Lynne Meloccaro is on a mission to transform the way her community cares for its animals.
Meloccaro was appointed executive director of the Dutchess County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York’s Hudson Valley after some pretty rocky years. Although it’s the second oldest SPCA in the United States, founded in 1871, the organization had fallen on hard financial times.
Under Meloccaro’s leadership, the DCSPCA aims to become more of a community resource organization than a shelter. Where traditional shelters might simply take in animals and allow them to sit in the shelter for years, the DCSPCA is offering programs and services to the public designed to help people keep their animals. Field teams make home visits to help families with dog behavior or teach cats to use the litter box, pet food pantries help people who are struggling financially, and emergency medical payment programs help people afford expensive veterinary care.
“It’s a more modern and progressive view of shelters that has really begun to take hold in the United States,” Meloccaro says.
After opening a new, modern building to house its shelter in 2015, the next phase in the DCSPCA’s revitalization is to move its medical clinic out of an obsolete 50-year-old structure. The organization brought in Germantown, New York, design firm PSA Studios and contractor Andlynn Construction to design an addition to the main building that would unify the operations. And a philanthropic offer of free work from local propane provider Kimlin Energy Services cleared a costly obstacle to beginning the project.
Heating a veterinary facility
The new addition will allow the DCSPCA to provide better care for animals by offering a more sanitary space, Meloccaro says. “The old building was actually the original shelter building and really never suitable to be a medical facility.” The new facility will have a radiograph room, which wasn’t available in the old facility, and will have much better ventilation.
But given the DCSPCA’s financial situation, the project also had very tight budget constraints. “A lot of our work has been focused on problem solving for them in this project,” says Peter Sweeney, owner and founder of PSA Studios. “Since it’s an addition, we’ve tried to work with building finishes and systems consistent with the existing building.”
The 11,000-square-foot main building uses propane water heaters and is heated by propane packaged rooftop units (RTUs). The 2,000-square-foot addition will use a 7.5-ton propane RTU along with an energy recovery ventilator, says Doug Strawinski, president of Andlynn Construction. “Seven and a half tons for 2,000 square feet is pretty big but only because it had to be designed to get fresh air into the building and yet still make it comfortable.”
Providing adequate ventilation and comfort is critical for a medical facility, especially in New York’s colder climate. “It’s hard enough for an animal to be in a shelter,” Meloccaro says. “The experience should be made as comfortable for them as possible by having adequate climate control.”
Although natural gas is available in the nearby town of Poughkeepsie, the lines have never been extended within reach of the DCSPCA, making propane a vital necessity. Sweeney has completed several geothermal projects, but he knew from the start that the technology wouldn’t make sense for this smaller project. The old medical facility was heated by oil, which Meloccaro says she is eager to avoid. “It’s polluting. I don’t think it’s great to have the animals around it. But I feel like the propane is efficient and it’s clean. We are very happy working with a great company like Kimlin.”
Improving the standard of care
Max Kimlin loves animals and has three dogs himself. Knowing that SPCAs use a lot of energy to heat their large buildings, the president of Kimlin Energy Services contacted several SPCA organizations, including DCSPCA, to donate some fuel. But with the DCSPCA, the timing happened to be right for an even closer relationship.
To make room for the new addition, DCSPCA needed to move and replace its two old underground propane tanks — an added expense on an already thin budget. Kimlin offered to excavate the old tanks and install new tanks and gas lines for the existing building and future addition for free, along with a deeply discounted rate for the propane itself.
“Kimlin is almost a throwback to a company that understands and feels that it has a civic responsibility to the community,” Meloccaro says. “So they basically arranged the whole thing, and we’re happy to be Kimlin propane customers for a long time.”
Kimlin also ran a line for a future propane standby generator — an important improvement to the DCSPCA’s standard of care. “We have live animals here 24 hours a day,” Meloccaro says. “If the electricity goes out, that’s putting these animals in danger. Because we have to be so sanitary, we need to make sure that the washing machines are working, especially in the hospital. Some of these animals are on equipment that needs to be running.”
While the DCSPCA is waiting on permits from the town planning board to begin work on the addition, the organization’s future under Meloccaro’s leadership is bright. In the years since she joined the organization, the DCSPCA’s live release rate — the numbers of animals that leave the shelter to be adopted — has risen from 77 percent to 97 percent, in large part due to the support of the community willing to step up.
With smart system selection and design solutions that prioritize the client’s budget, Andlynn Construction and PSA Studios are ensuring the new infrastructure won’t return the DCSPCA to the financial strain it faced in the past. “Working collaboratively with Doug and the DCSPCA, we arrived at something they can afford to do,” Sweeney says. “We think it’s a simple project, but it marries itself pretty well to the existing building. That’s going to get them a long way to unifying their operations in a much more efficient way.”