The Exeter Township Zoning Board has given provisional approval for the Humane Society's proposed dog park and equine rescue center!
The park would be at 503 S. Center Road (Route 345) near the Pioneer Crossing Landfill.
The board still needs to hammer out a couple requirements and take a public vote on July 19, then send us back to the Planning Commission and then to the Township Supervisors for final approval, but the zoning issue was our biggest hurdle.
I know that the many e-mails, letters, and personal conversations our supporters had with representatives of Exeter made a difference - thank you!
But we're not done yet and we still need your help and support. Learn more about the project below, as well as how you can help make this dream a reality by summer's end!
The Danielle Ruiz-Murphy Center of the Humane Society of Berks County
The Humane Society of Berks County is excited to be a partner with the Mascaro family in bringing Exeter Township and Berks County its first public dog park and a dedicated equine rescue facility.
The animal welfare center, to be named in memory of Mascaro family member Danielle Ruiz-Murphy, will offer dog lovers and the general public an off-leash dog park with small- and large-dog sections, leashed walking paths, a pavilion and picnic areas.
The nine-acre property will also be home to an equine rescue and adoption center.
The Ruiz-Murphy Center is an exceptional opportunity for the Humane Society to fulfill its animal welfare mission. The Mascaro family is donating the cost of all site improvements, dog park creation, parking facilities, field stalls, a new barn and renovation of the existing barn, fencing and more. These improvements will cost approximately $250,000.
Once the improvements are complete and final approval received from Exeter Township, the Humane Society will lease the facility for ten years for $1 a year.
The total value of this donation is between $750,000 and $1 million, and is the single largest donation in the HSBC's 110 year history.
In addition to this benefit for the HSBC, the property is being leased and not purchased, meaning the property stays on the tax roles. As a 501c3 charity, the HSBC would be exempt from property taxes if we owned the property.
This gives Exeter Township a fully funded, professionally operated, public park at no cost to their tax payers and no loss of tax revenue. Now, that is a win-win.
After construction, expected to be completed by mid-summer, and township approval, which we hope will be granted swiftly so we can start helping animals, the Humane Society and our staff and volunteers will take over operation of the facility.
HSBC staff, veterinarians, and volunteers will oversee the day-to-day operations and animal rescue activities.
The Ruiz-Murphy Center will serve not only as a haven for dog lovers, a refuge for equines in need, and a respite for the public.
We hope that it will also serve as an example for Exeter and other municipalities and inspire the opening of other dog-friendly parks in Berks.
We want this to be the first step in making Berks the leader in dog parks in Pennsylvania!
Please thank the Mascaro family for their generosity and share your support of the zoning board's recent decision and of the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisor's speedy approval of the project!
All too often they only hear from the public when we're unhappy. This is your chance to tell them how appreciative you are that they are helping the Humane Society and their residents and neighbors to take advantage of this amazing opportunity!
Throughout much of the nation, dog parks have been springing up for years and are an accepted and expected part of the community. Unfortunately, Berks Residents have not had that opportunity. The Ruiz-Murphy Center's Dog Park will change all that!
Dog owners will be able to bring their dogs to the park for safe, secure off-leash fun and play. The fenced park will include special safety gates to protect dogs from escape. The park will be split into sections for large and small (or shy) dogs. A shady seating area will be provided for the dogs' human companions so they can get to know their fellow park goers.
Handy doggy waste collection bag dispensers will be on hand, as well as waste receptacles. Humans will, of course, be expected to clean up after their dogs promptly. Everyone is welcome as long as everyone follows some simple rules which will be posted on site and online at http://www.berkshumane.org/">www.berkshumane.org when the park opens.
All dogs and their humans will be expected to follow all state and local animal control and dog laws (dogs should be licensed, legally vaccinated, and under control at all times). Failure to obey all posted rules and all applicable laws could result in being barred from the park. Not to mention the ugly eye you'll get from your fellow park goers. But we're sure everyone will play nicely together and follow the rules!
