HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - At Huntsville Animal Services, sounds of construction are accompanying the sounds of barking dogs. The shelter is currently undergoing major construction to improve the facilities.
Construction Just Beginning
The construction began about eight weeks ago, according to Karen Buchan, Animal Care Supervisor at Huntsville Animal Services. Buchan said the original thought of the improvements to the shelter was probably five to six years ago.
"The actual planning began two years ago," said Buchan. "It's been a long process, and a lot of people were involved."
The construction sounds won't be gone any time soon. Buchan said they are in the first stage right now. Two large rooms with kennels are currently being remodeled, pictured below. All dogs are in the main and largest room with kennels, pictured to the right. Once the rooms under construction are finished, Buchan said the dogs will be moved to those rooms and construction will begin on the larger kennel area.
Buchan anticipates that construction will last until April, if not longer.
The construction will open a doorway between kennels to allow each dog to have a bedroom area and a bathroom area. This will give each dog a larger area to live in while they are at the shelter. It will also make things easier for the staff.
"When we have to clean their kennels, especially if we have a dog that is very fearful, very upset, we can close this door and they're on one side where we can clean that side," explained Buchan. "And we can also clean the other side by moving them over to the other side."
She said twenty-four kennels have been added, pictured below, but that doesn't mean that overall the shelter has more room. The kennels are being doubled, to create more room for each dog, so there won't be an increase in the number of kennels.
Free Adoptions During Construction
Right now, if the shelter gets 60 dogs they're basically at full capacity.
"We can't deal with the number of animals that we had previously when we had all the kennels, so we are constantly having incentives," she said. "And during the construction period, the adoption fee is free."
Medium and large-sized dogs and adult cats are free to adopt until the construction ends. Some restrictions may apply with puppies, kittens, and select adult dogs. Adoptable animals can be found here.
The shelter is also boosting their foster programs during the construction period.
"It's called the Foster Sleepover Program. The other two foster programs are Foster to Adopt, 'I want to see how this dog is gonna work out in my home', they can keep the dog a little longer, like two weeks, and then we have the Foster to Re-Home, these are dogs, they could be puppies, that are too young to go into the adoption program. They go into a foster home temporarily until they are old enough to get spayed or neutered and then be put up for adoption," said Buchan.
She also explained that there are dogs that come into the shelter and are very scared and do better in a foster home.
They're hoping that these programs will help the dogs be adopted during construction because it's affecting the animals.
"That's why we want the animals to go to these foster homes and get adopted. Get out of the shelter as quickly as possible," she said. "If you could just imagine the noise and the dust, the stress for the animals, it's stressful for the staff and volunteers."
People Missing Pets
Buchan said their return to owner rate is 20 percent. That means 80 percent of people are missing their pets and not coming into the shelter to look for them.
"If anyone is missing a pet they need to look in the shelter and check the website. It's really important," said Buchan.
They have an average of ten to fifteen dogs come into the shelter daily, and if they don't have that many dogs going out it can have a significant impact on the shelter.
Benefits of Kennel Improvements
The construction may be hassle right now but once it is complete it will be beneficial in multiple ways.
"Not only the quality of life but the dogs will be happier, stress-free," said Buchan. "This will just enhance the enrichment programs that we already have in place for the dogs."
Buchan said the dog area will also have a new HVAC system to provide cleaner air for the animals.
The improvements will be good for more than just dogs.
"It's gonna be a nicer place for the public when they come in and visit," she said. "Coming into an animal shelter can be very stressful for the public and a lot of people don't want to come to the animal shelter cause they too get depressed."
But Buchan urges people to think about how the dogs are feeling.
"We want that happy feeling, and we want those people to feel welcome to come into our shelter and visit with these animals because we want them to get into a good home," explained Buchan. "The welfare of the animal is what we are looking at here."
Cat World Recently Updated
Buchan said the cat area was updated before construction began on the dog area.
The "Cat World" now has rooms for people to take the cats in to play with as well as sliding doors between cages similar to the updates going into the dog kennels.
There was also a new HVAC unit added that has helped keep the air cleaner. Buchan said since the new installment the only sick cats have been cats that were sick before coming to the shelter.
"It's not the animal's fault that they're here. And we try to make it as comfortable and protective and home-like as possible, but in a shelter environment, it's almost impossible. A home life is what they need and there are so many beautiful dogs here. We get all kinds of dogs, different colors, sizes, personalities, and they need what I call, it's so common to say this, but a second chance," pleaded Buchan.
They encourage anyone who is interested in having a dog or cat to come to the shelter and visit the animals. If anyone wants to volunteer, Buchan said they are more than welcome. They just need to go online and complete an application. Information about donating can be found here.
Location and Hours
The Huntsville Animal Shelter is open Monday through Saturday for adoptions. Their hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Huntsville Animal Shelter is located at 4950 Triana Boulevard SW. Their phone number is 256-883-3782.