Over 50 volunteers, residents and municipal officials are celebrating the beginning of construction of a new $2.35-million animal shelter.

The 6,300 square foot facility at  406 Park Avenue East will be owned by the municipality and operated under contract by the Pet and Wildlife Rescue (PAWR) Group. AUBI is the general contractor.

Chatham-Kent Council approved $1.38 million of the project cost, while a community fundraising drive by the Friends of the New Animal Shelter had $900,000 in funding.

 Fundraising co-chairs Art Stirling and Marjorie Crew were on hand for the ceremony.

 “Four years ago when Art and I asked the community to assist in funding this important project, they came through to make this happen for the animals of CK,” said Crew in a news release. “This is a unique community and municipal partnership that shows we are all better together."

This is an exciting day that was a long time in the making,” said Stirling.  “A community is judged by how well it cares for its most vulnerable.  Animals in need in Chatham-Kent will now be cared for in a modern and clean facility.  We are so humbled that our community stepped forward and helped us make this happen."

Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope called the ground-breaking for construction of a new animal shelter the beginning of a new era.

“Animals mean so much to so many people in our community and it’s a pleasure to see this facility finally coming to fruition,” Hope said. “We can forget the problems of the past and look toward better care for animals who need it.”

The new building, expected to be in full operation by early next year, replaces a former facility which had fallen into disrepair.

The Friends of the Animal Shelter will continue its work to raise money to buy equipment and furnish the building.