Animal Care League expands shelter premises

Construction is underway on Garfield Street, where crews are building a new Animal Care League (ACL) front-of-house foster and adoption center at 1003 and 1009 Garfield St. Crews opened last month, but the transformation of the two buildings is beginning to materialize.

“The outline of the walls are in place and you can really see what the two buildings will look like and the space we’re going to have for the animals,” said ACL executive director Kira Robson.

The work is the first phase of a larger four-part plan to expand the premises of the non-profit animal shelter, which will eventually allow ACL to house more animals and increase its services. internal care.

“It’s well overdue, and we’re so excited,” Robson said of the planned expansion.

ACL has spent more than a decade trying to buy the dilapidated and abandoned building at 1009 Garfield St., which sits between three other shelter-owned structures. The shelter was finally able to acquire the property in the summer of 2019, with help from the Cook County Land Bank Authority.

The first phase of the expansion plan focuses entirely on 1003 and 1009 Garfield St. Eventually, each of ACL’s four buildings will come together to create one large structure, but in the meantime, Robson is thrilled that ACL finally has a lobby. .

“We’re very excited about this because if you’ve been here before, we don’t have that kind of space right now,” she said.

The lobby will house the visitor center, as well as offices and a community hall, where ACL plans to hold birthday parties and seminars. The center is meant to be, as Robson described it, “an engaging community space.”

Currently, ACL welcomes approximately 1,200 animals each year. With the new adoption centre, it will be able to house two to three times as many rabbits, cats and dogs in a less stressful environment. It will also allow discreet adoption, as well as medical and reception spaces. The comprehensive adoption center includes dog suites rather than kennels, as well as communal cat adoption rooms and suites for cats with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia. Rabbits are not left out either. The center will include an expanded rabbit adoption area.

“This is going to have a really serious impact, not only on the animals we serve, but our volunteers will have a better space to come and volunteer,” said Robson, who expects the first phase of the project to be complete. in March or April. of this year. Once complete, the plan is to move directly into the next phases, which focus on expanding ACL’s in-house medical capabilities and building animal training spaces, as well as “real life rooms.” , which Robson says are designed to feel like a home environment to adapt the animal to this lifestyle.

How quickly ACL can move forward with Phases 2-4 is entirely up to the community, according to Robson. Funding will be critical in determining how quickly construction crews can move from one phase to the next. ACL plans to announce a capital fundraising campaign in the coming weeks.

“I really hope Oak Park realizes how important it is for us to have this type of facility, both for the animals and for the community,” she said.

Boyd S. Abbott