Animal shelter work starts

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LEWISTON – After more than five years of planning and asking for money, work has begun on a new $2.5 million animal shelter.

Workers dug while others cleared and chipped brush on a corner of the 5-acre Strawberry Avenue site Tuesday.

“It’s been such a long time, but things are moving along,” said Steve Dostie, executive director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society.

If all goes according to schedule, the foundation for the 15,000-square-foot building will be poured next week. Construction on the building itself is set to start next month and the project is expected to be finished before the end of the year.

Dostie hopes the construction will inspire more donations from people who may have grown skeptical that the building would ever be built.

“If they’ve grown frustrated, it’s understandable,” he said.

The project has been in the works since late 2000, when the humane society bought the Strawberry Avenue site.

Fundraising stalled after 9/11, when charity money flooded to New York.

“We had just started our quiet phase of fundraising,” Dostie said.

Meanwhile, other local groups from the Auburn Public Library to St. Dominic Regional High School to the Franco-American Heritage Center were all raising money, too.

The money came in slowly, but it came.

The humane society has raised about $2.3 million, less than $200,000 shy of its goal.

The money is meant to replace the desperately crowded shelter on Hotel Road in Auburn. The 1972 shelter was designed to care for about 1,000 animals a year. As demand rose, the humane society shuffled its offices and built additions.

“It’s all band-aided together,” Dostie said. It hasn’t kept pace with the steady stream of strays and abandoned pets.

Last year, the Auburn shelter hosted about 3,500 cats and 900 dogs.

The new shelter, built to handle well over 4,000 pets, will have more space for each animal, special facilities for spaying and neutering, space for boarding the animals of domestic-abuse victims and a pet-store-like area for people to view animals for adoption.

It won’t have everything in the original plan, though.

High, steel-supported ceilings are gone. And a 5,000-square-foot dog training area could not be built on the old budget.

In 2000, the plan was estimated to cost $1.8 million. The scaled-back project is forecast to cost about $2.5 million. The full plan would have pushed the budget well over $3 million.

The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society serves the communities of Lewiston, Auburn, New Gloucester, Minot, Greene, Poland, Leeds, Turner, Hebron, Buckfield and Canton.

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