For the first time in its 30-year existence, the East Greenwich Animal Protection League is looking for a place to call their own, and it might not be in East Greenwich.
Since the League was formed in the early 1980s, EGAPL has been housed in the Greenwich Bay Animal Hospital.
“We’ve just outgrown Greenwich Bay,” said Tammy Flanagan, the league’s executive director.
To house animals in Greenwich Bay Animal Hospital, as well as covering vaccines and other medical expenses, the league has been spending almost $30,000 a month.
It cost them $15.55 per dog and $11.10 per cat per day to house them in the animal hospital, plus any medical fees.
“That’s $500 a dog per month, plus vaccines,” said Flanagan.
The league was formed originally to take care of stray dogs and cats in East Greenwich, a responsibility they still have today. But they have also begun taking in animals surrendered by their owners, a population that has grown due to the increase of foreclosures and elderly people being unable to care for their animals.
Flanagan believes the $30,000 the League currently spends can be put to better use for the animals.
“We could be saving more lives, instead of putting that money into boarding fees,” she said.
Flanagan explained that the league had been discussing purchasing a facility for some time, but it is a top priority for the New Year.
Now the only question is where.
“Ultimately the goal was to stay in East Greenwich,” said Flanagan. “But everything there is a million dollars.”
So Flanagan has expanded her search for a building to surrounding communities, including North Kingstown and Warwick.
The facility would need a minimum of 2,500 square feet, but depending on the layout, Flanagan said anywhere between 3,000 and 10,000 square feet would work. Anything larger would be too big. The building also needs to be zoned as general business, not residential.
“I didn’t realize it would be so hard to find a building that is suitable and zoned properly,” said Flanagan.
Flanagan is looking for a building with both office and warehouse space. The office space could be used by workers and remodeled into playrooms for interested owners to meet their future pets, as well as cat rooms. The warehouse space would be turned into kennels for dogs.
Flanagan said cat cages and dog kennels would need to be purchased (or built) along with office equipment.
“We would also need paid staff for the first time,” said Flanagan.
That paid staff would be three or four individuals to watch the animals on a regular basis; Flanagan is hopeful volunteers could complete the rest of the work, including a lot of the work on the physical building such as cleaning and building the kennels.
While they would not have to pay boarding fees to the Animal Hospital anymore, the League would still have to cover the cost to maintain a facility of their own. In order to offset the cost of maintaining the building, Flanagan envisions offering additional services such as a dog grooming, a doggie day care center and providing boarding services within their facility.
The League has been setting aside money for years in the hopes of purchasing their own building, likely enough for a down payment of some kind, but Flanagan is also researching grants. She hasn’t been able to apply for any yet, however, because most grants require you to apply for funding to cover a specific purchase.
“You can’t write a grant unless it’s for a specific thing,” said Flanagan, describing the process as a “chicken and egg” situation.
Since she hasn’t been able to find a building to purchase, she hasn’t been able to apply for any funding. She is, however, researching grants to build or remodel buildings that she can apply for once the building is found.
Last week, Flanagan received some welcome news in her effort to find funding for the building. Longtime supporters of the League, Alan and Marie White, offered to be honorary chairpersons of the League’s capital campaign. Alan, who owns a consulting firm in East Greenwich, has offered his support in finding donations to help the league raise the money to purchase a suitable building.
In an attempt to lower costs until a building is purchased, Flanagan has been taking advantage of the services provided by the Rhode Island Spay and Neuter Clinic.
“My first lot of animals went there this week,” said Flanagan, explaining that the Center provides low-cost procedures for clients and even lower cost procedures for shelters. “That’s one of the ways we’ve tried to lower the cost.”
Flanagan said the League has been attempting to keep the number of animals in their care down to maintain funding for a building purchase.
Another blessing has been that the number of stray dogs has been lower this year than in the past.
“That’s wonderful,” said Flanagan, adding that they have only seen four or five stray dogs this year. The cat and kitten population, however, remains high.
Many of the dogs brought into the League come from Flanagan’s involvement with Southern Rescue.
Southern Rescue is a program that helps take dogs out of kill shelters in the southern part of the United States and bring them to no-kill shelters in other parts of the country.
“If there’s a need, I try to help, and the need there is tremendous,” said Flanagan. “They are all kill shelters down there.”
Flanagan explained that she will get messages about dogs that have been scheduled to be put down and if she can, she saves them. More often than not, she tries to save puppies, or nursing dogs and their litters.
Flanagan explained if she is able to help the animal, it will be taken out of the initial shelter and boarded in a safe place for a required two-week quarantine. It is then transported to the League, where it will be quarantined again for another two weeks, as per Rhode Island law. Flanagan explained she is able to do this about twice a month, but often times it is less than that.
Flanagan said she would usually have to cover the expenses associated with boarding and transporting the dogs, as well as any needed vaccines and medical treatment. But sometimes, a volunteer group offers to board the animal at no cost to the League.
The process of trying to purchase their own building is the first capital campaign the League will be heading up, and they are in need of a formal architectural drawing and business plan.
“You have to have something to go out with,” said Flanagan.
So Flanagan will continue searching for buildings; she saw a building in Warwick that would work, but unfortunately she did not move fast enough and it was sold.
Flanagan explained that she would like to be able to stay in East Greenwich but isn’t sure if it will be possible.
“The town of East Greenwich doesn’t have a municipal shelter. We’re it,” said Flanagan.
Because of that, the League does get funding from the town, but it is not enough. When Flanagan began working with the League 13 years ago, they received $25,000 from the town to operate; five years ago, that was lowered to $19,000. It was lowered again, but raised back up to $19,000 this past year.
Last year, to take care of East Greenwich strays alone, the League spent $45,000.
Although she is looking outside of East Greenwich for a facility, Flanagan does not want to infringe on the business done by shelters in the other cities such as Warwick.
“We don’t want to go in another territory and infringe on their adoptions,” said Flanagan.
Her hope is to maintain the friendly, working relationship the League already has with neighboring shelters. She said that if a shelter from a neighboring town is unable to take in another animal, they would call the League for help and vise versa.
“I think the shelters should work together,” said Flanagan.
The League is run entirely by volunteers with 10 hands-on people and three working with the League on a daily basis.
Once a building is found, Flanagan and the rest of the people who work at the League will still be looking for help.
“When we do find our building, we are looking for people who can donate time and supplies,” said Flanagan. “We want all of our money to go towards what can’t be done by volunteers.”
If you have any building suggestions or would like to volunteer your time to this project, contact Tammy Flanagan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 241-4541.