By JOHN HOWELL
“This is my retirement job,” says Wayne Kezirian, as a workman wearing a hard hat and carrying a tool box walks by him in a hallway with a drop ceiling waiting for …
“This is my retirement job,” says Wayne Kezirian, as a workman wearing a hard hat and carrying a tool box walks by him in a hallway with a drop ceiling waiting for panels and walls soon to be painted.
Kezirian is in the heart of at 29,000 square foot building, formerly headquarters for Plan International USA that operated in Warwick on Plan Way across from UPS for decades. Following the pandemic lockdown when its workers were forced to work from home, Kezirian explained, Plan International USA found the system worked without such a large office. It put the building up for sale.
The 152-year old Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which holds a legislative charter, bought the property for $2.4 million Now RISPCA is sinking another $3 million to $3.6 million into making it its new home and moving operations from East Providence. The building is expected to be ready by late spring in time for its summer camp for 8 to 11 year-old children. The camp will have six sessions of 12 campers each as part of the RISPCA’s educational program.
Kezirian anticipates a public grand opening toward the end of the summer.
During a one-on-one 45-minute tour Friday, he paused to look up. The grid for the ceiling panels hasn’t allowed for the lights to be centered. He’s made a note of it and will be inform the contractor.
Kezirian, chair of the RISPCA board, is overseeing building renovations that will give the agency needed space for its operations and a central Rhode Island location with easy access. Kezirian, who served as general counsel for Johnson & Wales University and then Paolino Properties before “moving into the non profit sector.” As former commodore of the Edgewood Yacht Club, Kezirian oversaw the reconstruction of the clubhouse that burned to the pilings in a 2011 winter snow and lightening storm.
“And I think that this may be even more (challenging),” he says.
Friday’s tour followed a reception for SPCA members and invited guests the night befoe. Architectural renderings of the completed environs were still taped on a wall and a large oval board of directors table with chairs took up a portion of the expansive, naturally lit entry lobby.
Everything is spacious about the new home from kennels for 38 dogs – kennel blankets get washed daily, which requires a laundry room with washers and dryer – to an indoor canine play and socializing room with skylights, small animal room for rabbits and guinea pigs and a cat area for socialization, where those looking to adopt can watch the cats playing together. Rescue Rebuild of Greater Good Charities will build out the 9,500 square foot feline accommodations. One of the few things not requiring alteration is a bank of offices that will give many of the 38 full time employees their own space. The staff includes three veterinarians and 11 assistants who will operate the clinic that is made up of multiple spaces including waiting, an X-ray, operation and recovery rooms and a dental suite.
Kezirian navigates between boxes of light fixtures and rolled up flooring, which was essentially donated.
“This is what they use in hospital operating rooms,” he says fingering the composite that when installed will be fused to give a single, one piece overlay.
Kezirian outlined the major roles of the SPCA that is best known for shelter and adoption services for animals. It also provides veterinary care, runs educational programs and probably least thought of, law enforcement. As the name states the organization was incorporated to prevent cruelty to animals. SPCA has the power to seize animals that have been cruelly treated. Most recently it seized 20 rabbits that found stacked in dog crates in a Cranston home. The animals underwent medical treatment and were spayed and neutered before becoming available for adoption.
Kezirian said the SPCA has seen an increase in the relinquishment of rabbits as small pets. “Rabbits are the new cats,” he says.
It was a horse and a veterinarian that introduced Kezirian to the SPCA. At the time, Kezirian owned a horse and called on Dr. Ernest Finocchio to look after the animal. Finocchio was president of the RISPCA board. After about a year Finocchio asked Kezirian if he would be interested in serving on the RISPCA board. Finocchio retired in 2019. He was succeeded by Joseph Warzycha who served in the role for about a year, When Warzycha, who remains active with the agency, stepped down Kezirian stepped into the leadership role.
Kezirian found his passion to help people as chairman of Travelers Aid, now named Crossroads Rhode Island. He notes that many homeless have pets and are reluctant to seek shelter because they know they will have to give them up. They also don’t have the resources to provide medical treatment for their pets. The same can be true for those with low income. He has found the RISPCA can reach people through their pets. RISPCA has a hardship boarding program that enabling homeless and those without resources to temporarily find shelter for their pets. The building will have a “safe room” with a separate entrance where victims of domestic violence can visit their children and their pet when forced to leave their home for their own safety.
Kezirian said the room will have a homey feel. He doesn’t expect it will get a lot of use as a safe room, but it will be there when needed.
To also have a homey feel is a far larger space set aside for volunteers. It will offer such amenities as a fridge, coffeemaker, microwave and tables and chairs. Facing the south, the room is filled with natural light and is located with easy access to the dog kennels as well as an outside walking area.
“You know those people who walk the mall to get their exercise” Kezirian asks, “well, they could be here.” He’s serious
While the property is more than three acres, it doesn’t lend itself to walking dogs. However, a Rhode Island Energy power line right of way runs adjacent to the property and offers an extended walking area. Kezirian said the company has granted permission for the SPCA to use it. As it runs along the crest of a step hill, Kezirian’s challenge is how to make it accessible at a reasonable cost.
He’s got his sights on other hills, too.
The RISPCA and the Potter League are considered the two major animal rescue leagues in the state however, as Kezirian points, out there are numerous other organizations. He embraces their work but feels they could collectively be more effective.
He said he has been working with the Potter League to reach out to other groups with hopes the RISPCA could help coordinate operations and be a central location.
Meanwhile, he’s following up on a myriad of details like the sinks where veterinarians will scrub before commencing a surgery, what doors between rooms should have windows and the glazing of glass partitions so animals up for adoption aren’t distracted. And then there’s the ceiling grid and the fact the light fixture must be in the center of the hallway.
Guaranteed he hasn’t missed that. It’s on his list of things to get done.
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