The Dogs’ Refuge Home is WA’s oldest shelter and we remain on the same site in Shenton Park as we were when we opened in 1935. Many of our kennel and pound blocks were built in the 1960s and have undergone extensive maintenance work for many years since!
Investigation into whether any of the existing kennels could be upgraded was undertaken by several builders who were volunteers at the Home, but this was not deemed economically viable. In 2006 Dr Linda Marston, an animal welfare specialist from Victoria, visited our Home and made a number of recommendations to reduce the stress and improve adoptability of our dogs. The majority of her recommendations were implemented by 2010 and we have been improving our facilities ever since.
Some of the measures designed to improve the dogs’ living conditions and overall welfare have included adding heating and cooling systems, a sound system enabling ‘kennel calming’ music to be piped through, improving older concrete flooring and heightening the divides in between each individual kennel to reduce barrier stress.
We have invested much time into reviewing other shelter-based kennels in WA, the Eastern States and overseas to see what would work best in our climate and knowing that the budget was always going to be a consideration. Our staff and volunteers have also been extensively involved in the redevelopment process.
An overall Masterplan was been designed which has focussed on sustainability (water and energy) and utilising our land in the most efficient way possible. We have placed our new Quarantine facilities at one end of our land and the adoption kennels at the other end to reduce any chance of cross contamination of disease.
We have also factored in the proximity of our Boarding Kennels. Our boarding service is popular with many Perth dog owners including new owners of many of our past doggy residents and is an important income stream for us.
A New Era Begins
In 2012 after much fundraising and saving, we constructed a new Quarantine Block – 16 generously sized kennels which factor in disease control protocols. This was a large and relatively expensive block to build and was determined to not be practical for implementation across the property.
In 2014 we built a prototype kennel which was generously funded by (the late) Mr Terry Crommelin, a long supporter of the Home. This kennel was named after Terry’s beloved dog Bonnie who had sadly passed away and is affectionately named Bonnie Block. This is also a quarantine block and is single row with underground heating and cooling. It has an internal music system and the floor is coated with a special apoxy paint to ensure the cleanliness is always protected.
Over the years we have also received generous support from Tate Family Foundation and in 2014 they provided (at a much-reduced cost) a new caretaker’s cottage via the Fleetwood Group, it was an ex display home. We have always had a caretaker on our property to ensure the safety of our dogs 24 hrs a day, so a suitable new caretaker’s cottage was important. We also needed to demolish the existing home (built in the 1960s) to make way for new kennel blocks.
In 2015 we applied for a Lotterywest Grant to replace our decrepit administration office and were overwhelmed to be the recipient of a significant grant that enabled us to build a large Administration and Education block. This building provides us with greatly improved space to meet with potential adopters, a spacious retail and reception area, comfortable accommodation for staff and volunteers and a large meeting room used for training, education and events.
The difference this building has made has been immeasurable and would not have been possible at the time without the support of Lotterywest. Once again, we enlisted the help of Fleetwood Constructions with the design and installation of this building. It was built offsite in modular units and transported via road. The reduced time taken for the build and minimal disruption to our operations was a massive advantage and has proven to be a huge success.
In December 2016 work commenced on the groundwork for three new kennel blocks on the southern boundary of the property. Substantial retaining walls were required due to severe gradients and the uneven land our property sits on and whilst challenging, we were determined to maximise the space we had to work with.
The new kennels have the capacity for 30 dogs and have been designed around the popular ‘Bonnie Block’ prototype. We have continued to improve on the features and benefits it offers, while also taking into consideration Perth’s weather conditions.
Each of these new kennels are North facing to ensure our dogs are as cool as possible during summer and as warm as possible during winter. They are built in single, non-facing rows to reduce stressors for the dogs, feature integrated underground heating and cooling and also include specially piped music designed to calm the dogs and create a more peaceful environment.
The new kennels offer significant improvements for dogs, staff, volunteers and the public alike. They are safer and easier for staff and volunteers to access and move dogs and more appealing to the public when they are viewing our dogs.
These kennels were built largely through the generous gifts of dog-lovers in their Wills which had been reserved in our Building Fund along with significant ongoing fundraising efforts. Each block has been dedicated to a special benefactor.
Enrichment and exercise opportunities are vitally important for our dogs who unfortunately spend many hours in their kennel each day. Along our southern boundary we have a large number of dog exercise runs and work continuously to keep these maintained.
Our dog runs receive considerable ongoing investment (often via donated labour and goods) to improve the shade for our volunteers and our dogs. Each run now has multiple trees and a purpose-built cover during rainy weather. We have also prepared a ‘snuffle garden’ in our largest exercise yard to encourage our dogs to take some time to smell the roses – well the lavender and rosemary etc.
Our pet cemetery lie as the centre of the property and whilst it takes up a considerable amount of space, it is also the resting place for many much-loved pets and so our Masterplan is developed around this. Graves going to back to the 1930s require ongoing maintenance and we have a Friends of the Cemetery volunteering program to help with its upkeep. Over coming years, we hope to install memorial walls as the physical space for burials has almost been exhausted.
In 2011 we decommissioned a crematorium that had been built in the late 1990s. This has been converted to an onsite clinic where our long-term vet Dr Greg Wilkinson from Subiaco Vets visits weekly for routine medical treatments and surgery. The front of the building has been converted to a “chill out” area for volunteers to spend time on enrichment activities with dogs who are stressed in kennel. It has lounges, a ball pit, music and is set up like a home-away-from-home. The building has affectionately been called KOKOS after Red Dog movie star Koko who sadly passed away in 2012 and whose owner Nelson Woss remains a generous donor to the Home.
Help Fund Our Master Plan
We still have much work to achieve our overall goal of completely re-developing the ageing site with modern kennels and facilities to support our dogs, staff, volunteers and the visiting public.
Our overall consideration for our Masterplan includes:
- Facilitation of current best practice dog welfare and dog handling
- Planning, adjacency, traffic flows and amenity that minimises time spent on goods handling and travel between tasks/areas
- Facilities that are easy and efficient to clean and maintain, and help reduce operational costs
- Maintain/improve infection control
- Are energy and water efficient
Materials and building forms selected and designed cover:
- Industry standard – competitive pricing, easily sourced/availability, tested / known performance
- Low / no maintenance
- Hard wearing
- Meet hygiene needs – support infection control, easy to clean
- Safety/OHS needs – e.g. non-slip, non-toxic
- Simple, able to be fabricated cost effectively
- Support passive environmentally sustainable design principles i.e. airflow, cross ventilation, orientation, shading, sun angles
We run at a considerable shortfall each year so putting money aside for our building project is heavily reliant on bequests. If you would like to know more about our Masterplan and are considering making a gift or sponsoring a kennel block, please call our office on 9381 8166 (10am to 4pm) or email our firstname.lastname@example.org. We will happily show you around our Home and show you the difference your gift can make to our dogs and our future.