For countless Westchester residents who remember the old, 1950s crumbling structures of the SPCA Westchester in Briarcliff, the new, brightly lit facility will thrill and delight.
The impressive 27,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Animal Rescue Center held an official opening Sunday, September 12 to an invitation-only crowd, replete with speakers, tours, and a meet and greet with resident dogs and cats.
Building the facility was realized with a grant of $500,000 from New York State Agriculture and Markets and the rest of the funds ($8 million) were contributed by SPCA donors and foundations.
“What we thought would be an uphill undertaking became a groundswell of support thanks in large part to all of you here today, our long-time supporters who helped us achieved this monumental goal,” SPCA Westchester Executive Director Shannon Laukhuf told some 50 attendees on Sunday. “We are so grateful to you all for sharing our vision and for caring so deeply for the homeless animal population that pass through our doors.”
The SPCA has been on the same site since 1883 and has always been recognized as a highly acclaimed five-star animal rescue and care center. Plans to construct a new center began three years ago but groundbreaking was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Construction finally started in Sept. 2020.
Invited to the opening were Sean Morgan and his husband Mike Troup, who currently own two rescue dogs. Morgan grew up in Cortlandt and sponsored a new area in the center in the name of his deceased mother. “My mom adopted several cats and dogs from here,” he said. “This newer facility is definitely a step up and an important place to help homeless animals.”
Westchester SPCA board chair Deborah Klugman thanked many in the audience who donated to the new center and shared a heartfelt story: just days before the opening a scratching noise was heard from an unmarked box under the tent set up for the opening. When Klugman and trainer Lisa Ricker opened the box, they discovered an old, blind and deaf pug who had been abandoned.
“The quick happy ending is that this sweet old gentleman is currently resting in our clinic and will ultimately live out his days in the comfort and care of a foster home,” she said.
The more serious issue of animal abuse and neglect was addressed by Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah. Rocah, who was at the opening with one of her two sons. Rocah said her office works to enforce the Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) Unit of SPCA Westchester to protect the animals from cruelty and neglect.
“Animals are the most vulnerable victims and they solely depend on us,” said Rocah. “The SPCA Humane Law Enforcement works with my office, and they have done incredible work.”
The Humane Law Enforcement Unit has its own dedicated space in the new building, including rooms to care for seized animals. The new center can accommodate up to 250 rescue animals, offer rescue programs and services that are expected to expand.
Unlike any other shelter and rescue facility, animal spaces at the new facility look fun and comforting. Donating creative and playful designs for catteries was Tony-Nominated Broadway set designers Broadway Barks. Imaginative spaces include the Old English Library with a faux fireplace and a real-life portrait framed cat bed, the Enchanted Forest with a beautiful sprawling tree for the cats to perch on and climb.
The Dog of the Day replicates a home-like setting for rescue pups and to prep the thousands of dogs for new permanent homes. A cozy lounge chair and TV dog bed is an ideal curl up spot. The Jazz Room welcomes volunteers and senior dogs where they can relax with music therapy and which also includes a piano.
The new Rescue Center includes 85 indoor dog habitats, 33 outdoor day pens for fresh air, six meet and greet “matchmaking” rooms for dogs and cats to spend time with potential adopters and multiple fenced-in play yards for exercise and playgroups.
There is also a large multi-purpose room to host humane educational classes, workshops and indoor dog training. The new low-cost “Cody’s Clinic” is significantly larger and includes new, modernized equipment and an additional examination room and surgical suite.
Inspecting the new catteries was Westchester resident Marie Alpert, who recalled her first cat she got at SPCA about 50 years ago. “They’ve created wonderful environments for cats and the center looks like it’s easy to maintain,” she said. “They were always a success and will be more of a success now.”