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KC Pet Project Leaving Its Crowded, Noisy House Behind When New Shelter Opens Jan. 1

KC Pet Project
The Kansas City Campus For Animal Care, run by the nonprofit KC Pet Project, opens in January 2020.

Eight years ago, 70% of the animals that came into Kansas City, Missouri’s animal shelter were euthanized. 

“It was dreadful,” Kansas City Councilwoman Teresa Loar said. “It was a death camp.”

But after the nonprofit KC Pet Project took over shelter operations in 2012 and converted it to no-kill, attitudes began to change, she said. 

Credit Jamie Hobbs / KCUR 89.3
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Kansas City Councilwoman Teresa Loar helped encouraged the city to help build a new animal shelter.

“People are friendly, people are compassionate,” she said. “That wasn’t there when the city was running it.”

But the KC Pet Project didn’t have the right amount of space at 4400 Raytown Road, near the Royals’ and Chiefs’ stadium complex. It’s why Loar campaigned in 2015 on the idea of a new facility, and in April 2018, the council unanimously approved funding for a new building. 

Kansas City Campus for Animal Care in Swope Park is expected to open Jan. 1. Just down the street from the Kansas City Zoo, the campus is three times bigger than the existing shelter, has “fear-free” housing for animals and will have the capacity to take in more animals. 

Credit Jamie Hobbs / KCUR 89.3
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Tori Fugate is the chief communications officer for KC Pet Project.

It will also offer public veterinary services and feature a coffee shop and a community event space.

“We expect a lot of visitors to come to the campus for a variety of things,” KC Pet Project’s Chief Communications Officer Tori Fugate said. 

The campus will be able to host birthday parties, Fugate said, and someone has already asked about having a wedding reception there. 

Credit Jamie Hobbs / KCUR 89.3
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The current headquarters of KC Pet Project are located on Raytown Road near the stadium complex.

But even with all these human elements, the needs of the animals still come first. The current facility is so overcrowded that cats are in office spaces. At times, there are 200 dogs in one large room, and the noise can be overwhelming. Fugate said they’ve measured the sound, and it can be just as loud as Arrowhead Stadium during a Chiefs game.

Credit Jamie Hobbs / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Dog kennels at the current building are stacked on top of each other, except for larger breeds, and are all in one room. The new building will have no more than 15 dogs in a single space.

“It’s a very unnatural thing to have to go into an animal shelter,” Fugate said. “And have the stress of the environment added to the fact that they may have been lost on the street … and now they’re in this kind of loud, scary place.”

That’s why the new shelter has “fear-free” housing to lower anxiety among the animals. Speakers in every room will play soothing music, and species will be separated as much as possible as to alleviate stress. 

The new on-site veterinary clinic also serves as a trauma center to treat dogs and cats who’ve been shot or stabbed. 

“We see a lot of cruelty against animals, and we have to have a veterinarian there on staff at all times,” Fugate said.

Plus, there’ll only be 15 dogs per room, and cats will have “catios” as a means to get fresh air. 

“We feel that this animal campus is a next-generation shelter,” Fugate said. “There isn’t another like it in the country.”

Credit KC Pet Project
Dogs will soon be housed in the "dog wing" at the new building in Swope Park. The facility also will have "catios" so cats can get fresh air.

And there’s a hefty price tag to show for it: The public-private partnership is getting $18 million from the city (appropriated via GO KC bond funding) and $10 million from private donors.  

Though the new campus opens soon, the official ribbon cutting is Jan. 24. 

The Kansas City Campus for Animal Care opens Jan. 1 at 6900 Elmwood Ave. in Swope Park. For more information, visit kcpetproject.org.

Teresa Loar and Tori Fugate spoke with Steve Kraske on a recent episode of KCUR's Up To Date. Listen to their entire conversation here.

Jamie Hobbs is an intern on KCUR's Up To Date. Contact her on Twitter, @jamieahobbs.

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