Alaqua Animal Refuge recently unveiled the first phase of its plan to expand to a new 100-acre property located along State Highway 20 near the intersection of J.W. Hollington Road in Freeport.
The new property will become a one-of-a-kind animal facility and sanctuary, the first of its kind anywhere in the US.
Founded in 2007 by local resident Laurie Hood, the dream and vision for Alaqua Animal Refuge has always been to grow the shelter and expand its scope of animal welfare services to the community and beyond.
“From the very beginning, I wanted a place that would be different than traditional animal shelters. I wanted a place where happy animals would be surrounded by a pristine environment, making it peaceful to adopt and volunteer,” said Hood. “I wanted a place where animals of all sizes, shapes and kinds could heal and be provided shelter, safety and a second chance of life.”
Alaqua Animal Refuge is currently located on 10 acres of land on Whitfield Road, off Alaqua Creek in a major flood zone.
This factor was the ultimate impetus to begin the search for a new location where the animals could be safe from the threat of hurricanes, heavy rain and flooding and where the Refuge could continue to grow their mission.
Hood’s dream was jumpstarted by a generous gift of 85 acres from the late M.C. Davis and his wife Stella. An additional 15 acres were purchased with funds from a private donation. Together, this 100-acre parcel is the perfect peaceful, serene setting for the new refuge.
Phase I of the new conceptual plan reflects a strategic site design that has been carefully created with public outreach, education, and streamlined animal care in mind, making Hood’s vision one step closer to becoming a reality.
The new development will will be designed like a close-knit community or small town and will include multiple pastures for horses and other animals; a state-of-the-art horse arena where events of all kinds can take place; an on-site restaurant and garden-like seating area; a chapel surrounded by woods for grieving families to have a place to hold memorial services for their pets; walking paths and trails; an expanded adoption center with a home-like environment; new animal and educational exhibits; and an advanced medical facility.
With the new plans, Alaqua aims to create a facility and sanctuary for animals, residents, and visitors alike.
Onsite activities could entail weekend seminars on horse care or canine obedience; assisting local law enforcement with education and hands-on examples of cruelty cases that will enable them to process their cases more effectively; and the expansion of Alaqua’s current programs such as their Equine Interactions Program and children’s educational programs.
In addition, rustic cottages have been included as part of the overall design to provide a space for interns from veterinary schools to learn new skills or for future sanctuary founders to experience what Alaqua has to offer.
Alaqua’s ultimate goal is to become a destination for animal welfare advocates throughout the country and a model for the future of animal refuges.
Designers and architects include Mark Schnell of Schnell Urban Design; Erik Vogt and Marieanne Khoury-Vogt of Khoury-Vogt Architects / Office of the Town Architect, Alys Beach; and Tony Vallee, of Anthony J. Vallee, Architect LLC. Engineers and land use consultants include: Cliff Knauer and Bill Menadier of Dewberry | Preble-Rish; Matt Aresco of Nokuse Plantation; and Jim Fowler, zoologist and former host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
“I’m excited to be involved in this amazing project,” said Mark Schnell. “Alaqua Animal Refuge is an essential part of this community, and I believe wholeheartedly in the organization’s efforts on behalf of animals. For all of these reasons–and on behalf of our rescue dog Lucy, too–I’m proud to support the organization through my design work.”
Hood is pleased and thankful to the community for all their support.
“Through the help of many individuals and organizations, this once small rescue organization has blossomed into one that is making a tremendous impact on our community and others around us,” she said. “I could not be happier to see the vision come alive and continue to do this work on behalf of animals everywhere.”