County breaks ground on new animal shelter

County breaks ground on new animal shelter

DeKalb County is taking animal care to a new level with the construction of a $8.6 million animal shelter in Chamblee.

Animal rights advocates celebrated as DeKalb officials broke ground March 16 on the 33,440-square-foot facility.

“It’s the culmination of about 10 years of efforts by grassroots organizations to get the shelter [built],” said Greg Myrberg, wearing a signature red shirt animal advocates in DeKalb County have worn to show solidarity. “Given the track record, it’s a win for the county. It’s a good thing to have happen. We haven’t treated our animals very well.”

Interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May thanked the “red shirters” who frequented Board of Commissioner meetings to push for improved conditions for animals in DeKalb.

“The old facility was old, smelly [and] leaked water,” May said. “We know that that old facility was poorly designed. It was too small and it was old and outdated. The citizen committee pointed that out day after day after day.”

Several dogs were on hand for the groundbreaking of the county’s new shelter. Photos by Andrew Cauthen

Several dogs were on hand for the groundbreaking of the county’s new shelter. Photos by Andrew Cauthen

The new facility will have 15 adoption rooms–12 for dogs and three for cats.†It also will have a 1,300-square-foot clinic that will provide spay and neuter services, as well as a surgery preparation room, surgery room, lab area, secure pharmacy storage, and holding areas for dogs and cats slated for surgery.

The facility is approximately 50 percent larger than the old facility, May said.

Additionally, the new facility will have a dog grooming area, exercise yard, exercise fields, adoption halls, separate lobbies for adoption, reclaim and intake holding and exam areas as well as a multipurpose room. 

“It will be designed in a way that adequately houses the needs of those animals that will be coming through that facility,” May said. “It will be an open and inviting place for people and pets and it will be a place where you will want to come to expand your family by adopting a pet.

“We’re excited about that and the county has budgeted millions of dollars for this effort,” May said. “We can debate back and forth about the amount of money here but we know that at minimum the county would have expended no less than $10 million for the acquisition of a property, the design as well as the construction of this facility.

“It’s not perfect but it’s night and day in terms of where we’ve been in the past,” May said.

Susan Neugent, who chaired the animal task force that studied the existing shelter and the plight of animals there, said the “existing shelter was characterized very harshly in our task force report.”

Neugent said the new shelter will be clean, well ventilated, and a place “that will welcome the community in, instead of being a place people want to avoid. It was a death chamber before.

“I think the biggest thing that’s happened…is there has been a dramatic change in philosophy associated with animal welfare in DeKalb County,” Neugent said. “We’ve gone, in my view, from last to just about first. And that’s not just first in the state. It’s bordering on first in the nation in terms of the philosophical change from using euthanasia as the principal method of population control of homeless and unwanted animals.”

Commissioner Kathie Gannon said, “This has been a long time coming. We’re very, very excited.”

Speaking to animal advocates, Commissioner Jeff Rader said, “You are the ones that were able to show us that truly the measure of a community is its ability to care for the people and the creatures who cannot defend themselves.”

“This truly is a facility that we all will run around and brag about,” added Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson.

Construction is expected to be completed by March 2017. 

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