ARLINGTON — After years of searching, Second Chance Animal Shelter will soon have a new home.
The organization announced on Wednesday that its board president had signed an agreement to purchase five-plus acres on Route 7A, the current location of the Valhalla Motel, where it will construct a new, state-of-the-art shelter.
The new facility will replace the shelter's Shaftsbury location. It will serve approximately the same number of animals — 14 dogs and about 100 cats — but will have more modern visiting and surgical areas and improved HVAC systems.
"It's very exciting," said board member Judy Murphy. "We'll be able to do so much more."
Board President Kimberly Gould signed an agreement for the shelter to purchase the Valhalla Motel property at 1759 Route 7A from Bob and Claudette Martins. The Martins are retiring after 26 years in business.
Second Chance plans to raze the existing building and prepare the site before winter, Murphy said. The shelter has gotten zoning approval from the town and has carried out site engineering.
"Through its new facility, Second Chance Animal Center will better serve all of Bennington County and some bordering towns in New York and Massachusetts," Gould stated in a press release issued Wednesday.
The new building and accompanying barn — designed by North Bennington Architect Timothy D. Smith & Associates — will offer the animals, the staff, and the communities we serve many amenities not possible in the present building, Gould stated.
The non-profit animal shelter was incorporated as the Bennington County Humane Society in 1959. It offers shelter, veterinary care and adoption services for homeless and unwanted animals, in addition to humane education to local schools and community groups.
It's currently "cobbled together" in the same space it's held since 1961 — an old tavern at 6779 Route 7A in Shaftsbury that wasn't designed to be an animal shelter. It's on a busy road so backing out can be dangerous, people and dogs sometimes have to walk along Route 7A, there is no office for a veterinarian, and owned animals that come in for clinics have to be taken through the facility where the shelter animals reside.
Murphy said the organization has sought a new site for six years. Second Chance had an option to buy a piece of land on State Park Road in 2014, but that fell through.
"The new facility in it's new location will improve our ability to care for animals, allowing Second Chance to better separate dogs and cats, as well as healthy animals and those who are receiving veterinary care," Gould said in the release. "The property will be large enough to contain not only both new buildings, but also the outside exercise pens and walking trails, so that dog walkers will no longer need to contend with busy 7A."
Preliminary design plans call for a main entrance as well as separate entrances for those surrendering an animal or taking part in Spay Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) clinics.
Inside, cats and dogs would be better separated from each other, as well as healthy animals and those receiving veterinary care.
Plans call for four 520-square-foot dog play yards, two more than the current building. Special cat porches would give cats a view of the outdoors.
There would be dedicated rooms for animal recovery and isolation, in addition to separate rooms for dog training, grooming, and food preparation. The shelter's canine and feline supervisors would also have separate offices.
The barn will house the Second Chance's popular summer camp and allow SCAC to expand educational programming.
Gould stated that Smith, whose work includes Tufts University's Large Animal Ambulatory Clinic in Woodstock, Conn., has incorporated the latest techniques in sheltering design and construction so that exterior lighting and noise will be kept to a minimum.
"We intend to be the best neighbors possible," Gould said.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979