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Putnam animal shelter opens Thursday (video)

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Eight cats and 20 dogs waiting for a permanent home were given a new and improved temporary shelter Wednesday, as volunteers with the Putnam County Animal Relief Center moved its animals to the county's brand new facility.

The new Putnam County Animal Shelter, located on W.Va. 62 near the Winfield Bridge, will open to the public today. The state-of-the-art shelter will be able to house more than twice as many dogs and cats as the old shelter, and features a separate intake area for incoming animals, a quarantine area and clinical space for in-house spay and neuter procedures.

"We hope the new shelter will allow for more adoptions and increased spay and neutering, along with education for the public on spaying and neutering," said Putnam County Commission President Joe Haynes. "It's larger, it's more modern, and it's easier to keep clean. One of the biggest problems you have with a shelter -- or any facility with a large number of animals -- is cleanliness. The way this shelter is set up and designed, it will be much easier to keep clean."

Haynes and his wife, Karen, have been advocates for the construction of a new shelter since 2005, when Karen began volunteering at the old shelter, which was constructed in 1986 and was intended only as a temporary facility.

"When Joe first started on the County Commission, I decided I wanted to volunteer somehow. I love animals, so I went over to the animal shelter," Karen Haynes said. "I just got to the front office there, and it was so dirty -- I can't put in words what I felt like, and I don't know what came over me, but I said out loud, 'From this day forward, it will never look like this again.' That's how it started."

Haynes called the effort to build the new shelter "unprecedented," and said volunteer efforts and donations made it possible to build the shelter without an added burden on taxpayers. Karen Haynes said fundraising efforts for the shelter over the years amounted to more than $300,000.

"It's been almost nine years of working and having fundraiser after fundraiser to get this done, and now that it's here, it's hard to put into words," she said. "It's been a long time coming."

The wait was even longer than anticipated. The shelter was to open in July, but tweaks to the design of the building and construction snags pushed it back. According to Chief Humane Officer Jon Davis, issues with the wiring held up the animal shelter's opening even longer. However, animals were transported to the new shelter without incident Wednesday, despite an early morning power outage caused by a car accident.

"There were a few odds-and-ends things the contractor needed to take care of before we actually moved in and took control of the building," he said.

Joe Haynes said animal shelter employees were involved with every step of the new shelter's design process, and the project's architect, Carmen Wong of Silling Associates in Charleston, spent a week volunteering at the old shelter.

The shelter "looks nothing like your typical government building," he said, and was designed to be more welcoming for people hoping to adopt a pet.

"The idea was to make it feel more like a pet store than a pound, to make the idea of adopting an animal a more pleasant experience," he said. "We hope we'll have increased adoptions, and we hope that, because this facility is so accessible, [we] really educate the public on spaying and neutering."

The facility has separate entrances for intake and adoptions. New dogs are kept in one of eight intake kennels until they are determined to be healthy enough for adoption. The entrance to the adoption center was designed for accessibility, according to Joe Haynes. All 35 cat enclosures are in the lobby, as well as 24 enclosures for small dogs and puppies.

The previous shelter was able to house 17 cats and as many as 35 dogs. The new shelter has 45 large dog kennels for adoptable dogs, as well as the 24 enclosures for small dogs and puppies and the eight intake kennels.

Each kennel has its own air circulation system, and each is separated by high walls to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

Every kennel also is connected to a line that allows feces and urine to be swept directly to it and flushed into the main sewer system -- something that Davis said will greatly improve the cleanliness of the shelter.

"We have a separate kennel for impounded animals, which are animals we might hold for an impending court case," Davis said. "Quarantined animals that are here because of a bite will be separated from the general population, as well."

Davis said the county's euthanasia rate is on the decline this year, and he hopes the additional space will allow the shelter to keep animals longer. The clinical space in the new shelter will allow a veterinarian to visit the shelter to perform regular spay and neuter surgeries.

Joe Haynes said the animal shelter is the animal-control authority for the county. He said he hopes the shelter can install an outdoor stable in the future so that livestock surrendered to the agency can be kept onsite. The county owns a large chunk of land surrounding the new shelter, and there is a walking trail for volunteers to walk the shelter's dogs.

"We can always use volunteers. Any shelter can use volunteers," Karen Haynes said. "There will always be a need for volunteers.

"Twenty years down the road," she said, "this shelter will still be here and it will still be functional, because we built it for the future."

Anyone interested in adopting a dog or cat from the Putnam County Animal Shelter can call 304-586-0249 or visit www.petfinder.com/shelters/WV96.html.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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