Land is being cleared and readied for the pouring of the foundation of the new 10,000-square-foot shelter for Pope Memorial Humane Society of Knox County.

"It's hard to believe this is actually happening," said Executive Director Tracy Sala, recalling how the current facility sat at the end of a dirt road years ago.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held in May to celebrate the beginning of the $2.2 million project.

The new facility will feature 29 dog kennels and space for 100-plus cats. It will also feature a covered pavillion where dogs can be outside in all types of weather.

In additiion, it will have specific "get-acquainted" rooms, so prospective adopters can meet the animals one-on-one.

The old facility has served 17 towns and the islands of Vinalhaven, North Haven and Matinicus since 1991. The demand for services has steadily increased over the years, with the number of animals coming to the shelter in need of help doubling in the last decade. In 2002, the shelter admitted 622 animals — compared to 1,487 in 2012. Last year, the shelter admitted 1,510 animals.

Sala said she and her staff are very excited. "It's going to be very interesting to watch when the structure goes up," she said.

Fundraising continues, as nearly $200,000 is needed to furnish the new facility with equipment, medical supplies, desks and an updated computer system.

George C. Hall & Sons of Rockland began clearing the land the week of Aug. 10. Maine Coast Construction will begin building the shelter after the foundation is set. Completion of the new facility is projected for June 2016.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at