By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Following one of the largest tornadoes to ever hit the metro area, many Moore families desperately looked for their lost pets. The New Leash Companion Animal Center, formerly known as the Animal Resource Center (ARC) located at 7949 S I-35 Service Rd at I-240, became an animal triage with hundreds of injured or terrified dogs and cats. The facility is now being asked to relocate due to an imminent domain clause.
“That was a scary day and a very hectic month following it,” said Barbara Lewis, ARC Executive Director. “We were just grateful that our building was still standing, and we had the opportunity to help so many families find their pets after that disaster.”
During the thirty days following the tornado, 158 animals were processed through ARC. Volunteer veterinarians treated minor injuries and for the seriously-injured to be transported to area animal hospitals.
The group arranged for all animals to be vaccinated, wormed, microchipped, spayed/neutered and heartworm tested. Over 1,000 volunteers cleaned animal cages, sorted donations and answered frantic phone calls.
ARC moved to their current location in Moore three years ago. The run down building they rented was scheduled to be demolished, but with the support of the local Lockhart Foundation, they were able to make repairs bringing it up to code and move in.
The building became a central location for animal welfare information including dog-training classes, a Service Dog training facility and in the case of the May 20 tornado, a refuge for people and pets in need.
Eric McCune, Board President for The Bella Foundation, SPCA said, ”During the May 20th tornado, having ARC literally down the road from where teams were working was a godsend.
“Our volunteers and staff were able to go back and forth with only a short drive.
“Recently we have used the ARC facility as a place to hold vaccination outreaches. It has shown time and again how having a place in the middle of Oklahoma City greatly improves our contact with the public. At one single outreach our team vaccinated over 350 pets.”
ARC works to provide resources to the Oklahoma public on issues of animal welfare and support organizations and clubs, by making available an affordable facility to hold training classes, adoptions, fundraisers, dog shows, and other pet related events.
Recently, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) notified the group that they will have to vacate their building due to a widening of I-35.
The ARC website now states, “Even though we are losing our building to the expansion of I-35, we are not closing. We are finding a new place to move to. We want everyone to know that we are alive and well and will continue to live on.”
The facility owners will be paid for the building, however ARC must start again from scratch. ODOT will pay for their move and new signage, but as renters they aren’t able to recoup money for all the improvements made to the building since taking occupancy.
Lewis said, “We understand the need for improving the highway. But we are saddened to leave this space that has so many memories of helping and getting to know the people in this community.”
Lewis said that ARC is currently looking to purchase a new building and the Lockhart Foundation will once again support them. But, the costs of moving and renovating all over again can be overwhelming for the non-profit.
“We are in the business of educating the public about the benefits as well as the responsibilities of pet ownership,” said Lewis. “Where ever we land, we are just eager to get back to that work.”
In April, Animal Resource Center, Inc. merged with A New Leash on Life, Inc. to become The New Leash Companion Animal Center. This allows both facilities the ability to offer even more services to the public and local rescues across the state.
McCune added, “I have to admit I was a little disappointed when I heard ARC was moving, but I am confident their new location will be just as good.”
To make a donation or for more information, call 405-604-2892 or visit arcokc.org.