Animal center breaks ground for expansion


HWAC’s plans to grow have been 18 years coming

With help from two spunky shih tzus wearing mini hard hats, the Helen Woodward Animal Center finally broke ground on its new expansion project on Aug. 22.

The plan had been for Mikey and Dusty, pets of Woodward board member Togo Hazard, to be lured into digging at the groundbreaking site. The dig didn’t happen but the dogs happily obliged the photo opportunity.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am today,” HWAC President Mike Arms said. “This is many years in the making.”

Bryce Rhodes, the chairman of the board of directors and grandson of Helen Woodward, talked about just how long a process the expansion has been.

“It was 18 years ago that we first started talking about today,” Rhodes said. “We have been planning seriously for eight years and thought we were going to break ground in 2006.”

It has been a tough road, as Supervisor Bill Horn’s representative Christi Knight said.

There was a point when the county wanted the center to pay transportation impact fees, including a million-dollar roundabout in Rancho Santa Fe village.

Knight said Horn fought hard so the center would not have to pay for those impacts, especially considering that “the residents of the center don’t actually drive.”

The center will grow from 63,000 square feet of indoor uses to 115,000 square feet with two new buildings and one remodeled building. Administration, the small animal hospital, the equine hospital and Club Pet boarding facility will all be expanded

The adoption center will move indoors as will their therapeutic riding program’s arena, allowing them to expand the program more than ever, public relations representative John Van Zante said.

“We’re not just buildings,” Arms said. “We’re building the future, we’re building change, something that will make a difference for animals and people for years to come.”

Before the groundbreaking, Arms presented a tearjerker of a video about HWAC’s mission. Set to the song “I’ll Stand By You,” the video showed rescued animals including dogs from Hurricane Katrina and a kitten that was shot by a pellet gun. Their happy endings were also shown, the pets with their new families in happy homes.

“My only wish is that my granddaughter asks me one day ‘Is it true that they actually killed animals in this country?’ because it will be something of the past,” Arms said.