“I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity to offer a blessing for ACS this morning,” said Pastor Rich Hanlon, as his invocation spoke of the animals – our neighbors – that come to Animal Care Sanctuary (ACS) in need of love, kindness, compassion and care. “And what a special day it is with the opening of a new facility that will allow ACS to even more effectively respond … to treat the animals that come to us with the mercy that is due a neighbor.”
On Friday, Oct. 9, staff members, volunteers, financial supporters, county officials, and others who have played a role in supporting the mission and work of ACS witnessed the official ribbon cutting and dedication of the new ACS kennel and clinic in East Smithfield.
And what made that event even more special was that it was the day that the 1,000th animal was adopted at ACS this year.
“Every year has been a new record,” said Ellen Feldman, ACS board chair, adding, “We hope that ACS symbolizes the goodness in people.”
ACS celebrates over 50 years as a “No Kill” shelter and is nationally known as a pre-vet clinic.
“This is becoming a destination,” added Feldman, as she cut the ribbon.
After the ribbon cutting ceremony, tours through the new 8,000 square foot building, that will now house the canine kennel and clinic, were available to attendees. Guthrie Clinic provided lunch from Jones Diner in Towanda, and water from Raymond James. A Little Bit-O-Baked provided special dog and cat shaped cookies.
As people walked toward the new building to enter the clinic, memorial brick markers lay along the walk. The bricks, available in two sizes – 4×8 or 8×8 – were just one way someone could donate and memorialize a loved one or beloved pet.
“The Animal Care Sanctuary fundraiser gave me the perfect opportunity to honor my parents and two of their very special pets in a unique and meaningful way,” said Ruth Lee. “While simultaneously giving a gift to the animals now living at ACS.”
“Who doesn’t want to memorialize their fur baby,” said Kelly Breuer, owner of Rochester and Central New York Woman on-line magazines. “And what a more perfect thing to do that helps out a great organization at the same time.”
Richard “Mac” MacIntire, former chair of the ACS board remembers walking through the old facility years ago.
“It was so old,” said MacIntire. “It was so dysfunctional.”
MacIntire went on to praise the county commissioners who were some of the first people involved in the planning of the new facility.
“They listened,” said MacIntire.
The new clinic provides much more that will benefit our community – more exam rooms, more surgery areas and a post-op area. Now, after surgery, recovering animals won’t have to be taken out to another building.
“We can be more of a service to the community than we were before,” said Feldman.
“Being able to do surgeries and appointments at the same time is wonderful. We couldn’t do that before,” said Vet Tech Jill Elston. “Even though we were closed for two months because of COVID, we surpassed our spay / neuter numbers from last year.”
The community clinic at ACS has two veterinarians. Dr. Debra Urban works full time at the clinic along with Dr. Gray Newman, who is a retired veterinarian of 43 years. Dr. Newman volunteers his time one day per week in the clinic.
“He has quite a love for animals,” said his wife, Julie Newman. “He wanted to give back to all those who came to him.”
“He’s fortunate to have such a wonderful staff,” she added.
Erin Hanlon is one of the vet techs at the clinic that has been there about a year.
“It’s a new experience for me working for a non-profit,” said Erin Hanlon. “But it’s rewarding.”
Her husband, Pastor Rich Hanlon, spoke highly of his wife’s work there.
“I’m proud of the work that Erin does here as a vet tech,” said Pastor Hanlon. “I’m here today because it’s important for me to support the mission of Animal Care Sanctuary.”
That mission is one that promotes turning compassion into action for dogs and cats by adopting healthy animals into loving homes, promoting outreach programs, and spaying and neutering as an advocate for the humane and compassionate treatment of all animals.
“I’m trying to meet with groups of people in the area for awareness,” said Trish Callahan Murzy, Planned Giving director.
Walking through the new kennel that is attached to the new clinic, it’s apparent that much thought went into its design. Concrete walls separate the kennels, replacing what used to be chain link walls. Dogs can’t see each other. This helps create less anxiety, especially since they won’t be able to see each other’s food bowls.
According to Leanna Bly, Canine Care manager, the less anxiety the dogs experience, the better they are when they get together, whether it’s in the play yard or for a meet and greet with a potential adopter.
“Now we can get them out to play together without fights,” said Bly. “It’s a lot more of a homey environment.”
The new facility has been ten years in the making. The Chief Executive Officer, Joan Smith-Reese, realized the need for this when she first joined ACS. It has been her main mission through these ten years of her dedication there and she has spearheaded an organization-wide effort to make this vision a reality.
But for Smith-Reese, the ribbon cutting was bitter sweet. Her goal accomplished, she has also realized that it is time to move on. She is retiring from ACS, but they certainly will continue to see her. She will always be a part of that organization. Her plans will take her beyond ACS, as she will continue to be a voice for those who have no human voice of their own.
For more information, including adoption and being a volunteer, visit www.animalcaresanctuary.org or call (570) 596-2200 for the East Smithfield location, or (570) 724-3687 for Wellsboro.
“At times like this, we need good news,” concluded Ellen Feldman. “We used to say ‘It takes a Village.’ This is bigger than a village. For rescues everywhere it’s a chance to show compassion.”