Humane Society volunteers jokingly say they moved from "hell to heaven" in one step. Anyone who visited the old pound can best appreciate the new facility.
"We wanted this to be a fun place, much in contrast to where we came from, which was quite depressing. So, this is, we wanted it to be almost like a children's museum, but for pets. And we've done that," said Tara High, executive director of the Humane Society for South Mississippi.
High was all smiles as she showed guests around the spacious, colorful and inviting adoption area of the animal shelter.
Two-year-old Chaise Deaver was having fun looking for a pet. Actually, his mom was helping him pick a puppy. The inviting atmosphere of the adoption area is helping the shelter set new records for adoptions: more than 400 a month lately.
"I think the community is more comfortable coming in. And then they have an opportunity to see the wonderful animals. You would not believe the animals that come into our shelter," said director High.
"Gosh, is that not handsome?" said Cheryl High, as the volunteer "foster parent" picked up a litter of eight puppies.
Volunteers like her give the puppies temporary homes.
"They're too small right now to adopt out, because they can't be spayed or neutered. And they need care for about two to four weeks," she said.
There's plenty of room for expansion at the seven acre site. Construction is already underway on phase two, a project that will eventually include an education wing and a dog park.
Volunteers, workers and visitors can't say enough about the dramatic difference between the old and new.
"Compared to anyplace in the country, this is state of the art. And we have it right here in Gulfport, Mississippi. So, it's real exciting," said Tara High.
The shelter is in need of volunteers. The facility is open seven days a week. Volunteer duties include everything from clerical work to dog walking and washing.
Hours for volunteers are flexible. If you'd like to donate your time, you can contact the Humane Society of South Mississippi at (228) 863-4394 ext. 115.