An Oak Park animal shelter is expanding its space to help better serve cats and dogs in the area.

The Animal Care League is already a month into construction at its building on Garfield. They’re doubling the size of the clinic they use to spay and neuter cats and dogs and are doing so with the help of a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, said Executive Director Tom Van Winkle.

“We’ve had a tremendous number of calls for help, and we can only do as much as we have room for,” he said. “So, the demand is driving the decision, and also the economy has helped us on the construction side, because we were able to get a good price from the contractors.”

The shelter is building a two-story addition on a grassy area behind 1011 Garfield, which is right next door to their main building. The first floor of the 1,200-square-foot add-on will be used for the clinic, while the shelter will use the second floor for storage. Van Winkle says they could use the second floor for something else in the future, if one of their other programs needs to grow.

“It is extra space we don’t really need right now, but it’s cheaper to add it as we’re doing construction now, rather than doing it again a few years from now,” he said.

The grassy yard is currently a play-area for dogs, but the shelter plans to move it across the street. Adam Bauer-Golden, a volunteer, is working to double the size of the play area across the street and has raised $300 toward erecting a fence.

The addition will cost about $150,000, which Van Winkle says they are paying for with a loan from a River Forest resident, who wishes to remain anonymous. Construction started in March and they hope to finish by the end of June.

Van Winkle says the shelter has seen a “tremendous” surge in the amount of people who can’t afford surgery for their pets because of the economy. Adoptions have started to pick up, but fundraising isn’t what it was before the recession.

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com

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