There was a time when “state-of-the-art” for “dog pounds” meant rounding up dogs in the streets and drowning them in the Hudson River. Thankfully, those days are long gone. We don’t call them “dog pounds” anymore, and “state-of-the-art” has a totally different meaning in the 21st Century. Yet we still have a ways to go in Yolo County. Fact is, we are shamefully overdue for a new animal shelter facility, and we’re not asking for something that is not already being done Nation wide. In fact, California has had a boom in the construction of new animal shelter facilities.
Public support for improved animal control policies has led to significant organizational, service delivery and shelter facility changes in Oakland, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, Santa Barbara County, Riverside County and Contra Costa County. Similar change have also occurred in San Mateo County, Sacramento County, Stanislaus County, Shasta County, Merced County, El Dorado County, Placer County and Sutter County. Many others have since followed, and we expect that Yolo will soon be on that list. A new animal shelter is on the Yolo County capital project list. But what should we expect from this new shelter?
An animal shelter needs to provide a healthy and appropriate environment for animals and staff. It should be conducive to the needs of the community, the animals, and the goals and programs of the facility itself. Here are the components that we should expect in Yolo’s new shelter:
- A safe, healthy environment to house lost animals until claimed by their owners.
- Adequate capacity for holding animals in a humane manner that promotes good health and prevents the transmission of contagious diseases. There is an
important and direct relationship between a shelter’s holding capacity and the well-being and health of the shelter’s animal population.
- Adequate mechanical and plumbing systems designed to maximize disease control as well as durable finish materials intended to withstand the rigors of daily
cleaning with chemicals and hot water.
- A positive environment that minimizes stress levels for animals, employees, and visitors.
- Adequate animal support areas to ensure proper care. Including food preparation, laundry, grooming, examination and medical procedure rooms, behavior evaluation areas, food, laundry, and equipment storage areas, vehicle maintenance and cleaning areas, etc.
- Adequate public-oriented components including spay-neuter clinics, education programs (classrooms and children-oriented learning areas) as well as more traditional adoption and redemption services.
- Adequate staff support areas. It is important for staff to have proper break room areas, lockers and restrooms. In addition, the maintenance of shelters involves the constant cleaning of urine and feces and the sterilization of kennels and cages to prevent disease transfer.
- A responsive public environment that supports the following:
- Adoption of companion animals
- Education regarding animal care, responsible pet ownership and other animal issues
- Redemption of lost animals
- Surrender of unwanted animals
- Animal licensing
- Community cat program (TNR)
What does all that look like?
I have found three distinct types of shelters being built today. State-of-the-art shelters that are designed to support “best practices” in animal control and sheltering. New, “traditional” shelters that are just larger versions of an existing layout that omit or minimize small animal holding, staff support areas, educational spaces, food preparation areas, socialization and dog exercise areas, and do not generally take advantage of best practices relative to disease control. Prefabricated shelters – similar to the traditional shelter in size, features and design and are less costly to build than either of the above construction methods.
Yolo deserves a state-of-the-art shelter. Our new state-of-the-art facility will include an inviting entrance, spacious counter area, small dog holding area to minimize noise, stress, and disease transfer. Public friendly cat condos, sanitary food preparation area, centralized cleaning system for efficiency, seamless floor and walls for ease of cleaning, disease control, and longevity. Indoor and outdoor kennels so animals can choose their environment, and staff will be safe and efficient while cleaning. A classroom for animal related education, low cost/no cost spay and neuter and other programs that we are lacking due to space in our current facility.
If you are undecided about a new facility for Yolo County, I will leave you with a final thought about what we as a community and animal shelters are up against. The reproductive capacity of dogs and cats is breathtaking, and far exceeds that of humans. The Humane Society of the United States has calculated that one female dog and her progeny can produce more than 67,000 offspring in seven years. One female cat can produce more than 430,000 offspring. No, these are not typographical errors. The numbers represent a maximum that is not attainable because it is based on the assumption that all animals in a population can and do breed to their maximum biological capacity, and live long enough to reach their reproductive potential. However, the breeding potential gives some idea of the magnitude of the problem. A new state-of-the-art shelter will lead the way to spay/neuter programs to control the burgeoning dog and cat population – and that’s good for both humans and animals.
Janis Rosenberg is President of Unleashing the Possibilities, Inc., a non-profit corporation dedicated to raising funds to build Yolo County a new, state of the art animal shelter. Learn more by visiting their website at http://unleashingyolo.org and you can also find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UTPYolo/.