CAPE CORAL, Fla. - Southwest Florida's largest city may soon have its first animal shelter.
The Gulf Coast Humane Society says it's working with city leaders now to scout locations for a proposed second shelter, similar to it's current shelter on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Fort Myers.
Shelter executive director Jennifer Galloway watches new cats and dogs come into the Fort Myers location almost everyday, and often faster than they can be adopted out to new and loving homes. Space is often at a premium in any animal shelter.
"It's huge," Galloway said of the plans to expand into Cape Coral. "[The city] has no brick and mortar facility. So for people to surrender a pet or adopt a pet, they have to cross the bridge and come to Fort Myers. They won't have to do that now."
Galloway puts early cost estimates on the project at around $2.2 million. Every penny will have to be raised through fundraisers and individual donations.
The first fundraiser kicked off Friday evening at Wicked Dolphin Artisan Rum distillery in Cape Coral. The owners are big supporters of the project, and invited Galloway to speak with guests and city leaders at the event.
Galloway recalls some of the most difficult times for the areas three shelters.
"During the economic downturn, there were a lot of dogs and cats being left in homes and in backyards in the Cape," she said. "It's because people had no resource, they had nowhere to go."
Galloway said a fourth shelter, and the first in the in the county's most populous city, will help ease some of the strain on other locations. Officials have not settled on a site for the new shelter, saying they are reviewing options that include renovating existing structures and building new. Plans are to be open and adopting out pets by the end of 2016.
"The shelter that we're going to bring to Cape Coral is going to be softer an gentler," Galloway said. "It's going to feel more home-like. So when you see the dogs playing, it's going to feel like we're in the backyard."