FREEPORT — Construction on the new Alaqua Animal Refuge is in the works.
Since its founding in 2007, the number of animals housed by the shelter has grown to the point that founder and president Laurie Hood said it is "slammed full."
Now, following years of preparation, she expects the new $15 million, 100-acre sanctuary to be up and running sometime next year.
"When I started Alaqua, we never intended or even dreamed that we would become as big as we are now," said Hood, who added that the refuge's monthly expenses total about $100,000.
The new-and-improved headquarters will be just off State Road 20 in Freeport, about 10 minutes from the current 8-acre facility.
Roads, retention ponds and infrastructures are complete, Hood said, and a new "medical super shed" is being built.
The 8,000-square-foot shed will house all the services from the refuge's existing property.
"We knew that we were not going to be on this property forever, so as we added new animal buildings and animal enclosures. We designed those and purchased those so they could easily be moved," she said. "It's going to be our new quarantine area."
Hood hopes that any day Alaqua will get construction permit for its new welcome center. She described the center — which will boast offices, gift shops and adoptions rooms — as the "epicenter of the entire refuge."
Other features of the upscale sanctuary include dog suites, bird flight aviaries, interactive animal exhibits and a vegetarian café.
On Oct. 18-19, Alaqua will host the 6th annual 100 Point and Cult Wine Dinner at its new location. The event not only will raise money for the refuge, but give guests a chance to check out the new location.
Along with the "high dollar, rare wine dinner," Hood said Alaqua will also host a ticketed event the same days featuring singers and songwriters from Nashville.
Looking ahead, she said last-minute funding is the only hurdle left to jump. With the help of a grant from the Dugas Family Foundation, which will match up to $1 million collected from fundraising before December 2020, Hood hopes the new facility will be right around the corner.
"We can definitely continue to make a difference, but in even such a bigger way than we are now," she said.