ASHLAND — The next big thing in Ashland goes to man’s best friend.
Ashland County commissioners held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday for the highly-anticipated $3 million dog shelter, located off Baney Road east of the Ashland County Fairgrounds.
Dozens came to walk through the newly-constructed facility, an 8,000 square-foot building boasting space for up to 69 pups.
The U-shaped building also features heated floors, kennels with outdoor access, three offices, a reception and waiting area and a room designated for training new or prospective dog owners.
There are also two “thrones,” as commissioner Denny Bittle liked to call them. Essentially, they are large toilets used to dispose of dog waste.
“The current dog shelter’s method is to throw the waste into the dumpster, which, as you can imagine, causes quite the stink,” said Lindsey Hoover, one of several people giving tours Monday.
But stray and rescue dogs will have to wait another couple weeks before they can move into their new home. Bittle said the dogs at the Garfield Avenue location will move to the new building the week following the Ashland County Fair.
The fair runs from Sept. 17-23.
Once the dogs are settled, the 75 year-old building will be razed, Bittle said. The vacant property will then be used for additional fair parking, officials have said.
The building, constructed as a “design build” by Ashland-based Simonson Construction Services, also features unfinished space. Officials hope to rent the 2-3,000 square-feet to a veterinary office or grooming salon.
Bittle said commissioners have not started advertising the space yet in order to make sure animals are situated first.
As the de facto liaison for the project since 2018, Bittle did not know when dogs would be made available for adoption once they are moved into the new building. However, the process will work a little differently, he said.
Photos of adoptable dogs will hang on a wall in the front reception lobby. New owners will request to meet a dog and that pup will be retrieved by a shelter worker.
“The dogs and the people will meet in a room specifically to meet each other,” he said.
‘Don’t give up’
Diane Hammontree, secretary of Homeward Bound — the nonprofit in charge of fundraising the money needed to build and maintain the shelter — got emotional on Monday.
“Don’t give up,” she said, adding the new dog shelter has been a project five years in the making.
She read a poem from a dog’s perspective, but couldn’t finish it. Her husband, Ken, finished for her.
Ralph Tomassi, president of Homeward Bound, thanked the “hundreds of donors” who contributed the construction of the building.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of fundraising campaigns in my life … I have never been involved in a campaign where there was more enthusiasm, or a stronger will to succeed, than this campaign,” Tomassi said.
With help from the Ashland County Community Foundation, the nonprofit raised $600,000 towards the project, and those numbers keep increasing.
Power of philanthropy
Jim Cutright, president and CEO of the Ashland County Community Foundation, said the project is another example of public-private partnership and the power of philanthropy.
“Our canine and our feline friends cannot take care of themselves,” Cutright said. “So that’s why it’s so important for us to have a facility like this. That’s the mark of quality of life.”
State Rep. Melanie Miller (R-Ashland) congratulated the commissioners, Homeward Bound and other stakeholders on the new dog shelter.
“On behalf of the state of Ohio, we look forward to seeing the great successes and the many adoptions that are going to be possible because of this incredible shelter,” she said.
Her husband, Ashland Mayor Matt Miller, pointed to the community’s bent for philanthropy.
“Whether it’s the renovation of the theater, the pickle ball courts, the mini golf course, whether it’s a state-of-the-art animal shelter — all of these projects that people point to as Ashland County’s successes — are happening because of our own community’s citizens finding a problem and helping us address it,” he said.