LEMOORE — Work began last week on a project to expand the Lemoore-based Stonecliffe Animal Rescue, adding to the no-kill shelter’s rapid growth over the past year.
Terri Stonehocker, president and operator of Stonecliffe, said the 1,060-square-foot expansion will add a three-room maternity ward, four 6-by-20-foot pens and two 6-by-10-foot pens.
The project will cost at least $20,000 to complete. Although donations will help the cause, Stonehocker said she intends to finish it one way or another.
“It’s going to happen,” she said. “I’m going to make it happen. I don’t pull a salary. I have two part-time people here. It’ll happen. Just more adoptions, more hard work, more volunteers, more fostering.”
The maternity ward will be enclosed and ventilated to provide a quiet environment, free from flies or other potential sources of disease, until puppies are old enough to be placed in foster homes. The larger pens will be used to house larger breeds of dogs, which Stonehocker said have been in high demand at their bi-monthly adoption events in the Bay Area.
“We’ve got a lot of people wanting large-breed puppies and medium-sized breed puppies up there,” Stonehocker said. “My kennels just aren’t large enough for those large breeds. So I need larger kennels to accommodate some of these dogs.”
The existing kennels can keep about 50 dogs comfortably, although she has had to keep more than 100 in special cases. The expansion would increase the capacity to at least 75. As of Friday, Stonecliffe had more than 100 dogs in kennels or in foster homes.
Stonehocker said she tries not to rescue animals outside of Kings County. As it is, she took in 27 new animals last week alone. But shelters throughout the Valley have caught wind of Stonecliffe and have sought out her help.
Last month, Stonehocker said, she rescued five terrier mixes — all brothers — from a pound in Coalinga. All five were thin and malnourished when she found them. After just three weeks at Stonecliffe, they were playful and in good health.
“That’s three weeks of happy puppies, fat happy puppies,” she said. “And they’re so calm and they’re so quiet. They’re going to make great dogs for someone.”
Founded in 2003, Stonecliffe has grown rapidly over the past year. Stonehocker said just a year ago, the whole operation depended on herself, board member Carol Gallegos and dog trainer Tony Gallegos. There are now at least a dozen regular volunteers throughout the state, plus additional help at adoption events.
Stonecliffe has gained even more support thanks to Buddy Days, where members of the public can volunteer their time to help train and socialize dogs to make them more adoptable.
“A good thing about Buddy Days is that actually the dogs look forward to it,” Stonehocker said. “A lot of people have made comments that it’s so disorganized. Tony Gallegos is out here, he’s a professional dog trainer, and he watches everyone working with the dogs. They’re basically just walking the dogs, teaching them to lead and giving them an opportunity to be handled and touched.”
The organization found homes for more than 500 dogs in 2011 and has already adopted out more than 400 dogs this year.
“Eventually down the road, depending on how my finances are after we finish this, we want to put in a play area,” Stonehocker said. “But that’s all down the road. We’re going to take care of this first. I’m pretty excited.”
The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or meiman@HanfordSentinel.com.