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Nate's Honor Animal Rescue plans $8 million expansion

Nate's space for dogs will double, while room for cats will expand 25%.

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  • | 8:50 a.m. March 14, 2018
  • East County
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As Rob and Dari Oglesby sat in Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue’s Lorraine Road adoption center, images of brightly colored buildings and a red barn flashed across a television screen, painting a picture of the future.

After more than 10 years in business and 10,000 animals adopted, the organization is moving forward with its long-term plans for growth. On March 10, Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue officials announced the launch of an $8 million project to expand and enhance its existing 8-acre Lakewood Ranch property.

“We’re out of space,” said Rob Oglesby, the director of development. “(The property) floods every year. Our daily challenge of saving the lives of homeless animals is greater than ever, and we need more room and better facilities.”

The welcome and adoption center will feature a veterinary clinic, grooming facilities, a cafe and other potential revenue streams for the nonprofit. Courtesy rendering.
The welcome and adoption center will feature a veterinary clinic, grooming facilities, a cafe and other potential revenue streams for the nonprofit. Courtesy rendering.

Plans include a new 20,000-square-foot welcome-and-adoption center and a 3,500-square-foot intake building. The welcome center will feature a veterinary clinic, a full-service grooming center, a casual dining cafe with views of the cat habitat and event rooms to allow for community outreach and increased services.

Dari Oglesby, the executive director, said details are still to come about the improvements.

“We’ll use them for a source of revenue,” she said.

Other site improvements include a new dog water play area and covered patio, a multipurpose open green space, a walking path to help dogs learn to walk on leashes, a fenced play area and a training center.

The business plan is one Rob Oglesby came up with seven years ago and presented to the late Nate Benderson, patriarch of Benderson Development and a philanthropist and animal-lover. Upon its approval, Benderson helped the nonprofit find the Lorraine Road property and funded construction of most of the animal shelters now on the site.

When Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue prepared to move into its Lorraine Road “Ranch” campus in fall 2011, there were two existing buildings and a barn. One of the buildings, which had an attached garage with no door, became the adoption center after Rob Oglesby bought sliding glass doors off Craigslist and installed them.

Now the structure hosts about 1,900 animal adoptions annually.

Rob Oglesby said the organization’s goal always has been to operate like a business and be as self-sustainable as possible.

“(Dari) always shakes her head at me because she thinks I’m nuts, but look at this,” Rob Oglesby said, waving his hand toward the dog cottages and campus at large. “I’m a realist. It’s going to happen.

“Our goal is to be like the Disney of animal rescue,” he said.

The organization has accumulated $2 million for the project and hopes to raise the remainder through its Journey Home campaign. An anonymous donor will match dollar-for-dollar any donation made going forward. Naming rights also are available.

Rob Oglesby hopes the site plan for the project will be approved by Manatee County within the next six months, and then construction can commence. The entire property will need to be elevated 2 feet, which will lead to the creation of a 3-acre retention pond at the back of the property. A walking trail around the pond will provide an exercise venue for dogs and will be equipped with obstacles to expose them to things such as stairs, doors and benches.

The overall project will be completed in stages and is expected to be finished sometime in 2020.

The new facilities are expected to generate revenue for the nonprofit and help sustain Nate’s Honor’s operations as it increases capacity, doubling dog rescue services and increasing cat capacity by 25%.

The Oglesbys said having services on-site is a natural transition, particularly for veterinary care. They expect the vet clinic to provide limited services, including vaccinations, checkups and spay-neuter services.

“The idea is we want our animals to stay vaccinated and healthy,” Dari Oglesby said. “It’s more preventive and low-cost


Other types of surgeries would be handled by off-site veterinarians, unless a veterinarian contracts for the space and wants to provide them.

Dari Oglesby said the nonprofit’s annual budget is about $675,000, of which about $100,000 goes toward veterinary expenses. There are 13 employees on staff, of which all but three work full time to help care for the animals and run the operation. Volunteers provide a backbone of support, helping with everything from care taking to dog walking and fostering puppies.

Dari and Rob Oglesby and Associate Executive Director Karen Slomba spend their days and weekends working alongside staff and volunteers, cleaning and caring for dogs and cats and processing adoptions.

The Oglesbys have a mother with eight puppies they are fostering in their East County home.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Dari Oglesby said. “I don’t think people realize how much we do with so little.”

Rob Oglesby added, “That’s what keeps it fun. If I had to sit in an office all the time, I wouldn’t do it.”

On Feb. 28, Nate’s Honor adopted out its 10,000th animal in its 10-year history. At any given time, it has about 200 animals in its care.

Rob Oglesby teases his wife by saying she cries all the time. She admits it’s at least once a day, albeit they are happy tears. They both love watching the transformation of the animals they bring in, both physically and emotionally. They love finding them forever homes.

“It’s about the animals,” Dari Oglesby said. “Nothing else matters.”


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