The North Country Animal League in Morristown is growing, thanks to an anonymous donation of nearly half a million dollars.
Last Friday, the animal league closed on the purchase of an adjacent 14.3-acre parcel that’s home to a horse barn and indoor arena.
The property surrounds much of the current home of North Country Animal League, and was formerly home to the Ryder Brook Horse Farm.
“It’s just an incredible opportunity, an opportunity for the community to create something really special here on our expanded animal campus,” Tracy Goldfine, executive director of North Country Animal League, told the News & Citizen. “We’re really lucky that it landed in our lap.”
An anonymous donation of $445,000 allowed the nonprofit, which focuses on promoting animal welfare, to buy the property from William and Ronda Foster.
“I was just over there walking the property. It kind of wraps around our property,” Goldfine said. “It’s really nice, and very convenient for the shelter. It fits really well as an animal campus.”
Established in the mid-1970s, the former Ryder Brook Horse Farm includes a 29-stall barn, an indoor arena and a caretaker’s home with several acres of pasture, all of which will help the animal league expand its programs and services in the future.
Founded in 1994, North Country Animal League is a nonprofit organization that aims to better animal welfare and “promote compassionate and responsible relationships between humans and animals.”
Along with serving as an adoption agency that has helped find homes for more than 15,000 animals, North Country Animal League conducts education and outreach programs, spays and neuters pets, shelters homeless animals and works to prevent animal cruelty.
Hoping to expand
The property went on the market last winter, Goldfine said, and she found out last spring that it was for sale.
“It had been on our radar,” she said, and the animal league’s board of directors had been discussing how the parcel could be incorporated into its long-term strategic plan.
“This seemed to fit well with that,” Goldfine said, especially since her organization has been hoping to expand its services to include horses.
“This is an incredible opportunity,” she said. The anonymous donor saw the same opportunity, “which is fantastic.”
The former horse farm is “pretty turnkey” in terms of being a ride stable and facility for horses right now, Goldfine said, and no major renovations are planned for the buildings. In fact, the animal league has more pressing needs at its own facility and hopes to address those in the coming year.
Meanwhile, it plans to keep the stable and indoor arena as is for now.
“We’re not going to be creating dog and cat kennels in the barn; we’ll be maintaining it as a horse barn,” she said. In the short term, the league will lease the facility to a local, established riding stable, whose staff will manage it and offer boarding, training and winter riding for horses. The long-term plan for the new facilities will be hashed out as the board updates the nonprofit’s long-term goals and plan.
Goldfine sees future potential to work with whoever is leasing the facility to add education programs at the stable, particularly for kids.
“It’s exciting to think about the opportunities to not only connect kids with dogs and cats but with horses as well,” she said. If it’s not being used by horses, the indoor arena is also a great place to exercise the animal league’s dogs and cats during the long Vermont winter, and the expanded grounds offer some short hikes and new walks for animals of all sizes.
“We have been given an incredible opportunity to secure this property for the animals and our community,” Goldfine reiterated. “I am beyond excited about the future potential and growth of our efforts to connect people with animals, including humane education programs, which will allow us to maximize our impact in our community.”
“I look forward to growing our programs thoughtfully, while continuing to respond to the challenges and needs facing homeless or at-risk animals in our community.”
North Country Animal League will host an open house and snowshoe/walking tour of the new facility and property on Saturday, Jan. 18, from 3 to 5 p.m.