Valley Animal Services Center Runs into Space Issues
The regional animal pound that serves Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro opened less than a year and a half ago, but it's already overcrowded.
So managers are forcing the partners to look at a major expansion.
Currently, the Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center in Lyndhurst is battling a parvovirus outbreak that forced them to separate healthy and infected dogs. But there's no room to do that on-site, so animal control officers have to take new strays to an off-site location. It's just one example of how space is at a premium.
There's a feline in every cage and a dog in each run at shelter, and such close quarters cause problems.
"Stress is a big factor with our cats' health. The building's so small and it's noisy, and the cats constantly hear the dogs barking. They're constantly exposed to the smell of dogs. So it's stressful on the cats," said Lauren Maddox, the center's director.
"This building is not designed to be run as a shelter. We have adoptable cats here, and literally on the other side are intake and cats that have severe upper respiratory diseases. We're all on the same ventilation, so that proves a really easy way of transmitting diseases," said Leticia Hansen, a veterinarian at the center.
Isolation rooms with separate air handlers are at the top of the staff's wish list. They also want more animal housing, more office and storage areas and a visitation room for adopting families.
So why is the pound overcrowded just 16 months after opening? State law allows local governments to have stray or unwanted cats and dogs put down in seven days or less, which would certainly save space. But adoption efforts and partnerships with several rescue agencies keep euthanasia rates at 50 percent for cats, and 10 percent for dogs.
"One of the difficulties is how do we care for them and accommodate them until we can get them adopted. We've proven that we can get those 90 percent of them adopted. But the downside is, it takes a little time," said Pat Coffield, an Augusta County administrator.
"Our animals don't have a time limit. As long as we have the space and the resources to continue to care for them, we do try to keep them until they're adopted," Maddox said.
Engineers are working on plans for a major expansion to the shelter and should be ready to present them to local governments in three to six months.
There's no price tag yet on the proposed expansion to the animal service center. The Augusta County administrator hopes volunteer and inmate labor, and fundraising help from rescue agencies will pick up a large part of the bill.
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