Alaqua announces plans to move immediately to new location
FREEPORT — Alaqua Animal Refuge announced Monday it has advanced the stages of its permanent move to its future home as immediately as possible.
The decision to fast-track the relocation was made with much deliberation with the refuge's leadership team and board of directors after Hurricane Sally caused devastating flooding to the property, according a press release from Alaqua.
Alaqua sustained critical flood damage. Most of its animal buildings, dog kennels, cat cabins and other animal enclosures were significantly under water.
The moved was originally planned for early 2021, but after assessing the damage from Sally, Alaqua representatives decided to make the move now. Most of the buildings, which were submerged in floodwater, were deemed to be beyond repair, according to the refuge.
"Additionally, the poor conditions of the structures would not be able to provide the adequate and necessary environment for the animals to thrive within long-term," the release said.
“It has been very tough to be operational in our current state. We are still recovering while we strategize on how to get up and running more quickly and ensuring that all of our animals are getting the proper medical care and daily needs met,” said Alaqua founder Laurie Hood. “As hard as it is to say, we don’t see ourselves getting back to normal operations at our current facility. We are at a serious crossroads.”
Alaqua was able to quickly move all of the animals threatened by the flooding to a foster program.
“It’s exactly why I’ve been trying to get this refuge moved off this property for 10 years — because of this very scenario,” Hood said. “Our new facility is high and dry. If I had fences up, I would’ve gone ahead and moved everybody, but we were just about two weeks short of that,” Hood said in a September interview.
Plans include keeping the foster program in place for the time being as much as possible until all the animals can be secured in the new facility without much additional interruption.
The new refuge is on north side of State Road 20 in Freeport. While the existing facility is only 1 to 2 feet above sea level, the refuge is 38 feet above sea level.
Alaqua is still closed for public visitation and tours because of COVID-19 precautions and Walton County regulations that have been in place since late March.
Alaqua’s most immediate need is funding for housing and fencing for animals at the new facility. The original site plan has been modified to include these new animal areas that will serve as emergency housing as additional buildings continue to be constructed as planned. Long-term use of this housing will include additional maternity buildings and kennels for sanctuary and senior residents.
"Although the relocation is a massive undertaking, Alaqua will continue to give second chances to animals and people. This is a pivotal time in its journey. After finding forever homes for tens of thousands of animals, Alaqua needs continued support now so that it too can move into its permanent, forever home," the release said.
To make a donation, visit https://alaqua.secure.nonprofitsoapbox.com/flood.