JANESVILLE, WI (GazetteExtra.com) – Despite a steel shortage and a subsequent design change, the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin is on pace to open its new shelter on County G between Janesville and Beloit by March 1, shelter officials said.

The 16,500-square-foot facility, located about 2 miles north of Blackhawk Technical College in the town of Rock, was expected to be completed last winter, but a shortage of steel stalled construction. The facility needed a new roof designed to bypass the shortage of steel trusses that the original design called for.

Executive Director Jim McMullen said the society is excited to transition the animals and staff out of the 9,500-square-foot building on Janesville’s west side in which they operate.

“There’s just incredible improvements from our current situation,” he said of the new facility.

McMullen says the current 45-year-old facility is over its capacity, an issue the new shelter is designed to address. The new site accommodates 54 kennels for dogs and will have a significant expansion of space for cats. In addition to more space for animals, the new shelter will offer state-of-the-art amenities that were chosen largely by staff members.

It takes an imaginative mind to envision all the new features when touring the construction site. Walking through what will be the front door, McMullen stood in front of the space for the new intake area, which is accentuated by a two-story tall foyer with ample windows to let in natural light. In the same space, five meet-and-greet rooms allow prospective owners to interact with pets.

During the planning stage, McMullen and members of his staff toured other animal shelters to get ideas for elements they thought a new facility would need. Some of the coming “fan favorites,” according to McMullen, are the commercial washing machine and dedicated pet washing room. In the Janesville shelter, items are hand-washed, and animals are bathed in an elevated bathtub in the staff break room.

McMullen said there is a shared excitement among staff members because of the intentionally collaborative process of picking amenities for the new shelter.

“They are fully 100% invested because they helped create it,” he said.

Another service that is absent from the Janesville facility that will be at the new site is a surgical suite where animals can undergo surgery and be treated for injuries. The new facility is even getting its own X-ray and ultrasound machines, which are currently only accessible off-site.

The kennels and cat cages are also designed to be more spacious and accommodating, with each section equipped with easy access to outdoor play areas and larger kennels with tapered floors that are easier to clean.

In addition to the usual dog runs and shared spaces for animal socialization, the new site sits on roughly 45 acres, much of which remains wooded and is crisscrossed by walking trails. A short walk into the forest exposes a vista among a natural clearing.

“It’s stunning. You can see for miles and miles in almost every direction,” McMullen said.

The facility was made possible through “a hell of a lot of fundraising,” as McMullen puts it. Aside from a one-time $100,000 amount provided by Rock County, the $4.4 million project was privately funded.

With the new facility sitting at a more centralized location in Rock County, McMullen thinks it will serve the county’s 23 affiliated municipalities better and bring awareness to the number of cities and towns it serves outside Janesville.

McMullen sees a bright future for the humane society, especially considering the potential growth having extra space allows. He said there is a chance the shelter could work in conjunction with Blackhawk Tech to give students seeking veterinary or other animal-focused careers some real-world experience.

“One area we are really excited about is engaging the public and having the community come out and utilize some of our spaces,” McMullen said.

“We really want to have the public engaged more so they experience the value and the impact the shelter has on the community.”

By Scott Froehlich sfroehlich@gazettextra.com