NORTH HAVEN — Animal Haven has applied for a permit to expand its shelter to provide more room for cats.
The nonprofit, no-kill shelter at 89 Mill Road has been under construction since September and plans to wrap up in mid-January, weather-permitting, shelter volunteers said.
If the Planning and Zoning Committee grants the permit, the shelter will add a 1,500-square-foot extension on the south side of the building.
“We had to gut the entire shelter,” said Linda Marino, Animal Haven board president, on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
The shelter, built in 2002, “was pretty much due for a renovation,” she said. “We are very anxious to get back into our renovated shelter, which will be really beautiful when it’s done.”
The floors are covered in brown paper to protect the new tile and the ceiling exposes the new HVAC system, one that Shelter Planners of America recommended, Marino said.
The HVAC system “will keep our animals much healthier and therefore happier,” she said. “It separately ventilates the rooms that have animals,” allowing sick animals to be isolated, which stops illnesses from spreading.
The renovated shelter will have many of the same areas, like reception, offices, kitchen, mechanical, laundry and sanitation rooms, but some of the rooms have been rebuilt, and spaces formerly dedicated to cats have been reconstituted. The expansion will give the cats back their space plus some more room, Marino said.
In order to avoid moving the animals out of the shelter twice, it was decided to do the interior renovations and install the HVAC system at the same time, Marino said.
Currently, Animal Haven has about 60 animals, with many more cats than dogs. Most have been relocated on the property for the duration of the construction project.
Cats and small dogs are kept in four mobile units, acquired in part with a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, and in a converted garage that also houses supplies and a laundry room.
A few volunteers are fostering sick cats in their homes, while others are recovering in an isolated trailer. Large dogs are still kept in kennels with outdoor runs.
There’s a medical exam room in one of the trailers for weekly veterinarian visits.
Speaking about building code changes coming in the beginning of the new year, Marino said, “we are actually getting ahead of all of that … We’ve seen the proposed regulations,” which include requiring impervious surfaces, so the shelter installed porcelain tile with epoxy grout and paint.
Soundproofing for the ceilings will help control noise, keeping animals calmer and hopefully improving relations with neighbors, Marino said.
Several property owners in the neighborhood around the shelter are wary of the shelter’s expansion plan. At the PZC meeting on Dec. 4 , five residents from Mill Road, Pierpont Court and Renee Lane urged the committee to consider the noise construction would make, which could cause the dogs to bark, to their annoyance.
Marino said the dogs are out between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. They avoid bringing unfamiliar people into the kennels to curb barking, and are planning to upgrade the kennels with a $58,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven with glass doors that reverberate barking and sound-absorbent tile in dog area.
“We think we are responsible neighbors and we’ve done the best we can, but if we can do even better and we can raise the money, we would do whatever we could to help that situation,” Marino said.
Animal Haven, as a private shelter, does not receive municipal funds and relies on donations from supporters. The organization has an annual budget of about $400,000 and is supported by grants, bequests and donations of food and blankets from the community.
“We want to improve the shelter in the overall sense and we’d love to make it a model shelter of Connecticut,” Marino said.
The Planning and Zoning Commission is due to make a permit decision on Jan. 8.