Rendering of Nate's Honor Animal Rescue's site. 

For 10 years, Nate's Honor Animal Rescue has saved pets from kill shelters in Florida and Georgia—the third- and fourth-highest animal euthanization states in the country, respectively—bringing them to a safe haven of brightly-colored cottages until they are adopted into loving homes. In celebration of rescuing almost 10,000 animals since its opening, the non-profit has launched "Journey Home," a $10 million campaign that will result in a new state-of-the-art facility, with an opportunity for members of the community to get involved. The expansion is expected to be complete by September 2021.

Construction began in March of last year; currently, Nate's is operating off a dirt road, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of bulldozers and workers. The rescue usually has 10 cottages for its dogs, but is now limited to five, fitting about six dogs each, and staff is working out of temporary trailers. Each cottage had to be moved to accommodate the expansion. Potential owners must also make an appointment to visit, and must wait in their car until called. But that has not stopped them from adopting.

"In 2020, we adopted out 1,800 cats and dogs, close to our 2,000 number pre-Covid," says Nate's Honor Rescue president Rob Ogelsby. "Now, we have about 120 animals in our care at a given time, and about 40-50 adoptions per week."

The "Journey Home" campaign has made 70 percent of its $10 million goal, with each donation being matched 100 percent by an anonymous donor. (Whatever is left over from the donor match will go toward supplies and daily operations.) The expansion will consist of a 22,000 square-foot welcome and adoption center and a 4,500 square-foot intake building, which will hold more than 120 dogs and 60 cats at a time, increasing the shelter's rescue capacity by 25 percent. The welcome center will have a veterinary clinic, full-service grooming center, visitor's café and event rooms where the public can host parties.

Rendering of the new site.

"We are also planning to have a new dog water play center with zero-entry swimming pool," says Ogelsby. "There will also be a covered patio, open green space and walking paths to help train dogs prior to being adopted." Cats will also have a new indoor/outdoor enclosure so people can interact with them.

The expansion has been four years in the making, broken into several phases. The entire property had to be raised two feet, including existing buildings, to fit new underground storm drains so it no longer floods. Benderson Development is the site's general contractor, employing 50-60 workers on a daily basis installing plumbing and electricity. Ogelsby says that going to work every day is a different experience.

"We're most looking forward to the opportunities the community will have to come out and visit and become more involved," he says. Training classes will be offered to all pets and owners in the community, to help keep them trained and out of shelters. The new veterinary wing will include trained medical staff that specialize in shelter medicine, and serve as a typical veterinary office, allowing pets from the inside and outside to receive crucial care.

"Many places that do not have the capacity to nurse or train dogs and cats will sadly euthanize them," says Ogelsby. "With this upgrade, we are hoping to double our number of dogs saved each year to more than 3,000."

Nate's is typically 99 percent volunteer-run, but due to the pandemic, the shelter is running on six staff members and a handful of volunteers. Once things start to reopen at a larger capacity, shelter staff are hoping to welcome volunteers back to a brand-new building, whether they are serving as a dog walker, kitty cuddler or treat distributor.

"Whether it's children having a birthday party, school field trips or corporate events, we want to be more involved with the community, and expand our support system," says Ogelsby. "Hopefully by the end of construction, things will be normal enough to have a big grand opening party so everyone can come out and see this place."

To donate to Nate's Honor Animal Rescue's Journey Home Campaign, click here. Nate's Honor Animal Rescue is located at 4951 Lorraine Road, Bradenton.

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