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SPCA Prepares for Grand Opening

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The kennels beat any average work cubicle. Many feature skylights, sturdy furniture and classical music (with the highest and lowest notes silenced to spare animals' ears) piped in through speakers.

The "behavior-training room," with low-impact flooring, and hoops and tunnels for dogs to navigate, looks and smells better than a lot of human health clubs. Advanced ventilation systems mean animals (and visitors) breathe entirely new air every six minutes, preventing the spread of disease.

Oh, and there's stuff for people too: animal-viewing areas, pet behavior consultations and computer research facilities.

Robin Starr, executive director of the Richmond SPCA, says the building at 2519 Hermitage Road, close to the Diamond, may be the most state-of-the-art structure of its kind in the country. She's seen quite a few — she and a committee toured adoption facilities from San Francisco to New Hampshire to gather ideas.

The 78-year-old building, formerly a tobacco warehouse, cost $1.2 million to buy and $6 million to renovate and furnish, Starr says. It can hold 130 to 150 dogs and the same number of cats, employs about 40 staffers and relies on over 150 volunteers — a number its directors hope will double, as people discover the new location.

The annual Fur Ball black-tie fund-raiser will be held Sept. 28 for members of the public who want to be among the first to see the new facility. Tickets are $150; pets are welcome, of course. "Usually it's mostly dogs that attend, but we have cats as well," says Deisler. Diamond collars are optional. — M.S.S.

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