Ever since the humble beginnings of The Animal Shelter of Texas County (TASTC) about eight years ago, its founders and board members have dreamed it could one day be self-sustaining, with less reliance on donations and fundraising.

That dream is now a huge step closer to becoming a reality, as work has begun on a large dog and cat boarding facility on the shelter’s Highway 17 property east of Houston. The approximately 7,400 square-foot, park-themed structure will include 17 sizable dog kennels and have the capacity to house dozens of dogs. There will also be a section dedicated to boarding cats, and plans being discussed include dog training, grooming and other services.

TASTC is a private, non-profit business that has no affiliation with a government entity. It exists solely by way of adoption fees, fundraising events and activities, and donations from companies, organizations and individuals.

The idea behind the boarding facility is to generate a steady flow of income that could fund the cost of running the shelter and perhaps allow for future expansion.

“This has been a plan we’ve had since we started the shelter,” board president Rita Romines said. “Everything takes steps, and we’re at the step now where we have to be able to sustain the shelter. We talked about several choices of how to go about that, and this is what won out.”

TASTC board member Bryce Williamson said the boarding facility idea inherently creates a win-win situation for it and the shelter.

“Every dog or cat that comes into the boarding facility can help sustain a dog or cat at the shelter,” Williamson said. “We’re going to approach 700 adoptions this year, and it takes a lot to make that possible. It will help immensely that 100 percent of the profit from the boarding facility will be going directly to help with what we do with the shelter. There will still be a lot of expenses to face, so there will still be fundraiser events and those types of things, but to be at the scale we’re starting to reach, we need to do something like this.

“This is really exciting. We’re passionate about animals and we want to sustain the momentum we have. This will give us the means to do that.”

Romines said the facility will be outfitted with a state-of-the-art security system so pet owners can feel secure that their animals are safe. Dogs being boarded will enjoy a regimen of play time and other activities, and owners will have the option of having them put up in upscale “suites.”

“They’ll have lots of room and we’ll have activities going on inside and outside,” Romines said.

Cats will stay in cage-styled “condos,” and the whole place will be designed to be pleasant and attractive.

“It will be light and airy,” board member Stacey Rasmussen said. “The animals will enjoy being there.”

The facility will feature designated areas for small, medium and large dogs, and staff will utilize technology to update pet owners with text messages, photos and other information. The idea of adding web cam access is also being discussed.

“There will be beds and treats, and we’ll have food available, Williamson said, “but people can bring their own food in if they prefer.”

It’s safe to say the average person has little or no idea of the volume and magnitude of what happens on a daily basis at the “no-kill” TASTC. Adoption fees, donations and fundraisers help with expenses, but shelter board members believe its increasing financial burden requires something more.

“We’re growing by the month, so it keeps getting bigger,” Romines said.

“This county is so lucky to have a no-kill facility that can do the same volume as the Springfield Humane Society, because there’s typically not the funds available to do it,” Rasmussen said. “Right now our heads are just above water and we need to keep them there.”

When the facility opens, prospective boarders will have to pass a temperament test before being taken in.

“Dogs that don’t pass won’t be mixed with the general population,” Rasmussen said. “They’ll still be walked and have play time and everything else, but they’ll be kept separate.”

Construction of the facility is being handled by R.J. Thomas of Springfield, who is known for building the four-star Grand Oaks Hotel in Branson and numerous churches in southwest Missouri. A name for the facility has not yet been chosen, but TASTC plans to conduct a contest on Facebook.

Williamson said people are encouraged to visit the shelter to get a feel for what boarding their pets will be like.

“I don’t know what a lot of people think it’s like here, but they’re certainly welcome to find out,” she said. “I think a lot would be surprised to find out how clean and bright it is.”

Board members hope a grand opening can take place before the end of this year.

“Bake sales only go so far, and it has always been the board’s long-term goal to find a way to sustainably keep the doors open,” Rasmussen said. “We’ve done a lot of research – like going to other boarding facilities and searching online – and we want to combine the best of everything we saw that people of Houston and other areas can utilize at an affordable price.”

“Keeping the doors open at the shelter will be what the boarding facility is all about,” Williamson said.

For more information about the boarding facility being opened by The Animal Shelter of Texas County, call 417-967-0700.

Officials at The Animal Shelter of Texas County (TASTC) said for the second time this year, a dog has been adopted to people with ties to TV star Cesar Millan, widely known as “The Dog Whisperer” due to his starring role on a long-running National Geographic Network program that ended an eight-year run last fall.

Earlier this year, a puppy was adopted by a Connecticut woman who trains dogs for Millan. Now a Walker coon hound that was once skinny and found tied to a tree was recently adopted that will live on a Napa Valley vineyard in northern California with people who are good friends of his.

TASTC officials say the suggestion has been made that Millan visit the shelter.

“We’re passionate about animals and we want to sustain the momentum we have. This will give us the means to do that.”

– TASTC BOARD MEMBER BRYCE WILLIAMSON

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