Summit's Dream Home - A Work in Progress
We’re making progress toward our long-awaited dream home on North Whidbey Island, after more than 15 years of being mostly home based, with staff and volunteers housing our puppies and adult dogs. Lack of a quality kennel and training facility has limited our ability to increase the number of service dogs we place each year, so we are looking forward to all this new facility will offer us and our waiting applicants.
In the summer of 2014, we were able to purchase a piece of property – 17 lovely acres just north of Oak Harbor. Since then, we have been working with architects, engineers and Island County officials to develop a site plan and prepare the necessary permit documents for county review. We’re hoping to have completed county reviews by late summer 2016 so we can hold a public hearing and get final county approvals in the fall.
Our proposed development includes spaces for kennels and training, administrative offices, and short-term, temporary housing for our clients as they are learning to work with their service-dog partners. Once we have county approval and our capital campaign is underway, we will begin site preparation. Build-out would occur over several years, with kennels, training and administrative spaces the first priorities.
This is the beginning of a whole new era for Summit Assistance Dogs, which started in the basement of Founder/Executive Director Sue Meinzinger’s home on Guemes Island in the spring of 2000. It’s a critical component of our strategic growth plan to meet the high demand for service dogs in the Northwest. We are grateful for the support of our donors and volunteers over the years and look forward to sharing this dream with you as it develops.
Initial architects’ concept designs for the proposed Summit Assistance Dogs facility
Whidbey Island Property Plan Q & A
Why is Summit building a training and kenneling facility?
It has been our dream since our founding in 2000 to have a quality kennel and training facility for our service dogs. For the past several years, we have been unable to increase the number of service dogs we are placing due to our limited capacity for housing and training them. We have relied on volunteer foster homes and our training staff to house our dogs, and we have limited resources available for this purpose. We frequently miss out on opportunities to bring in great dogs because we are unable to find housing for them. A facility will allow us to train more dogs and to use our resources much more efficiently, thereby increasing the supply of service dogs to our clients, who currently wait 2-5 years to receive their partners. A facility also creates a sense of permanence for the organization, something our donors typically value and are eager to invest in.
Why has Summit chosen to purchase property on Whidbey Island?
Whidbey Island has large tracts of land and zoning codes conducive for our needs. We have been searching for almost 10 years in Skagit and Island counties and are excited to have found this lovely 17-acre parcel. We will work to maintain its rural character, in keeping with our values and those of our donors and volunteers.
How big will your facility be and how much will it cost to build?
We anticipate having approximately 16,000 square feet of structures at full build out. We are committed to siting the buildings where they will be buffered from neighboring properties, and we will incorporate water and energy efficiency and sustainability into our designs. We estimate needing to raise approximately $4 million dollars to complete our project, which will include basic site development and the construction of buildings which will contain kennels, training space and administrative offices, and temporary housing for our clients as they come to our facility to learn how to care for and use their assistance dogs.
How many dogs and what kinds will you have?
We are seeking approval for up to 50 dogs, but we generally would have fewer than that. Many of our dogs will still spend time in foster homes and at the Monroe Correctional Complex, where we have a very successful training partnership. Many of our potential service dogs are Labs, but we also sometimes use Golden Retrievers and mixed breeds, some of whom we rescue from shelters if they are good candidates for service dogs.
What makes Summit’s facility different from other dog facilities?
Ours is not a traditional boarding or training kennel, where people pay to have their dogs housed or trained while they are away. We carefully select our own dogs for our training program and accept only those with calm, gentle and quiet demeanors, conducive to their training as service dogs. Unlike pets, our dogs, by law, are granted access with their disabled partners into almost all public places. This requires having dogs who are well-mannered, quiet and totally non-aggressive to people or other animals. Candidates who do not meet these requirements are quickly re-homed as pets or move on to other careers.
Do you receive government funding?
No, we have received no government funding to date. We are funded entirely by generous donors and foundations.
How will your development benefit Whidbey Island?
Staff, volunteers, donors and clients who work at or visit our facility are very likely to patronize local businesses. We are also likely to employ local people as we grow. Summit already has many committed volunteers and donors on Whidbey Island who will find it easier to support the organization when we are located there. Stories about our life-changing work receive a great amount of positive media coverage. Summit Assistance Dogs is an organization that the Whidbey community can be proud to support.