what will become more special with the new building. That’s what the Humane Society is all about, bringing a stray or abandoned animal into their forever home and making it a very comfortable experience in these high-quality meeting rooms,” he says. “People can sit down with an animal to make the right decision. It provides a great experience to find that forever pet and bucks the trend of just looking at rows of animals in cages. This will provide a different kind of experience to get to know this animal.
According to Pinellas County Animal Services, his shelter cares for approximately 24,000 dogs and cats each year.
For more information, visit the Humane Society of Pinellas County.