‘It’s definitely on the table’

By Keith Strange

March 1, 2014

PILOT MOUNTAIN — While it remains to be seen what form they will take, improvements to the county’s animal shelter to facilitate adoptions are going to be considered during this year’s budget session.

The announcement came as the board convened for its annual retreat at the soon-to-open JOLO Vineyards, which donated space for the board meeting.

During the meeting, Surry County Health and Nutrition Center Director Samantha Ange and Animal Control Director Gary Brown presented the board with plans for a new shelter, which were conceived as the result of a multi-year feasibility study.

“As you can see, it’s very eye-appealing,” Ange said of the proposed 10,360-square foot facility.

Plans for the proposed $2.5-$3 million facility are the result of the study, and Ange said the new building would expand adoption opportunities.

“The interior of the building would have potential for growth,” she said. “Spaying and neutering is still an issue in Surry County, so there will still be an overpopulation problem, but the one thing we really want to do with this is make it an adoption center with a warm, appealing appearance for the public.”

The center, if ultimately approved, would increase adoption space from 12 to 18 pens and keep potentially dangerous animals away from the public.

“Any animals would be quarantined for a period before they go to the adoption center,” she said.

The new facility would also house a courtyard, something Ange said area animal rights advocates and the Humane Society “like to see.”

In addition, the proposed center would offer separate adoption facilities for puppies and housecats.

“Right now, there isn’t a way for us to adopt puppies,” Ange said.

But Board Chairman Eddie Harris said that for the price tag, he feels there should be more space for adoptable animals.

“My concern is we’re looking at a $2.5 million facility and there are only six more cages for adoption,” he said.

“I agree with the holding area, stray animal area and quarantine areas, as well as the basic setup,” Ange said. “But I also agree that the adoption side should have additional space.

“I can say that the more spaces we have the more we can adopt out,” Ange added. “That’s less that will have to be put down.”

At the moment, there is no firm location for the proposed facility, but Harris noted that the board is considering a location near Mount Airy, since 85 percent of animal control calls come from the city.

Harris has proposed a second option that involves construction of a metal addition to the existing shelter to house adoptable animals.

The addition would be a 3,200-square-foot building that would increase adoption capacity, and it can be built for around $200,000. In addition, sewer service would have to be brought to the facility, which could be completed for about $10,000.

“The cost of the new facility, about $229 a square foot, concerns me,” Harris said. “That’s obviously the Cadillac approach, but it begs the question of how we should proceed.”

Ultimately, the board instructed Ange and her staff to look into potential grant funding or private donations from animal advocates and bring their findings back to the board in the future.

But Harris said the board is ready to consider improvements to the shelter during this year’s budget season.

“It’s definitely on the table,” he said.

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter