The (old) New Animal Shelter: a status report

On the west side Lake Ridge Road, not far north of Foxfire Chase at number 5500, you will see a sign, already beginning to fade, announcing that this rehabilitated gravel pit is the future home of the New Animal Shelter for Uxbridge-Scugog (NASUS, also the acronym for the charity created to spearhead the project). If you alight from your car, curious to see what’s happening, how things are moving along, you will be severely disappointed. And especially so if you contributed, as much as a decade ago, to the fundraising effort for this vitally-needed new facility, planned to replace the cramped, tired current shelter on Reach Street in Scugog (which, as you might have read in these pages a few weeks ago, is operated by the Township of Uxbridge despite being located beyond our borders).

So, if no progress is being made, where’s the donors’ money? Has it found its way into some general slush fund somewhere, paying for the new accessible washrooms at Sandford Hall, or a raise in salary for a veteran Township employee? Fear not.

“The funds are still where they’ve been since being turned over to us several years ago,” says Township clerk Debbie Leroux reassuringly, “in a reserve fund dedicated to this project. They total about $600,000. We have another reserve with $540,000 of Township money allocated to the shelter. It was set aside by council at the request of NASUS. Both reserves are earning interest monthly. An identical amount was committed to by Scugog council.”

So if the reserve funds, totalling about $1.6 million altogether, and the land are still sitting there, what’s the holdup? Where are the drawings? Why aren’t the earthmovers moving earth? Why are the homeless cat and dogs still in the shelter on Reach Street?

The answer, as is often the case with a project initiated in the private sector, is insufficient funds. One and a half million dollars is nowhere near enough to build what is envisioned for the site. So the Township, which has now assumed management of the project from NASUS, is actively seeking financial, perhaps even operational partners for the project. A corporate sponsor which might trade a pot of money for its name on the building? A foundation dedicated to animal welfare? A non-profit like the SPCA experienced in running such facilities? A senior government program? All of these are being investigated. The Township won’t say who it’s talking to, and will certainly not commit to a timeline.

“The new shelter is absolutely needed,” says Leroux, “and council has committed to the build. That’s all we can say for now.”

The Cosmos will let you know when you can go back to the old pit on Lake Ridge to watch your money at work.

Conrad Boyce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Uxbridge Cosmos