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It’s like walking out of a dollar store and stepping into Von Maur.

In other words, there is no comparison between the Capital Humane Society’s longtime home at 2320 Park Blvd. and the new Pieloch Pet Adoption Center on the corner of 70th Street and Nebraska 2.

Park Boulevard is dark, dingy, loud and well off the beaten path for most Lincolnites.

The Pieloch Pet Adoption Center is bright, welcoming, quiet and easily seen by the estimated 70,000 plus vehicles driving past each day -- a definite perk for piquing potential pet owners’ interest, said Bob Downey, executive director of the Capital Humane Society.

When the adoption-only facility opens at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday -- it will become the city's only humane society site for adopting a furry family member. The old facility will continue to be used for lost and surrendered pets, veterinary surgery and animal holds, Downey said.

The Pieloch Pet Adoption Center is named for Mark Pieloch and his family. Pieloch is the former owner of the Syracuse Pharma Chemie animal supplement company. An animal lover and long-time friend of Downey’s, Pieloch donated $1.5 million toward the humane society’s Celebrate Me Home capital campaign -- putting it well over the top of its original $2.9 million goal.

“It’s a very beautiful facility inside and out,” Pieloch said in a telephone interview from his business in Melbourne, Fla. “It should get a lot of use and hopefully will save the lives of lots of dogs and cats.”

The new adoption center is a place of windows -- inside and out. Large outside windows allow people to peer in and see cats and dogs playing in glass enclosed homey rooms. Inside there are even more windows -- glass walls and doors replace the chain-link fencing and bars that once separated pet cages and kennels. The glass not only creates an aesthetically pleasing environment, but significantly reduces the stress-inducing noise of yammering cats and barking dogs.

While some animals live in glass cages, others live in glass houses -- otherwise known as colonies and rooms. There is even a glassed in area for ferrets, gerbils, bunnies and guinea pigs awaiting forever families.

“I love the openness," Downey said. "The daylight coming in. All the windows.”

He also likes a bit of whimsey -- stainless steel paw prints guide visitors to the dogs and cats. Eventually they will be part of the humane society’s storybook “Night at the Animal Shelter.” The story will be a take-off of the popular movie “Night at the Museum” taking families on a fantastical expedition through the adoption center after normal business hours.

The $4 million adoption center is more than a pretty building. It is a building designed with the physical and mental well-being of the animals -- and people -- at the forefront, Downey said. In addition to working with Lincoln’s Bahr-Vermeer-Haecker Architects, the humane society also subcontracted with Animal Arts, a Boulder, Colo., company specializing in designing animal shelters, veterinary clinics and pet resorts.

At 15,000 square feet, the adoption center is actually about 4,500 square feet smaller than the Park Boulevard facility, said Downey. However, the new building, designed for efficiency and creative use of space, actually has room for more animals than the shelter -- 30 to 40 dogs and 60 cats, compared to 22 dog kennels and 24 cat kennels in the Park Boulevard adoption rooms. The new center is also energy efficient and eco-friendly, using radiant heat and a kennel cleansing system that uses less water.

The combination of sites means the humane society can house more animals (although Downey said he hopes that is not needed), keep animals longer, train those who come in with hard-to-adopt behaviors, showcase those irresistible fuzzy faces and create a comfortable setting that will entice people to linger and visit often.

Plans to build an adoption center were announced in June 2011. Five months later, Pieloch’s donation put the capital campaign over its goal. Construction began early spring 2012 and was completed this past May. Damage to the floors delayed the center’s June opening by one month.

Downey credited generous donations with making his long-time dream of an adoption center into a reality.

Dave and Mary Jo Livingston sold the 2.5 acre parcel of land to the humane society for $500,000 -- less than half of its $1.1 million appraised value.

While the Pieloch name graces the outside of the adoption center, inside the generosity of dozens of pet lovers is etched into the walls and windows of colony and adoption rooms. Outside the cat cages, donor plaques serve a dual purpose, shielding cat litter boxes from public view, Downey said.

Among the major donors: the Abel Foundation, the Lincoln Community Foundation, the late Marguerite A. Hac and the Jan K. Pitsch Dog Shelter endowed funds. In addition, the Peter Kiewit Foundation and an anonymous trust provided matching grants for $350,000 in donations.

Park Boulevard is a testament to its time, when government facilities looked more institutional, Pieloch said.

The humane society built and moved into the site in 1966. Back then, Lincoln had a population for about 170,000 people.

Today, 65 percent of the more than 250,000 people who call Lincoln home have at least one pet.

Days before the grand opening, Downey walked through the new center, checking on cats who had just moved in. The room was virtually silent as cats rolled in catnip and explored their new digs -- a far cry from the constant meowing echoing off walls at Park Boulevard.

Downey pointed out the horizontal bars at the top of the cages. Studies found that typical vertical bars made it difficult for cats to focus on things outside of the bars, he said. The horizontal bars allows them to keep their eyes at one level when looking out and thereby reduce stress on the animal.

There are six colony rooms in the adoption center. Each will hold a handful of cats who will have colorful structures to climb, play and snooze on. One colony room has a recessed floor -- allowing youngsters to be eye-level with wide-eyed felines.

By design, people must walk by the cats to see the dogs, Downey said. It’s a marketing tool to get people to notice -- and hopefully adopt cats, which currently have an adoption rate of 54 percent compared to the 84 percent adoption and reunification rates for humane society dogs.

The adoption center has seven “interaction rooms,” in which people can meet and play with pets they are considering for adoption. The Park Boulevard facility had only three interaction rooms -- which were often used for other purposes, Downey said.

Computers allow the entire adoption process to be completed inside the interaction rooms.

There are two rooms of kennels at the adoption center. The larger room is for younger dogs. A smaller room is designed for older dogs who may be stressed by the noise of other dogs.

Outside the kennels are two gravel runs, and a grass dog run.

The facility also houses:

* A new Lincoln Police Department substation.

* Offices, locker room and shower.

* Meal prep kitchen for the animals.

* A grooming and veterinary room.

* A small isolation room for cats who may have respiratory viruses.

* A multipurpose room to be used for meetings, training classes and special programs.

* Space for sanctuary boarding -- free temporary boarding for animals whose owners are seeking shelter with Friendship Home, St. Monica’s, Voices of Hope and the American Red Cross.

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Reach Erin Andersen at 402-473-7217 or eandersen@journalstar.com.

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