Cleveland APL Expansion Will Bring Innovative Care to the City

At the heart of the Cleveland Animal Protective League is a series of core values, including compassion, leadership, and innovation. These values drive all that the APL does, and are perhaps most clearly articulated through their current capital campaign, Unleash the Dream. The multi-year campaign aims to raise $13.5 million, all of which will be directed towards renovating and expanding the APL facility located on Willey Avenue, adjacent to the Fairmont Creamery.

The Tremont buildings were renovated in the 1980s and 1990s, but it was clear to APL President and CEO Sharon Harvey that the time had come to renovate again to better serve the community.

“We were inspired by more recent advances in animal welfare,” Sharon explained when we met to discuss Unleash the Dream. “We wanted to be able to provide more innovative care, and for our spaces to function with more flexibility.”

The APL took specific inspiration from the “Fear-Free®” initiative, which originated at veterinary clinics. The initiative focused on reducing animals’ stress levels by increasing access to fresh air, reducing sound pollution, reducing interspecies interaction, and instituting calming color palettes. With this initiative in mind, the APL began to design larger, more accommodating spaces for both individual animals and groups of animals. This includes larger cages and improved clinic spaces as well as an indoor play area for dogs and two catios for cats.

“We’ve learned a lot through recent advances, and we wanted to translate that into our spaces. The design is nice and calming, but also flexible and functional. This allows for longer stays, improved mental and physical health, and, overall, better, more humane care,” Sharon said.

The expansion also took into consideration how the APL could expand its services to families. To improve the client experience, the APL will have private consultation areas where families who are adopting a pet, surrendering a pet, or seeking support with the care of their pet can meet with APL team members, have respectful, supportive conversations, ask questions, discuss the process, and learn what to expect.

Perhaps the biggest component of the capital campaign is the addition of a public vet clinic. Families who qualify financially for the clinic will be able to bring their pets for annual examination and basic veterinary treatment. “There are some lower cost clinics in Cuyahoga County, but not nearly enough that are accessible to many Cleveland residents.” Sharon explained.

“We’re not looking to compete with private practices in the city,” she added, “We’re looking to service families and animals who would otherwise not receive care at all because it wasn’t financially possible for them.”

The clinic had long been a part of the APL’s plans, but the need for it was clearly reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The already significant demand from Cleveland pet owners for access to veterinary care skyrocketed throughout 2020. Despite their own hardship and uncertainty, they wanted to provide care to their pets. They did not want to give their pets up. 

“We wanted to proactively address gaps in care. We asked ourselves: “How can we prevent animals from being surrendered? How can we keep pets with the people who love them?” The pandemic reinforced the reality of these needs in Cleveland.” Sharon said.

Ultimately, Unleash the Dream expands on the services the APL was already offering while giving the team the dedicated, physical space necessary to provide innovative care to animals and support to families. They are currently in the fourth of five phases with plans to complete construction in late November and host a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony in the New Year. Plans for adding training classes, volunteer sessions, and workshops are also in the works for the future. Those interested in supporting the capital campaign can reach out to April Clark or support for the Unleash the Dream campaign here.

Additionally, the APL is always looking for volunteers. Right now, top needs are people who are willing to donate their time walking dogs or who may be interested in serving as a foster pet parent. Fostering is a great option for SCA residents who may only be in Tremont or AsiaTown for a year or two and who cannot commit to a long-term adoption, but who want to open their home to a pet (and take advantage of SCA’s pet-friendly policies). Other volunteer opportunities will become available throughout 2022.

“It’s really incredible to have an organization like the APL, which does so much good for Greater Cleveland and Tremont specifically, as your neighbor.” Josh Rosen, a SCA Co-Founder and Fairmont Creamery resident said. “We love to see our residents get involved with the APL, and, when they kicked off their capital campaign, we immediately knew that we wanted to help.”

SCA made a $15,000 gift to the Unleash the Dream earlier this year. The funds will help to build one of the consultation areas described above where families looking for resources that will help them with the care of their pet or to surrender an animal can meet with APL staff and learn about options.

“When the idea of supporting one of these consultation areas came up, it just made sense for us.” Naomi Sabel, SCA Co-Founder, said. “This is a space where people will come together to support one another and learn. It’s a community space—and we are always looking for ways to foster those kinds of environments.”

“We’re delighted with what’s happening around us, with how pet friendly SCA is, and how Tremont and Ohio City are evolving. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this community.” Sharon said.