Project: Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue campus expansion
Location: East Manatee County borders Lakewood Ranch
Price: 12 million dollars
Size: 23,000 square feet
Builder: Benderson Development
The campus expansion at Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue is a big step for the rescue, which previously operated out of a trailer, garage and dirt shed.
With a 4,300 square meter training center and a 5,000 square meter reception building, the project has entered the final phase of construction with a 23,000 square meter Welcome and Education Center. The final phase also includes the construction of 10 new dog cottages, complete with domes to circulate air and solar-powered fans to keep the inside cool for the dogs, and a new cat shelter that gives cats indoor and outdoor access.
The new center will have a vet clinic, ice cream or waffle shop, event space, two living spaces and an end-of-life room so pet owners can avoid the lobby if they need to euthanize their pets.
There will also be a hands-on children’s education center as a waiting room bonus for parents who need to entertain their children while they wait. So far, the training materials have included sections on x-rays, how to scan dogs for microchips, brushing a dog’s teeth, and reading a dog’s body language. While videos will be shown on iPads, there will also be interactive activities such as a miniature vet clinic.
The design of the main building will replicate walking down a typical main street in the city center, with each section having a different ‘shop’. Another $3 million needs to be raised for the rescue from the $12 million Journey Home capital campaign, organization officials said. (An early supporter of the rescue and its namesake was Nathan Benderson, founder of Benderson Development, who died in 2012 at age 94.)
The first building completed in July 2021 was the intake facility. 28 kennels, medical department, kitchen and laundry will keep quarantined animals away from healthy animals.
The new behavior and training facility opened in March and is now operating as an adoption center. But once those operations can move to the welcome center and the training facility is operational, executive director Dari Oglesby said it will fill the need for the area.
“That’s one of the reasons we do (it),” he says. “One of the unmet needs in our society is keeping animals in homes (through) people to solve their problems instead of surrendering them.”
Oglesby leads the rescue along with her husband, Rob Oglesby. The development director hopes to have construction completed by late spring 2024, but realistically says it will be a little later that year.
“It’s like building a hospital,” he says. “There’s a lot that goes into this, and we really tried to think of every little detail.”
With the expansion, the rescue will be able to double the number of dogs and cats they handle to 117 dogs and 60 cats.
The cool factor
One of the amazing parts is the Experience Real Life room, where trainers can slowly ease the dog into living in a room set up like a tiny house, in a house equipped with a vacuum cleaner, dishwasher and TV.
Other great pieces include: a dog pool with a shallow end and a deep end, built by Sarasota-based Bulldog Pools; maternity kits for pregnant dog mothers; and a parvo ward that will be open to the public and other shelters to house dogs diagnosed with canine parvovirus, a contagious infection.
But perhaps the best part of Nate’s ending is that the expansion adds several sources of income to the rescue.
An ice cream or waffle shop will provide rental income and an agreement to return a portion of the income to the rescue. Nothing has been announced on that front about who will occupy the space, but Oglesby says talks are ongoing.
An event space being built at the back end of the welcome center with a full catering kitchen will also bring in some revenue. It is equipped with a divider to divide it into two spaces if necessary.
There are also adoptions. During the visit in October, this number was more than 1000 adoptions. Oglesby hopes with the additional space that could increase to 4,000.
The last worry you want on your plate for an animal rescue is flooding. But that’s exactly what Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue came up against when it moved to the Lorraine Road property in 2011, prompting the expansion.
Before getting too far into the project, a moving company came in to raise the foundation of the existing dog cottages so the property could be raised two feet. The dirt behind the property was used, leaving a large gap to fill. So crews created a pond with a walkway around it for volunteers to walk the dogs.
“So now with all the rain, we’re not flooded at all,” says Oglesby.
Hurricane Ian also put a damper on things. It demolished two dog cottages, but also brought in many hurricane refugees. Currently, Nate’s houses dogs from three agencies.
Oglesby says the Fort Myers-based couple lost everything during the storm. To make matters worse, they have six dogs. They turned to Nate’s as a temporary solution until the couple got back on their feet. As of October 25, only two of the dogs had been fostered.
And it wouldn’t be a construction story without hiccups in getting materials. There are some things the team has ordered that still have a 15 month lead time.
“We’ve just been patient,” Oglesby says. “It’s out of our control. “In the beginning, we were angry and upset, but we realized that we have to be patient to get what we really want.”