PRINCETON — The new NEADS Breeding Center, which has been in the works for a few years from planning to construction, is now operational, with puppies running around awaiting training for their future jobs assisting humans.
On June 11, a grand opening was held for the $2.6 million facility. It was an opportunity to show off the venue that will assist NEADS in the process from breeding to training.
The new center is a long way from the two whelping chambers at NEADS’ nursery when it began its breeding program in 2017.
Realizing that a larger facility was needed, NEADS began work on the new location, about a quarter of a mile away from the main campus on Route 140 in Princeton.
With an increase in the number of dogs bred specifically for service work, the facility will be able to accommodate up to 10 litters at a time, compared to the nursery’s two litters.
“This is a game changer for the NEADS breeding program, allowing us to serve more customers across all of our programs,” said NEADS CEO Gerry DeRoche.
“We currently have over 400 service dog teams operating in the US and we hope to increase our customer base with the addition of the new breeding center.”
“The breeding center is designed to give purpose-bred puppies the best start on the road to service dogs to work with people with disabilities,” said Kate Albertini, Breeding and Puppy Development Manager.
“As one of our customers said, ‘It takes an extraordinary dog to give someone an ordinary life,’ and this facility will help us immensely in our mission to breed more extraordinary service dogs,” Albertini said.
Features of the new center include a breeding room, delivery room, five whelping rooms for younger nests and transition pods for older nests.
There are two vet stations and a behavior checklist testing area, also known as a socialization room, will help determine the puppies’ temperaments. In addition to run and a kennel area, a sound system allows for quieter, calming sounds in the whelping rooms and louder sounds for socialization in the transition pods.
A central work hub for the center’s quarantine area provides space for volunteers and staff to make food, clean toys, and monitor all rooms on camera.
A stone from the original steps of the old farmhouse that stood on the property was repurposed as a £650 address marker.
A meditation garden with plantings and benches named in memory of Herman Kensky, father of NEADS client Jessica Kensky, and a sculpture, “Foundations of the Past,” is made from chunks of brick, stone, and granite foundations from the site, the main campus, and select local locations that reflect NEADS’ past as much as the breeding center reflects the organization’s future.
A leadership gift from Larry and Nanine Costa highlighted donations for the facility. The puppies that participate in the NEADS program are named through the organization’s Name a Puppy program. Information about NEADS is available at www.neads.org.
The grand opening included event partner Wachusett Brewing Co., House Rep. Kimberly Ferguson, former Attorney General Martha Coakley, State Sen. Anne Gobi and Tracey Stoll with NEADS service dog Gleason, along with NEADS staff, customers, volunteers and puppy breeders.