Remember, just because the Ruiz-Murphy Center Dog Park will be free and open to the public doesn't mean it will be free to run for the Humane Society. We hope you'll support the park through generous donations to the Humane Society or by volunteering your time!
Refuge for Homeless and Abused Equines
Another very real problem facing our region is the lack of space available for the rescue and care of animals such as horses and other agricultural or non-traditional companion animals. Equines, at least, will now have a dedicated facility in Berks to receive the care, temporary housing and adoption services they need.
At the Ruiz-Murphy Equine Rescue Center, equines in need - the homeless, the abandoned, the abused - will be housed in a modern barn with several acres of pasture. HSBC staff, volunteers, and our staff veterinarians will give them the TLC they need to make the transition to new forever homes. Best of all, the public will have an opportunity to see and interact with the horses and maybe even decide to adopt!
The Equine Center will also be available to assist in emergencies and natural disasters as a resource for the Berks County Animal Response Team, which falls under the directions of Berks EMA and PEMA during emergency and disaster activations.
Until now, rescued horses have been housed until adoption at volunteer foster farms. Although this has been a life saver for horses like Bucky and Echo (left), it's a lot to ask. (Thanks, Elwell family - you're bricks!). Plus, far fewer people get to meet them at a private farm. We're very much looking forward to bringing Bucky and Echo to the Ruiz-Murphy Equine Rescue Center to be our first horses available for adoption!
If you know anything about horses you know that you need to know a bit about horses. We're calling out to horse-knowledgeable folks who wish to help as volunteers caring for our equine guests. We're also rounding up some much needed equipment now that we expect the go ahead from the Exeter zoning folks. We hope you'll check out our updated Ruiz-Murphy Center wish list.
How You Can Help Now and Later
Getting the park is only half the battle!
First, we haven't received our final approvals yet. We still need Exeter Township to give us the A-OK, without placing too many burdensome planning expenses on us as if we were putting in a strip mall or housing development.
The officials have been fantastic to us so far and have indicated they would waive any unnecessary (and expensive) planning requirements. Please tell them how much you appreciate that by sending Exeter Township a thank you e-mail.
Also, although the Mascaro Family has been super, crazy generous, we've still had some organizational costs in getting this project off the ground. Please help us be able to undertake this project and other forward-thinking, groundbreaking projects like it in the future by making a financial donation of any amount.
We're also going to need some product and service donations that are specific to an equine and dog park facility: Clean hay and straw, horse care equipment and products, field tractor and mower, lawn and garden tractor, a porta-potty and/or pumping services, and more.
Please check out our updated wish list. You may have something sitting around that will do us more good than it's doing you! Remember, donations are deductible to the extent allowed by law and that deduction might be just what you need to give you an excuse to get that NEW field tractor for yourself! Click here to check out our list!
Did I mention money? It may not be polite to blunt about money, but allow me to be impolite: Stuff like this takes money. Saving animals' lives takes money. If you want to have a strong Humane Society of Berks County which can bring you things like dog parks and equine rescue centers and comprehensive vet care for pets in need and the best adoption facilities and staff and volunteers to help animals, you need to help us pay for it.
We don't get tax subsidized, we aren't funded by national animal groups, we don't have big government contracts, and we don't get local United Way/Fund distributions. We rely on you and your generosity. Please show it today by making a donation or registering for an event. We make it easy and fun. But we need you to do it. You know how everyone always says, "Somebody ought to do something about that..."? Well, we are! Please, help us out so we can keep it up!
The Humane Society of Berks County's animal welfare centers (Reading, Douglassville and soon Exeter!) serve all of Berks County and surrounding communities, providing shelter and veterinary and other services to tens of thousands of animals and their people each year. It is a nationally recognized, award-winning, private, nonprofit organization funded through donations and service fees. In addition to enforcing Pennsylvania's animal cruelty laws, the Humane Society offers adoption services, veterinary services, low-cost spay and neuter services, humane education, pet behavioral counseling, and help to stray, injured and mistreated animals.