FLINT TWP. — The space available to each individual animal is being expanded at the center, according to Paul Wallace, director of the Genesee County Animal Control. The facility is 40 years old and was state of the art in 1975 but needs transformation.
“The animals will have larger cages,” Wallace said. “There will not be one cage on top of the other as there is now, except in some puppy areas. Some of the dogs now don’t like to be up high and some cats don’t like to be on bottom.”
Though the capacity for animals will remain about the same, there will be a new section in two rooms put up in the space with cat colonies. There will be a new meet and greet room in which people can play with animals before deciding to adopt them. The stray dogs will be kept separate from the adoptable dogs because of the expansion, making disease among the animals less likely. Offices will be torn out to grow the facility and that area will be turned into the stray dog area, separate from the adoptable dog area. If an animal is found to have a disease, they can be moved into treatment. There will be a dog isolation, in which the dogs will be medically isolated and the area decontaminated once its closed off.
“Right now we can’t do that because of the air system because the air handling system is for the whole facility,” Wallace said.
Each pet living quarter will have its own air supply after the expansion.
“The stray animal population is something we control through capture,” Wallace said. “Dogs are very dangerous when they pack into gangs. Also, for dogs that are always kept outside on the chain, this is a big step up. Sometimes there is court action involved in taking them in these situation. We have, in the last few years, stopped letting any animal out of the shelter that isn’t neutered, unless it’s a privately-owned animal someone comes to claim.”
Wallace said having more space for each individual animal is for their own comfort.
“We have a document that we kind of live by, “Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters” from the Association of Shelter Veterinarians,” Wallace said. “It talks about freedoms for animals.”
Wallace said shelter staff did have to control the animals’ movement because some of the animals were dangerous.
“But, for them to comfortable, there are five freedoms in the book,” he said. “The five freedoms are freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to express normal behavior and freedom from fear and distress.”
He said the shelter gets about 3,000 animals per year, and the comfort of the animals will improve dramatically with the transformation.
“We can sometimes do surgical intervention here,” Wallace said. “But, the center is pretty primitive compared to the 21st century right now.”
Contrary to what many people believe, Wallace said about 93-94 percent of the animals are saved from being killed at the shelter.
“Some of that percentage is the ones we euthanize by owner request,” Wallace said. “People have an old dog that is badly injured or diseased. They come to us, and that is a service we provide. It’s less expensive to come to us than to have a private veterinarian perform the service.”
Animals are not killed if they are not adopted to make space as they were before because of the dog laws of 1919. This changed in January of 2015. The shelter also has a network of volunteers, foster rescues who work tirelessly to get the animals ready for a home and get them adopted.
Eight million dollars in funding from the Genesee County Board of Commissioners made the expansion possible due to the millage Genesee County residents voted to approve to support animal control in 2014.