By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer
TWINSBURG TWP.: Dawn Hartman surveyed the dog kennels at the Humane Society of Greater Akron's new, spacious shelter.
''I can't stop smiling,'' said Hartman, the board president.
After years of talking about moving from its aging home in Boston Township, the Humane Society officially relocated Monday to an office and warehouse at 7996 Darrow Road.
About 300 animals — including several bunnies and a domesticated rat — made the 11-mile trek in white cargo vans. It took about 30 trips to transport all the animals.
''They all seem very, very excited,'' said Jessica Gibson, director of animal welfare. ''Lots and lots of smiling dogs.''
The Humane Society will be closed for about two weeks for adoptions as the animals, staff and volunteers get acclimated to the new routine and facility.
The nonprofit group expects to reopen to the public April 13.
The new shelter, which once served as the township hall and outpost for the Summit County Sheriff's Office, will be a drastic change for the animals, staff and public.
The former shelter, built in 1968, included a red barn with a dirt floor and outdoor kennels for the dogs during the day.
It was so crowded with animals and equipment, the public wasn't permitted to walk through. Instead, people who wanted to adopt a dog had to leaf through a book filled with photos — not an ideal situation.
At the new facility, the animals will be kept indoors at all times, except for walks for the dogs. The public also will be able to wander through and meet all the animals face to face to better connect with them.
The Humane Society also plans — when money becomes available — to build areas where people can play with their potential pets. The new site also includes an education training room.
The Humane Society will occupy only 30,000 square feet of the 68,000-square-foot facility.
Hattie Larlham, which serves people with disabilities, will share the building. The Portage County-based agency is relocating its administrative offices to Twinsburg Township and will operate a doggie day care at the facility.
''We're looking to create a new national model on how nonprofits can partner,'' said Karen Conklin, executive director of the Humane Society.
The agency is looking to lease another 20,000 square feet of vacant space.
The Humane Society is buying the building from the Summit County Port Authority for $3.4 million. A $5 million capital campaign is under way to pay for the facility and renovations.
The group also plans to raise cash by selling an honorary square foot — a twist on commemorative bricks — for $100 as a fundraiser.
For more details about the Humane Society, call 888-588-8436 or go online to http://www.summithumane.org.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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