This May, after a seven-year wait, the staff veterinarians at the Louisiana SPCA will be able to go from spaying and neutering animals in a triple-wide trailer to a modern, state-of-the-art facility at their newly expanded Algiers complex.
That’s no small upgrade for a clinic that did 7,185 spay and neuter surgeries last year alone.
“The space is much larger than where they’re working right now,” LASPCA spokeswoman Alicia Haefele said, adding that pet owners seeking an affordable option for spay and neutering services will notice the difference as well.
“It can be frustrating for people who call now because you’re not getting an appointment until April or May,” she said. “The wait period is long.”
The $16 million expansion, now in the final stages of construction, is anchored by a 40,000-square-foot building designed to suit the needs of the LASPCA’s 100-member staff, its volunteers, visitors and the roughly 350 animals in its care on any given day.
The community clinic, already the only high-volume animal clinic in the region, will soon see its surgery capacity quadrupled, with more examination rooms added and a “wet room” for grooming and minor dental care.
Its “goodbye room,” where pet owners can bring aging and ill pets to be euthanized, has a second door that leads directly outside, allowing them to be alone to grieve in the moments after they’ve followed through on a difficult decision.
Haefele said employees are particularly excited about the adoption wing, where aspiring pet owners will be able to interact with rescued animals in a more homelike setting as they make their choice.
The cats will not be kept in individual pens but in one large enclosure just inside the entrance that will let prospective owners interact with them.
The dogs up for adoption will stay in rooms with a window to the outside and basic furniture so that people considering ownership can come in and sit with them. An elongated “fetch room” will be available for play when the weather is bad.
Haefele said the new building will help the LASPCA’s outreach and education initiatives with better classroom spaces, while staff and administrative meetings also will have the space they need.
The building will be LEED-certified, meaning it meets rigorous architectural standards ensuring it is energy-efficient and ecologically friendly. In addition to the outdoor play area one would expect at an animal-welfare facility, the property will include a large retention pond to help slow the drainage of rainwater in the area.
Once the expansion is completed, the organization’s existing 21,000-square-foot main building will become home to back-of-the-house operations, including caring for animals that were just brought in or aren’t ready for adoption. The new building will serve as the main interface area with the public.
The LASPCA had its offices in the 9th Ward before Hurricane Katrina but moved to Algiers after the storm. The existing building was constructed in 2007, but funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the second phase took years to come in.
FEMA money will cover $8 million of the cost, with the rest coming from private donors and gifts by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of America and PetSmart Charities.
Haefele said the cost is on a par with other LEED-certified medical facilities in the country, and the completed complex will be the premier animal-welfare facility in the Gulf region.
“It’s improving on the services we already have and laying the foundation for new services moving forward,” she said.
Haefele said she cannot disclose what new services could be on the way, but she noted there is space on the site that could become home to a dog park.
Editor’s note: This story was changed Feb. 23 to correct the preferred abbreviation for LASPCA.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.