National Pioneer Tours State-Of-Art Shelter


National Pioneer Tours State-Of-Art Shelter


Modern animal shelter pioneer Scott Learned of Design Learned, Norwich, Conn.,examines the drains in the double-cage kennels-to-be at the new Susquehanna Animal Shelter, now under construction on Route 28, Index. Smell control will be a key factor in maintaining a tranquil environment for the would-be adoptees. (Jim Kevlin/

When Stacie Haynes joined the Susquehanna Animal Shelter as executive director in 2015, she discovered one of the dogs had been in its kennel for more than 400 days.
Today, shelter stays are typically 14-21 days, she reports.

But long stays are more than inhumane, said Scott Learned, principal in Design Learned Inc., Norwich Conn., which pioneered what is calls “animal facility engineering.”

“Shelters are retail space,” he said during a site visit Thursday, Jan. 7, to the new Susquehanna Animal Shelter on Route 28 at Index.

Scott Learned’s goal: To get animals adopted quickly. It’s good for pets, and for shelter finances.

Moving animals in and out is the main source of animal shelter revenue: It’s good for the animals, and it’s good business.

Shelters “have to be inviting,” he added, to compete with national pet store chains and breeders.

The new shelter with also feature double-room kennels; state-of-the-art plumbing to accommodate high volumes of pet hair; two indoor-outdoor cat room “catios,” a wet table for some minor dental work and more to help achieve this goal.

“This facility is state-of-the-art in terms of electrical, plumbing, capacity, efficiency and sanitation,” he continued, as he inspected double-drains that will allow pet hair to be easily washed away.

At the Hartwick Seminary complex – the former motorcycle repair shop that now serves as the shelter – cleaning hair out of drains can cost $1,000 a month, said Haynes, who accompanied Learned on the tour.

State-of-the-art shelters, as the new $5 million complex will be, depend heavily not just on plumbing, but on air conditioners, which keep the animals from smelling each other.

That, and the layout – the way cats and dogs are separated, for instance – will keep the animals separate, calm and quiet.

Preventing animals smelling, hearing and seeing other animals thereby improving temperaments, overall safety and the possibility of adoption, said Learned, who has two adopted shelter cats.

The new shelter also has slightly better capacity to handle “worst-case” scenarios – hoarding situations, for instance – but the goal is shorter stays across the board.

The “Shelter Us” campaign, which is raising $5 million toward the new building, is expected to be functioning by May. So far, $4.1 million has been raised.

Administration is also being adjusted. “A lot of people had no idea of our needs. We have been researching supplies and working to understand the new facility and equipment,” Haynes said.

“The staff has been gearing up and couldn’t be more excited,” she continued, adding that her daughters are thrilled to see the new space in-person – “the shelter is part of them.”

Haynes hopes to begin in the new facility in May upon the completion of the project with no debt and all required materials before opening to the public shortly thereafter. To contribute, visit:

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