Supervisor Paul Milde said the project has been kicked down the road for years.

“The conditions at the animal shelter are disgusting,” Milde said. “It’s too small … animals are euthanized when they don’t need to be euthanized. It’s not a place that really presents these animals well.”

Full Article Below:
Posted 2015-10-10

Mangled hair fell from Alf’s unkempt coat.

The terrier mix fidgeted on the white countertop in a storage room at the Stafford County Animal Shelter as two workers groomed him.

The workers held onto Alf to keep him from falling off the counter. They didn’t have much room to maneuver—Alf and the two workers nearly filled the small, narrow room.

In a couple of years, grooming shelter animals should be easier for Nicole Bates, the Stafford employee giving Alf a makeover Wednesday.

The Board of Supervisors recently took the first step toward building a 15,300-square foot shelter that is expected to open between July 2017 and June 2018. Supervisors voted unanimously Sept. 15 to hire an architect for $213,111 to begin designing the new shelter.

A consultant estimates the shelter will cost between $3.7 million and $4.1 million.

The new shelter would be among the most expensive in the region and one of the biggest, but officials and animal shelter employees said it is definitely needed.

Supervisor Paul Milde said the project has been kicked down the road for years.

“The conditions at the animal shelter are disgusting,” Milde said. “It’s too small … animals are euthanized when they don’t need to be euthanized. It’s not a place that really presents these animals well.”

Spotsylvania has proposed a $3.79 million, 18,950-square-foot building to replace its 15-year-old, 9,000-square-foot shelter that cost $850,000 to build.

King George spent $1.67 million to build its 5-year-old 5,700-square-foot facility, one of the newest in the region.

Stafford’s existing 6,000-square-foot shelter opened in 1991 at a cost of $300,000.

The facility would move from its current spot near the Rappahannock Regional Landfill to five acres the county owns adjacent to the regional jail.

The supervisors’ step came as welcome news to Bates.

“We definitely need something bigger in size, something a bit more comfortable,” she said.

The state hasn’t cited the shelter for inadequate animal cage space since 2010. But the state has cited it for one repeat violation: lacking a separate isolation room for contagious animals. The state fined the county $250 this year.

Like many rooms at the shelter, the isolation room has served other purposes, including holding cats or grooming animals. When the outdoor yard isn’t available, Bates shows off animals to potential owners in the staff kitchen.

Chief Animal Control Officer Captain Mike Null said the current facility seemed like a Taj Mahal when it opened compared with the previous shelter.

But the facility quickly became outdated, Null said, as animal care and building standards changed.

Besides the lack of space, Null said the current building isn’t well-ventilated, is constantly moist and difficult to keep clean. When the dogs start barking, the sound is deafening because of the building’s poor acoustics.

“It is basically a building with animal cages in it. Building animal shelters as a business didn’t exist back then,” Null said.

All those issues have negative effects on the animals’ well-being, Shelter Manager Dalia Salah said. She cited studies that report that animals are less likely to get sick in a quieter facility with more natural light and space.

Lack of space has led to the euthanization of some shelter animals, though it is not the biggest reason why pets were put down, county reports indicate. Owners often request that old, injured or sick animals be euthanized; some animals are deemed a threat to public safety and others arrive at the shelter sick or injured.

In 2014, only 19 of 219 euthanized dogs and seven of 461 euthanized cats were put down because of space issues. So far this year, three cats have been euthanized due to space issues out of the total 819 animals taken in.

In the past 10 months, more than 100 animals were transferred out to rescue groups that try to find them homes.

On any given day, between 50 and 60 dogs and cats reside in the shelter.

Standing in a room where cat cages nearly touch the low ceiling, Salah said she envisions a place that can hold cages that are twice as large, dimensions she said animal shelter groups recommend to reduce stress and disease. Nearby, cages containing kittens have spilled over into the reception area.

Salah believes an aesthetically pleasing facility will increase adoption rates, especially since rates from shelters nationwide have doubled in the past decade.

Even though the shelter’s intake numbers have decreased in the past three years, the shelter has been overcrowded for longer periods of time, according to a county-commissioned report.

The report’s authors, Charlottesville-based Shelter Planners, recommended a 15,300-square-foot facility to accommodate the shelter’s needs for at least the next 20 years.

Null said the goal in the newer, bigger facility is to not have to euthanize animals for space, which would qualify the county shelter as a “no-kill” facility.

“They don’t belong in here. They belong at home. But while they are here, they deserve to be in an aesthetically pleasing, clean, disease-free environment,” Null said.

​Vanessa Remmers: 540.735.1975

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