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“Building a Place Where Happiness Begins” is More Than Just a Building

AWA’s new facility will reimagine how companion animals are cared for

Image credit: AWA

For more than 70 years, the nationally recognized and award winning, Animal Welfare Association (AWA) has been dedicated to saving the lives of companion animals in our community.

To ensure another successful 70 years, AWA is now in the planning process to build a new animal care and education center. The 15,000 sq. ft. center will replace the current, well-used 5,000 sq. ft. facility.

Maya Richmond, AWA Executive Director explained, Picture yourself far away from home, from all the things you know – deposited for an unknown reason in a strange place where you don’t know anyone. What would help you cope? To enable pets to remain as healthy and happy as possible, we must attend to both their physical and emotional needs.”

Helping to meet these needs, AWA hopes to include a kitten nursery, get acquainted rooms, “real life” rooms, new exercise yards and walking trails, “catios”, a cat tunnel, gardens for growing herbs and vegetables to use for pet enrichment….and so much more.

With 55% of the fundraising goal achieved, AWA has sought the planning expertise of Rick Bacon, FAIA, LEED-AP BD+C, an internationally recognized animal shelter design consultant to help with the creation of a state-of-the-art animal care shelter and education center. Bacon has worked with leading animal welfare organizations across the county.

Photo of architect Rick Bacon provided

Richmond shares: “His use of open space inside an abandoned car dealership created all glass community cat rooms in the lobby of for Atlanta Humane Society,” and after a fire destroyed Jacksonville Humane Society “Rick’s expertise and leadership helped that organization with their rebuilding with an eye for improving animal care.”

Bacon’s knowledge of how animal sheltering has changed over the years, and what the animals and people need today, makes his addition to the AWA new building team a true asset,” said Richmond.

Key to the planning process is determining how the wide range of current and new programs and services will best be accommodated.

In keeping with AWA’s commitment to the community, the new facility hopes to allow the expansion of outreach programs like Well-Mannered Dog (dog training classes), Feral-Fix-It (spay/neuter/vaccination program for feral cats), Kids Kamps (week-long summer camps), Pawsitive Readers (children reading to pets), Special Paws (skills training for special needs youth), Pet Pantry (pet food for families in need), and Employable You (job skills training for Camden County youth, providing them with hands-on learning and mentoring.

According to Bacon: Today’s animal shelters must meet a variety of needs. They need to be functional, but welcoming; welcoming, but not appear extravagant; they need to showcase pets in an appealing way, but also provide secure space for pets who are ill; they need to serve the current needs of the surrounding community, but with an eye to how demographics may shift over time.”

With the community’s support, AWA believes its plan to “Build a Place Where Happiness Begins” will be successfully realized, breaking ground in early 2020 – and serving pets and people for another 70 years.

About AWA:

Animal Welfare Association, a private, non-profit, 501(c) (3) animal welfare organization, serves the people and animals of southern New Jersey. AWA is dedicated to eliminating animal suffering, promoting the importance of the human-animal bond, and improving the role of animals in the well- being of people. Through a variety of programs including adoptions, veterinary services, pet therapy, and humane education, in 2018 over 23,000 pets were served through AWA programming.

If you would like more information about AWA and its capital campaign to “Build a Place Where Happiness Begins”, please contact Maya Richmond at 856-424-2288, ext. 109, email

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