In a palm-studded courtyard where happily adopted dogs and their owners gathered for the annual Christmas tree lighting, The Humane Society of St. Thomas announced a $100,000 Prior Family Foundation match program that will enable it to open its new campus in early 2011.
The Prior Family Foundation will match dollar for dollar every donation up to $100,000. Islandwide support was also given by St. Thomas restaurants who pledged ten percent of the bill of any customer who presented a society voucher to the match program.
Trudie Prior spoke at the festive event about her concern for the animals in the old Nadir shelter , the inspiration for the family donation. After the recent heavy rains which flooded the site, she felt it was a disgrace and a shame that the animals could not be moved to the new campus for such a small shortfall.
Since 2003, $7 million dollars has been raised and invested in the new campus, which will be much more than a shelter. With the Prior match, donations of just more than one percent of the entire cost will enable a move to the new venue.
The home stretch to completion has been fraught with construction obstacles, including a plumbing system that was installed the wrong way and would have brought animal waste up rather than down. Terraces, parking lot and plantings have had to be redone.
At the breezy new hilltop location, across from Cost-U-Less animals will be housed and cared for in pristine conditions and the campus will function as a community center for education and training, ranging from a new Virgin Islands Police Department K-9 training yard to dog-walking nature trails landscaped with native plants and trees. Education programs will use the Neil and Trudie Prior Community Courtyard outdoor classrooms, focusing on a spread of animal-based topics: natural habitats and animal welfare, and animal abuse and care.
Memberships, starting at $30 per year, comes with the right to frolic with your dog on the Margot Bachman Play Area and Dog Walking Trail, which extends over a wetland habitat and bird sanctuary and is landscaped with plants and trees unique to the Virgin Islands, including two recently listed endangered species – agave eggersiana and solanum conocarpus.