Chesterton Tribune

Public gets a look at rehabbed county animal shelter

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By DOUG ELISH

The wide-eyes and full smile of a two-year old as he told everyone he passed “we got a new kitty,” conveyed the story of Monday’s open house at the Porter County Animal Shelter.

After a tumultuous summer full of negative publicity, the rehabbed shelter reopened to a crowd of more than 300 community members wanting to see the results of weeks of work by volunteers and staff.

They weren’t disappointed, but the quest to improve animal care in Porter County is only beginning.

Freshly-painted walls, newly-epoxied floors, improved temperature control, increased dog runs, new disease-controlling cat cages and a new veterinarian care room did the job of making the shelter a suitable home for the animals.

However, the improvements couldn’t change the fact that Porter County needs to replace the aging structure that wasn’t built to be an animal shelter.

“This is a good cleanup that is nice,” county council president Dan Whitten, one of the harshest critics of the shelter this summer, said. “I think anything that is no longer animal cruelty is a step in the right direction, but my vision is a new facility where we can do this job with integrity.

“We shouldn’t be putting Band-Aids on a mortal wound.”

With the majority of the county’s officials on hand at the opening, most echoed that same sentiment. County commissioner Nancy Adams, who has taken the lead on improving conditions at the shelter and put in hours of painting and cleaning herself, mentioned the need for a new facility in her speech at the event.

“We are definitely moving in a positive direction,” Adams said. “We are starting to see some dreams come into reality. Now, we are gunning for a new shelter.”

With the commissioners and council seemingly in agreement that for the county to do an effective job of animal control a new structure is needed, the only stumbling block will be coming up with the funding for what will be more than a $1 million project.

“I think that’s everybody’s goal,” commissioner president John Evans said. “And I think it can happen. (The commissioners) are going to be bringing a plan to the council. Everybody wants to help the animals and I don’t think there’s anyone that can’t see the physical need.”

Evans and Adams’ hope is to get a new shelter in the next year and then use the renovated building as a place for the sheriff to bring newly-found animals, unruly animals or a place to provide treatment to sick pets. These uses could bring down the cost of a new facility.

The commissioners will address the shelter issue and the rest of their budget at the Oct. 3 county council budget hearing.

In the meantime, the $20,000 overhaul of the existing structure drew rave reviews from staff, volunteers and the public. Doubling the number of dog runs, fixing the floors to prevent the spread of disease and creating a dedicated space for a new-full-time veterinarian technician, who will start Oct. 1, are all positive improvements. The further cooperation of the county’s veterinarians, who’ve pooled resources to provide the shelter with 35 new stainless steel cat cages worth about $12,000, is also good news.

The best news from the two-hour open house though was that more than 20 animals found new homes.

“That’s what it really all comes down to, finding homes for these animals,” shelter director Kristina Montgomery said. “All of the hard work that has gone into these improvements has helped us make the best of an insufficient building. Happier animals are more adoptable animals.”

 

 Posted 9/27/2011