Walking into the Champaign County Humane Society, you’re immediately greeted by the sound of dogs barking in the background and there’s no mistaking that you’ve found the right place. Around you, cats lounge in large crates lining the hallway and it’s obvious that space is at a premium.
Bruce Goettel, a frequent volunteer at CCHS for 12 years now, is there directing traffic during my visit. Although he started off walking dogs shortly after he retired, Bruce now usually helps out at reception. He’s one of the many hundreds of volunteers who work alongside staff at the shelter. “It really completes my day,” Bruce says about coming to volunteer at the shelter. He chose CCHS as his main volunteer gig because he loves animals and has two at home, both rescues, so it makes him happy to volunteer at the shelter.
The lobby around Bruce is large, but crowded as staff, volunteers, and visitors buzz around. Within minutes of opening on an otherwise quiet Wednesday afternoon, there are already several people coming through the doors, some to look at the adoptable animals, some to volunteer, and some to surrender animals to the only open intake shelter in Champaign County. Originally built in 1988, the CCHS building has seen few renovations since its construction. The hallways are narrow and staff members have to carefully control traffic, both human and animal, to manage the stress levels of the animals in the shelter. The antiquated HVAC system is constantly in need of repair and patches.
The rooms now dedicated to cat cages used to be staff spaces, including a small library, but have now been sacrificed to provide more room for the growing population of adoptable cats, something the original building plans didn’t foresee. There is no dedicated room at all for other animals including the large number of rabbits and chinchillas that the shelter takes in every year, so they are kept in cages along a narrow hallway, not far from the dogs and subject to a lot of foot traffic. The staff break room is a tiny room tucked in the back corner of the building with a single table and couch that is further crowded by the fridge. With no other space, this room serves as a dog training room, community presentation space and anything else that might come up.
In short, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Building and overall space improvements are the goal of the CCHS’s “Expanding Our Pawprint” Capital Campaign that launched in summer of 2018. CCHS is turning to the community for help raising the final $750,000 of their "Expanding Our Pawprint" Capital Campaign after raising the first $1,000,000 from major gifts and friends of the CCHS.
Some of the planned improvements that will be funded through the campaign are:
- An addition to the existing building that includes a “Cat Wing” and specially built room for other animals
- A new 5,700 sq. ft. Education Building that will be used for dog training and other awareness programs offered to the general public, volunteer trainings, and a variety of other daily operational needs
- An expanded and improved medical lab
- New modern kennels that would remove all chain link fencing in the existing kennels and replace it with more modern materials to improve both functionality and appearance.
- Upgrading the HVAC system and other building improvements
“Over the past 30 years, the field of animal sheltering has matured and much has been learned about animal health and behavior. How the environment in which animals are housed impacts their physical and emotional well-being,” CCHS Executive Director Mary Tiefenbrunn says. “By improving the environment for shelter animals and the staff members who serve them, our animals will be healthier and adopted more quickly.”
CCHS has been a part of the Champaign-Urbana community for over 116 years. They are funded entirely by donations and receive no money from the the city, county, or state, nor any national organizations. Although they once served in a dual role of animal control, Champaign County Animal Control now handles all strays, lost and found, and other found pets, while Champaign County Humane Society takes only owner-surrendered animals and confirmed strays. CCHS is a truly local rescue organization, subsisting on local donations to fund its life-saving mission of caring for the pets of Champaign-Urbana.
Annually, CCHS reports that it averages 1,366 adoptions, with over 600 people from the community volunteering almost 18,000 hours of labor. They also report an average of 2,387 annual participants in their Humane Education Programs.
As for the volunteers and staff who make it all happen, even in their crowded and outdated building, they’re eager to see the long hoped-for renovations. They believe the improvements will help animals get adopted more quickly and make their hopefully short stays at CCHS less stressful.
To learn more about “Expanding Our Pawprint” or the work that CCHS is doing, visit their website or call 217-344-7297.
Champaign County Humane Society
1911 East Main Street
Urbana, IL, 61802
Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays: 2:00 – 7:00 pm
Saturdays and Sundays: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Closed Tuesdays and major holidays
Photos by Julie Wagner