Monday, June 17, 2019
Mountain Humane Campus Sets Grand Opening
Tour-goer Shelly Forsling sports Dalmatian ears on her hard hat.
Friday, January 11, 2019


The hard hats sport the droopy ears of bloodhounds and the pointy ears of cats.

And it takes only a few steps around the building to realize how much thought went into designing the new Mountain Humane campus as a special place for cats and dogs and humans.

Take the doggie condos, for instance.

Dr. Jo-Anne Dixon check out the new cat houses for loners.

The flooring boasts just enough granular texture that the canine occupants won’t slip should they begin running around. But not enough texture that it could trap disease.

The center of the room features in-floor heating, which will lure dogs to sit there rather than in the back of the kennel where they can’t be seen by potential forever families. At the same time, overhead lighting is positioned to backlight them to show them off.

“It’s all about doing things to get them adopted,” said Dr. Jo-Anne Dixon, Mountain Humana’s executive director.

Dixon had hoped the new $16 million campus would be ready in December. But there’s still plenty of work to be done at the sprawling facility, which sits across the road from the current animal shelter in Croy Canyon west of Hailey.

The education barn will be used for school groups and for gatherings of staff from other animal shelters.

But that didn’t stop Dixon and Mountain Humane’s Development Director Brooke Bonner from taking a small group around the facility this week ahead of the Grand Opening celebration scheduled for President’s Day on Feb. 18.

“Living on a hill has not served as so well with mudslides and fire. And it’s not ADA-accessible,” said Dixon. “Here, we’ll be able to turn school buses and vans around in the parking lot. And we have 20 acres of flat land. It offers an amazing view with open space to the river, so it’ll be a great place to walk dogs and enjoy the animals and the outdoors, unlike most animal shelters, which tend to be located in low-rent districts by garbage or sewer facilities.”

The facility was designed by two architects. Michigan architect Damian Farrell, who knows about things like snow loads, designed the campus to evoke a barn-like flavor to fit its surroundings, rather than build a boxlike structure that would have stuck out.

Animal Arts of Boulder, Colo., has designed 900 animal care projects. So that company’s architect Heather Lewis knows what materials can be peed on, chewed on and scratched. And she mandated a drain in every kennel to mitigate disease.

This room will feature an indoor playground that can be used for play and training when it’s too hot to be outside in summer and too cold in winter.

The 30,000-square-foot building, which would be about the size of the Community Library if it was flattened out, is shaped like a U around the new Central Park.

The park features a place sheltered from wind where people can test-walk dogs or simply sit and watch golden retrievers, Labradors and children play in the splash pad and a fire hydrant that sends out streams of water.

People can enjoy yappy hours and cocktail parties amidst a patio boasting pavers honoring departed pets.

Small fenced areas will allow those wanting to adopt a pet the opportunity to see how the pet they’re looking at interacts with their other pets. And would-be escape artists will be deterred by a coyote fence—a small roll bar at the top that will leave them sliding back into the enclosure as they reach it.

Dr. Jo-Anne Dixon will perform free spays and neuters in this surgical room. The program has reduced strays by half.

There’s also an indoor playground for exercising and training the residents when it’s too hot or cold outside.

 “Enrichment is a big part,” said Dixon. “Animal shelters have historically been thought of as places to house animals. Then, dogs slept outside. Now they’re on the pillow next to you, and animal shelters have changed, too. We’re not just providing housing but making sure they’re physically healthy and engaged while here. We want to be a community gathering place where humans come together and help animals along the way.”

The cat house is up front on the east side of the building.

 Cats get adopted at half the rate of dogs, so we wanted it up front and center,” said Dixon.

There’s individual cat housing, something they don’t have in the current facility, and there’s group housing for cats that prefer living in colonies.

The cathouses feature portholes between living and play facilities. Three indoor-outdoor cat rooms will feature climbing apparatus.

Each features tiny exhaust systems to keep diseases from being passed respiratorily.

“We designed this building with the same features you have in a hospital,” Dixon said.

Three adoption niches opposite the cat houses offer potential adopters to sit on benches and play with cats, while debating the merits of a kitten or cat behind sliding doors.

Down the row is a cat café where visitors will be able to sit with a cat and enjoy a cup of coffee while reading or chatting with others.

“Because cats get adopted less, we’re looking for the best practices to help them get adopted,” said Bonner.

A large room known as the education barn looks out towards the Big Wood River past windows that serve as a backdrop for a large roll-down screen.

Endowed with soft flooring to mitigate noise, it’s capable of seating 150 people. And dinners can be serviced by an adjacent kitchen. There’s a large classroom in the back. And an adjacent patio offers a site for weddings and birthday parties and, of course, Mountain Humane’s annual Dog Days of Summer Gala.

Providing city water, sewer, internet and other services was expensive since the facility was far removed from town. But it’s paid off as organizations, such as The Hunger Coalition have already inquired about having retreats in the facility’s conference room, said Bonner.

“Half of the population of the United States won’t step foot in a shelter because they consider them smelly and depressing. By giving people different opportunities to engage with us, they’ll see what a wonderful site it is so next time they want a new pet they’ll come to us,” she added.

On the west side of building are rooms for 32 dog kennels the staff hopes to install next week.  As with the cats, there’ll be meet-and-greet rooms along Bark Avenue.

The facility is set up so that it will take 85 percent less water to clean than the old one. And a commercial dishwasher will relieve volunteers of having to wash dog dishes by hand.

Feeders will resemble mazes, so dogs will have to dig in to get to the food. Food will also be placed in toys designed to entertain them while keeping them from gulping their dinner in two minutes.

There’s a new intake room where animals will be assessed medically and behaviorally and allowed to decompress and settle in before moved to the public areas. Forty percent of the shelter’s animals come from overcrowded shelters, primarily in Idaho. But Mountain Human also gets animals from areas hit by disaster, such as the California fires.

The medical surgical wing occupies the northwest corner of the campus. It has an isolation room designed to prevent the spread of disease, two surgery tables and a recovery room. There is a separate cat recovery room because it’s stressful for a cat to hear dogs barking when they’re recovering.

A comfort room offers a homelike setting where staff can perform euthanasia and let the family grieve in private before exiting through a private door.

Brooke noted that the economic impact of Mountain Humane is more than double what is put into it because so many people travel here to adopt, staying in hotels and buying dinner and pet leashes while here. A third of the animals are adopted from people in 37 states and Canada.  

“Sun Valley Resort is already a destination. And we designed this as a destination,” said Dixon. “Our facility is better suited than most other places to be a destination because of the skiing and other amenities we have here. People travel now for their pets and there are a lot of reasons to come here. So, it’s time for the animals to have their own destination thing.”


Mountain Humane will hold a Grand Opening Community Celebration and Open House between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18, at its new facility at 101 Croy Creek Road west of Hailey.

There’ll be building tours, children’s activities, dog training demonstrations, a chance to visit with adoptable dogs and cats and cat café drinks and treats.

Questions? Call 208-788-4351, extension 212.



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