The Delaware Humane Association turns 56 today, and the animal shelter plans to celebrate by breaking ground on its new state-of-the-art animal shelter tonight.

Plans for the new shelter and adoption center have been in the works since September 2010, when Delaware Humane decided to keep its four-and-a-half acre property on A Street within Wilmington's city limits.

"Our building is more than 40 years old and it probably wasn't designed in the first place to be an animal shelter. So it's an old building, it needs repair, it needs better everything," said DHA executive director Patrick Carroll. 

DHA set a $3.1 million goal and almost three years later it's finally ready to take the next step towards building the Tatiana and Gerret Copeland Animal Care and Companion Center, despite being $80,000 short. The Copelands, who are campaign chairs, donated $1 million towards the project.

"We just know that we need to continue raising money. We know that we have support out there that probably hasn't come in yet," said Carroll. 

Carroll says one of the best things about the new building is its design and setup, allowing the nonprofit to house and serve more animals.  

"It's just designed to work well for us in terms of what we do with adoption, and sheltering animals, and spay/neuter surgery and doing medical care for animals."

Currently DHA performs all spay/neuter surgeries in its mobile van in its parking lot. The new shelter will have a surgery room inside the facility. The new digs will also have four free-roaming cat rooms with indoor and outdoor space. 

"This building will be more of a center, a community resource with more color, and light and attractiveness... It's not a sad place, it's more of a great place," Carroll said.

Construction is expected to take anywhere from eight months to a year, and DHA expects to move into its new home between March and July of next year.