Humane Society to honor Lauren McCluskey

New Cat Wing will help increase capacity for animals the Pullman-raised track star loved



Becky Bitter, member of the Whitman County Humane Society building committee, speaks about the construction of the new Lauren McCluskey wing at the WCHS on Saturday morning at Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters.

CHERYL AARNIO, Evergreen reporter

The Whitman County Humane Society (WCHS) is expanding its building to include a wing it will call the Lauren McCluskey Cat Wing, in honor of McCluskey since her death in October.

More than a year ago, members of the Board of Directors decided they wanted to expand the shelter due to overcrowding. WCHS did not have enough money for a new building, which would cost $400,000 to $500,000, said Becky Bitter, former president of the Board of Directors.

Instead, they decided to expand the building, which will cost about $140,000, Bitter said.

WCHS does not have all the funds yet, Bitter said. The shelter had $60,000 before construction started in October. Some of the money came from donations to the animal shelter. They are hoping some of the money will come from the Fur Ball, WCHS’ largest fundraiser, on Feb. 23.

She said the shelter also received a grant from the Innovia Foundation.

The Innovia Foundation granted WCHS $5,000 for this project, said Molly Sanchez, Innovia Foundation director of grants and community engagement.

“It [looked] to be a really good opportunity to help increase their capacity to care for more cats that are in need of a safe place to stay,” Sanchez said.

Bitter said the McCluskey family reached out to have the wing named after Lauren. People wanted to donate in her name.

McCluskey had volunteered at WCHS to socialize cats when she was in high school, she said.

“The McCluskey’s decided that that would be a really fitting tribute: for people to make donations in Lauren’s name that could go to helping with the expansion of the cat building,” Bitter said.

The new wing is almost finished, she said. They hope that the shelter will be finished in April.

She said they’re working on final touches. The expansion still needs be painted and have ventilation installed. However, she said, the kennels and other furnishings have been ordered and should arrive in six to 10 weeks.

There will be three kennels installed at first. A fourth one will be added after they get a sense of how things are working in the wing, she said.

The 400-square-foot expansion will double the shelter’s capacity, she said.

“I think because the Pullman community has grown and our population is bigger, everything needs to have more infrastructure, including things like the Whitman County Humane Society,” Bitter said.

During kitten season, typically at the end of April, the shelter gets more crowded than at other times of the year, and sometimes has 40 cats to take care of, she said.

“This is a way to keep [Lauren’s] light shining, and we’re hoping to have this wing just carry on her love for cats and kittens well into the future,” Bitter said. “So it’s a lovely thing to have this in her memory.”