Since the Danbury Animal Welfare Society (DAWS) was founded in 1974, the organization has helped save the lives of over 30,000 animals. On March 1, DAWS celebrated its shelter renovations with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and launched the next chapter in the group’s nearly 50-year legacy.
According to Alice Meenan, Director of Development and Marketing at DAWS, the non-profit organization’s mission has always been to improve the lives of animals in the community and beyond, and this much-needed renovation project will allow them to do just that for many years to come. .
DAWS began in Danbury, where it received its name, and moved to its home at 147 Grassy Plain Street in Bethel around 1993. Through a private foundation providing funds to DAWS, the organization was able to purchase the property.
The building has been highly regarded throughout its nearly 30 years of use. It has been a vessel for adopting cats and dogs, training volunteers, and having a low-cost pet clinic on site. Meenan said she joined the DAWS staff in the summer of 2020, during the pandemic, and went straight to work helping with the big business of a renovation of this scale.
“I came on board to help with their fundraising efforts and more importantly to develop the capital project to kick off this renovation project,” she said.
Members of the DAWS team have been discussing the idea of renovating the building for over a decade, but it was never the right time financially.
Since DAWS is not a municipal facility, they operate through the generosity of their supporters, who donate funds and supplies to operate them. Accordingly, DAWS hosts its annual gala in September and participates in a variety of local events to engage with the community and raise funds.
After years of fundraising and fundraising, the original plan was to start with one specific area and prioritize what needed the most updates: the kennels. However, they were able to change those plans after a generous gift was given to DAWS in 2021.
“We got a big donation, where we’re able to say, ‘Instead of just doing the kennels first, it would make sense to do everything at once.’ It would be more efficient,” Meenan said.
Over the years, DAWS has worked with Tary Tarlton of Kenosia Construction LLC and his wife, Lynne Persan, who is an architect. They have shelter experience and have done the ROAR renovation in Ridgefield.
“The two together have been talking about it for a very long time. As our needs changed and our building needed more modifications, they willingly went back to the drawing board to make improvements to the plan,” Meenan explained. “Especially when we got the big present and said, ‘Now we can do it all at once.’ We reviewed the plans once more.
Tarlton and Persan donated their time and resources for the planning and bidding process.
“Tary really oversees the project and is on hand for the actual construction. It has costs with its labor, workers, equipment and supplies, so the funds will go to that,” Meenan explained.
In 2020 alone, DAWS has made over 1,200 pet adoptions. Working at this pace came with a lot of wear and tear on the building.
“It definitely served its purpose,” Meenan said. The renovations will bring state-of-the-art improvements to places that already existed in the building, as well as creating new spaces.
One of the new features will be what DAWS calls its “Puppy Preschool”. This will be an area specifically for puppies that are old enough to be out of the foster program, where they can be separated from adult dogs in the kennel.
“We will also have a special area at the front of the building which will be a foster area…which will be designated for our Puppy and Kitten Foster Coordinator to meet potential adopters. It will really be a specific area just to facilitate host families,” Meenan said.
Previously, these interactions took place in the DAWS Community Room on the second level of the building. The community hall will receive updates to better facilitate volunteer trainings and there will be more office space upstairs.
In the building’s cat area, there will still be two bedrooms and a “catio” of fenced outdoor space, but it will be modernized. “One new feature that we will have is cat foster rooms,” Meenan said.
The space will allow potential adopters to have one-on-one time with the cats of their choice to get to know them and see if it’s a good fit for them. On the other side of the facility is the dog area, which will see some of the most dramatic transformations.
“The kennel is one of the most exciting parts of the renovation as it is going to be completely demolished and built anew, while the front of the shelter is being upgraded and completely gutted,” said Meenan.
The old layout had the kennels directly facing each other, but the rebuild will have a space in the middle for supplies and the pantry that staff can easily access.
“We’ll have more natural light, better temperature control, a new HVAC system,” she said. “We will also have, I believe the correct term is ‘radiant heating’, so the floors will be warm, if needed, as we have brutally cold winters here.”
Meenan said DAWS estimates the project will take 15 months and expects it to be completed in the summer of 2023. Once the animals are brought back to the facility, DAWS will hold a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the completion. of the project. .
Coming to Newtown
In preparation for the renovations, the DAWS team worked around the clock to ensure that all the animals they currently housed had a place to go. Some animals went to their forever homes, some went into foster care, and some came to Newtown for their temporary stay.
Meenan said that through DAWS resident vet Dr Carey Brenner’s relationship with vet Dr Rakesh Vali – who owns the Mt Pleasant Hospital for Animals, at 119 Mt Pleasant Road, and the new Pleasant Paws Pet Center, at 94 South Main Street – their animals and staff moved to Newtown during renovations.
“Dr. Vali has been wonderful…Dr. Vali has provided space for Pleasant Paws to continue our clinical services at low cost, so we have Dr. Brenner and our clinical team based in Pleasant Paws,” Meenan said.
DAWS can continue veterinary services four days a week for the dogs and cats in their care, as well as for the pets of people in the community. DAWS continues to receive dogs and cats transported from the south, so these animals also receive the medical care they need.
DAWS is also able to house dogs and cats that have not been adopted or fostered, including dog Zorro, who was featured in The Newtown Bee earlier this year and is still looking for his forever home.
Meenan said: “Thanks to the generosity of Dr Vali, this has allowed DAWS to be present in the community and to continue to carry out our vital mission of improving the lives of animals. Our gratitude to Dr. Vali, his team and the community of Newtown for helping us.
The DAWS renovation project may be underway, but Meenan said DAWS continues to need support.
“We are still fundraising. We’re not done…we absolutely need to keep fundraising, not just for the project, but to make sure we can sustain this facility for another 50+ years,” Meenan said.
She shared that DAWS currently offers “naming opportunities,” which can be used to honor a pet or loved one or highlight a business or person. There are a variety of options at different price points, ranging from a small tribute brick for $100 to a named dog or cat foster room for $15,000.
“We’re a non-profit organization, so it’s very much a community effort that keeps DAWS’ mission going,” Meenan said.
DAWS representatives and adoptable animals will be in Newtown for the 11th annual Strutt Your Mutt on Saturday, May 14, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Fairfield Hills campus. They will also be at the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation Butterfly Party on Saturday, June 11, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
To learn more about DAWS and its building renovations, visit daws.org or contact Meenan at [email protected] and 203-794-4223.
Journalist Alissa Silber can be reached at [email protected]
The Danbury Animal Welfare Society (DAWS) is in the process of renovating its facilities at 147 Grassy Plain Street in Bethel. Pictured is a rendering of what the facade of the building will look like when completed.
The canine area at DAWS will be completely redone, as seen here in a rendering of what the kennels will look like.
DAWS offers a low-cost pet clinic in its building for its animals, as well as people in the community who bring their pets. The examination room, pictured, will be refurbished during the renovation.
DAWS renovations began on March 1, 2022 and the project is expected to last 15 months. Pictured is an aerial view of what the building and fenced area will look like.