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Escambia County Animal Shelter receives $75K grant to help furry friends

Escambia County Animal Shelter receives $75K grant to help furry friends

The Escambia County Animal Shelter (ECAS) is getting a major renovation worth more than $75,000. The local nonprofit volunteer group, Friends of the Escambia County Animal Shelter, applied for and was awarded the grant from Rescue Rebuild.

Rescue Rebuild is a national animal shelter renovation program.

A Rescue Rebuild crew is in Pensacola this week making a to-do list for the upcoming project that is set for January 20-28, 2018.

Kim Rainer said getting the $75,000 phone call was like winning the lottery on Christmas morning.

She smiled, "This is just such an honor to win this grant for the Escambia County Animal Shelter."

Rainer, along with her critter saving cohorts, Laura Booth and Michelle Hall, head up Friends of the Escambia County Animal Shelter. For years, they've supported the staff, stray and homeless pets, and mission of the shelter in countless ways.

This week they, along with Shelter Director John Robinson, are taking the folks from Rescue Rebuild around the grounds. They're making lists, pitching projects, and brainstorming ways that the sizable grant can be used to improve the lives and adoption prospects of the animals.

On the very preliminary "wish list" so far - bigger play yards, an entire facelift for the lobby and a "catio" - that's a cage-free meet and greet area for the shelter's feline population.

"This cat room, for example, we put cat spaces that have increased adoption rates as high as 300 percent," explained Zach Baker.

Baker and Bryna Donnelly head up Rescue Rebuild. They will return to Pensacola in January with a crew of 10 other Rescue Rebuild members and volunteers.

A documentary crew from the PBS series "Shelter Me" is featuring the ECAS renovation. They're also in town shooting the planning stages of the project and they'll also be back to shoot the eight-day process for an episode that will tentatively air in the spring of 2018. Steven Latham created and produces "Shelter Me."

"I'm about a dog or two short of being a hoarder, so I currently have a pack of four great big dogs," joked Latham. He's adopted his pets from shelters across the country.

Latham has the heart and drive to save many more. Latham has used his national show to spotlight homeless pets and struggling shelters for the last six years.

He has this advice for anyone looking to welcome a pet into their home.

"You just need to make a connection. Animals are individuals, so when you come here, I promise you will fall in love. Love is just a shelter away," he said.

The shared goal of all of the crews gathered is to make the ECAS the first place locals think of and go to when they want a new animal. To accomplish that will take hundreds of volunteers this coming January.

Between now and then, Robinson, his staff, and the Friends volunteers will be recruiting teams to pitch in and help. Robinson said no special skills are needed for anyone who wants to be a part of the effort. Thanks to Rescue Rebuild, they'll have the permits, tools, supplies, blueprints, and passion. They just need local animal lovers to sign up and show up ready to work. Robinson said volunteers can put in just two hours, a day, or stay and help the entire time.

Rainer is thrilled at the prospect and looks forward to the longtime results of the grant and community effort. "It's gonna be a real game changer for everyone here, fuzzy and human. It doesn't matter, everybody's got a lot to gain from this," she said.

If you'd like to help, please email ecasfriends@gmail.com or sign up here.

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