Delay means Humane Society looks to open new facility in 2015


Planning and designing the new West Hawaii shelter and offices is taking longer than expected, a Hawaii Island Humane Society official said Friday.

The good news, Executive Director Donna Whitaker said, is shelter officials have already raised about 20 percent of funds needed for the first two phases of the three-phase project. They need $5 million to complete the dog park, three-pavilion dog shelters, a cat barn for house cats, the main offices, welcome center and an educational area and already have $1 million raised, Whitaker said.

“I would really like to thank the community for their patience,” Whitaker said, noting when officials first purchased the land in 2010, they were expected to open at least the dog park to the community within about a year. “It’s because we’re being so careful with the planning.”’

She’s now hoping for construction to begin before 2015, with that year as the goal for the new office to open.

The planning and design for the 12-acre facility at the former Fuku Bonsai location in Keauhou is turning out to be more complicated than expected, she said. Still, shelter officials are making progress, she added.

“We have one opportunity to do this right,” Whitaker said. “This will be there after you and I are gone.”

The first phase will be the dog park, plus the design work for renovating existing buildings, as well as infrastructure improvements. The second phase is the area to house dogs, the cat barn, the welcome center and educational area. Phase three, which will cost another $5 million, is designing and building a veterinary center and a facility for stray cats.

Whitaker said she won’t be asking the public for fundraising help, in forms like tree dedication and brick buying, until the organization has raised 80 percent of its goals. Right now, officials are applying for grants and approaching larger, private donors, for help, she said.

Right now, the humane society’s Kona offices are across the street from the Kealakehe Police Station, on 1 acre adjacent to the county’s greenwaste drop off area.

The Leeward Planning Commission in August 2011 approved the organization’s special permit to allow the shelter and associated buildings on agriculturally zoned land. Community members packed the meeting to show their support and about 60 people wrote letters encouraging the commission to grant the permit.

Whitaker said a combination of increasing adoptions and slightly decreased arrivals have contributed to declining numbers of animals being housed at the shelter.

“We’re very happy about that,” Whitaker said. “Our hope is we’re making progress in spaying and neutering.”