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The Escambia County Animal Shelter has been awarded a $75,000 grant for extensive renovations to the shelter, which will improve animal welfare while enhancing overall aesthetics at the shelter, county officials announced Wednesday. The renovation process will also be filmed and broadcast nationally on PBS on an episode of Shelter Me, an uplifting film series that celebrates shelter pets and the people who help them.

The grant was awarded by Rescue Rebuild, a national animal shelter renovation program. The grant was applied for by Friends of the Escambia County Animal Shelter, a nonprofit organization that supports the shelter through resources, outreach, education and more. Renovations will include new cat adoption rooms, an outdoor cat area, new play yards for dogs and upgrades to the shelter’s lobby area.

Escambia County Animal Shelter (Special to The Pulse)

“To be honored with a $75,000 grant is huge,” Friends of the Escambia County Animal Shelter Vice President Kim Rainer said. “To be able to give this to our shelter is exactly what we’ve been working for since we started.”

Rescue Rebuild is seeking volunteers for the Escambia County Animal Shelter project, including corporate groups and individuals. No construction or renovation experience are necessary, but volunteers should be medically fit for manual labor. The volunteers are currently needed Saturday, Jan. 20 through Monday, Jan. 28, although it is not required to volunteer each day. Tools are also not a requirement, but volunteers with tools are greatly appreciated. Click here to sign up.

Escambia County Animal Services Director John Robinson said the renovations will focus on increasing adoptability while making the animals’ time at the shelter more comfortable and enjoyable. Many of the issues with the animal shelter’s current setup stem from the fact that it was built about 20 years ago when shelters were not designed to promote adoptions and create a welcoming atmosphere for the public, Robinson said.

Escambia County Animal Shelter (Special to The Pulse)

“Rescue Rebuild is going to put a facelift on the shelter that makes it a fun place for people to go to see animals, to adopt animals,” Robinson said. “There are a lot of things they’re doing here that are going to benefit the animals while they’re staying at the shelter. While you want their stay to be shorter, you also want it to be not so institutional-like. We want the animals to have fun and be happier and healthier because of the things that we do, and this is going to give us a lot of opportunities to do that.”

Rainer said although something as simple as a play area may seem small, changes like that will create a chain reaction that supports a more adoptable environment.

“Providing play yards for animals means every animal in that shelter gets out to play…that provides mental stimulation for them, it gets them out in the sun, in the fresh air and makes them happier,” Rainer said. “So when people come to meet a dog, they’re not going to see a frantic, panicked dog that’s been locked in their kennel too long. They’re going to be happier and more well-balanced, and that will improve the overall morale in the shelter.”

Although the monetary total of the grant is $75,000, Robinson said the true value is much greater since all of the renovation labor will be completed by volunteers. In addition to the animal area upgrades, the grant will cover renovations to the laundry room, dishwashing areas and a new studio where animals can be photographed for online adoption websites.

Escambia County Animal Shelter (Special to The Pulse)

Through the grant, Escambia County Animal Shelter staff will also receive training from Dogs Playing for Life™, a program for shelter dogs that promotes animal play groups to socialize dogs in a natural environment and support better adoption matches.

Robinson emphasized his appreciation to Friends of the Escambia County Animal Shelter, who took the initiative to create the grant application video and submit the necessary information to be awarded the grant.

“That’s the best part about having a partner organization like Friends, and all the things they do for our shelter – particularly a grant like this that is going to be so impactful on the shelter and the community,” Robinson said. “We would have never had the opportunity to do this without them.”

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