Greenhill ready to go big: The Eugene animal shelter is raising funds toward its building goals

Sasha Elliott, Greenhill’s community engagement officer, holds one of 98 rescued Chihuahuas the shelter recently acquired from an animal hoarder.

Vanessa Salvia
Sasha Elliott, Greenhill’s community engagement officer, holds one of 98 rescued Chihuahuas the shelter recently acquired from an animal hoarder.

Greenhill Humane Society runs two shelters — the smaller 1st Avenue Shelter, and the larger one, commonly known as Greenhill, on Green Hill Road in west Eugene.

Greenhill staff does a great job of keeping the facility clean and inviting to the public, and as comfortable for the animals as possible. But the facility was built in the 1950s with very little updating over the years.

That’s about to change with Greenhill’s new capital campaign.

“The project will cost around $6 million, and our plan is to build new dog housing, remodeled cat housing and a veterinary medical clinic, all onsite here at Greenhill,” says director Cary Lieberman.

When the project is completed, the 1st Avenue facility activities will merge with the larger Greenhill facility.

“We’re doing that primarily to improve the level of care that we provide to the animals,” Lieberman says. “We have a really old kennel here and it’s not any better at 1st Avenue. Improvements to the cattery will help with the level of care we can provide for the cats.”

The current facility is a hodgepodge of buildings that were built in the 1950s, remodeled very basically (insulation was added) in the 1970s, and the cattery and front lobby were added in 2000.

It’s about 20,000 square feet and the addition will bring it to 30,000 square feet.

“When we merge the two facilities, we’ll be accessible to the public seven days a week,” says Sasha Elliott, Greenhill’s community engagement officer. “The length of stay will decrease, which means we’ll be able to help more animals as the need arises.”

This large project has been needed for a decade, in planning for several years, and announced to the public earlier this year. The facilities were designed to be as affordable as possible while still meeting the goals.

Given that Greenhill meets its funding goals, construction is scheduled to begin next spring.

When completed, the facilities will be stress-reducing for dogs because of better airflow and lighting, and, in general, more comfortable, modern accommodations. The dog kennel will include a behavior training space and rooms of different sizes rather than the narrow rectangular rooms they currently have.

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This rendering courtesy of Greenhill Humane Society gives an idea of what the building will look like after the renovations are completed.

In addition, Greenhill plans to implement a crisis care wing that will help the staff respond to an increasing number of calls from the community.

“Currently we care for both dogs and cats and other animals that come to us in different crises,” Lieberman says. “It could be a domestic violence situation where someone needs to get their pets out of a dangerous situation. In a case like that we care for the animals during that time. We also do it for people who are hospitalized and for people who are jailed as well.”

Greenhill has a partnership with PeaceHealth where hospital patients don't need to worry about who will take care of their pets. Greenhill also works with older adults who fear their pets will outlive them.

“We talk with them about their wishes for their pets and come up with a plan that would come into effect as soon as they are no longer able to care for their pets,” he says. “The pets would come here and then go off for adoption. The new facility will allow us to provide a really high level of care in those situations.”

A larger part of the services that Greenhill provides is to help people with few options re-home their pet.

“These are people who have fewer family connections, less financial capacity,” he says. “For instance, take someone is going into assisted living. That’s where people are turning to us now. We’re getting less ‘I have puppies’ phone calls and more calls like, ‘I have an older dog and it’s still got a lot of life left but it needs help and I need help.’”

Having more space in-creases the options for using that space.

For example, in late October, Greenhill received 98 small dogs, mostly Chihuahuas, from a Walton-area woman who was hoarding animals. Even though Green-hill has space for the small dogs, the staff transferred about half of them to a different facility.

“Our facility has gaping holes in doors and gates they can crawl through,” Lieberman says. “It’s not that we don’t have adoption demand for these guys, but we can’t hold them because they escape. What we’re doing with this building campaign is building more flexible spaces and better-quality spaces, so we can handle cases like this.”

Greenhill operates on a $2.2 million budget, with $1.3 mil-lion coming from donations. Special annual events, such as cat yoga (sign up for a yoga class in the cattery) or November’s Art for Animals, help raise funds for the daily care of animals.

Now that Greenhill has embarked on the capital fund-raising campaign, donations can be specifically ear-marked for the building fund.

“At this point we are still looking for large gifts,” Leiberman says. “As of mid-October, we’ve raised about $1.6 million. We need $2 million to start building.”

There are many ways that individual volunteers and employers can help, Ellliott says.

“We have people help in the small animal room, in the cattery, in the kennels, fostering and socialization,” she says. “We’re on 20 acres here and we have a lot of trails so there are many opportunities for dog walkers.”

In December, Greenhill partners with Subaru and the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to promote a Share the Love adoption event, hoping to find as many homes for animals as possible before the holidays. Look for Green-hill to be very active on social media in the weeks leading up to the end of the year.

“Between now and the end of the year we have a lot of events to encourage people to come out and meet the animals at the shelter,” Elliott says. “We do a very exciting year-end campaign to encourage people to donate. We set a goal of $10,000 and try to hit that goal within the last 48 hours of the year. We broadcast live all the way almost up to midnight to tell people how close we are to that goal and it’s really exciting.”

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