MOORESVILLE – The future adoption and education center that Friends of the Animals is planning will have three purposes: to find long-lasting homes for animals, educate the public on responsible pet ownership and offer a low-cost spay and neuter program, Executive Director Patrice Reynolds said.

The nonprofit announced plans in March 2011 to build the center at the Langtree at the Lake development off Exit 31 on Interstate 77.

“We are coming, and people have heard that we’re coming, but it does take time to plan an endeavor this big,” Reynolds said.

The center will be between 11,000 and 12,000 square feet and equipped with dog kennels, cat condos, an education area and a spay and neuter clinic, among other amenities, Reynolds said.

There will be about a half dozen employed personnel, including a veterinarian, veterinarian technician and an operations director. The center will also need a “slew of volunteers” once in operation to walk dogs, socialize cats and help with other tasks like laundry.

The state-of-the-art multi-million-dollar building will be as complex to build as a hospital or medical center because it’s so specialized, Reynolds explained.

“We’ve been in the process of researching the best of the best around the county and learning from others,” Reynolds said of the center’s progress. She hopes construction will start within two to three years.

The center will have a capacity for about 150 animals. Reynolds said she hopes the center is the place people think of first when wanting a pet.

But finding loving families for homeless animals isn’t the center’s only mission.

The center will also seek to educate the community about responsible pet ownership through enrichment programs for children and conversations with adults when they’re looking to adopt.

“What kind of animal are they looking for?” Reynolds asked. “What’s their lifestyle? If you’re working 9, 10 hours a day, do you really need a dog that needs to be run?”

Though most shelter animals are strays, many are surrendered by owners who can’t take care of them, Reynolds said. Education prior to owning a pet can prevent a surrender.

And lastly, the center will offer a low-cost spay and neuter program, which owners will have to qualify for.

Board member and long-time animal lover Maria Haughton said the center will serve communities around Lake Norman, not just Iredell County, and will work with other rescue groups to maximize impact.

“If we work together, we can accomplish a lot more than if we work separately,” she said.

Haughton, who has rescued animals for years, said she’s excited about the building.

“This is kind of my passion in life,” she said. “It’s something I know I’m supposed to be doing, and to see it come to fruition is an amazing thing.”

Facts on putting cats and dogs down 
• There were 4,709 cats and dogs euthanized in the Iredell County in 2012, according to the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Public Animal Shelter Report.
• Of the 3,389 cats that were brought into the county shelter, 317 were adopted, 48 were returned to their owners, leaving 2,972, or 88 percent, to be euthanized.
• Of the 3,100 dogs that entered the shelter, 939 were adopted, 389 were returned to their owner, leaving 1,737, or 56 percent, to be euthanized.
One of the goals of the Friends of the Animals’ adoption and education center is to help those numbers decrease, organization officials said.