RALEIGH — Starting next year, Wake County residents will be able to go to one place to search for lost pets or adopt a stray or abandoned animal.
The county Board of Commissioners voted this week to award a $1.8 million contract to expand and renovate the Wake County Animal Care, Control and Adoption Center off New Bern Avenue in Raleigh.
The expanded center will become the county's primary animal shelter, taking in most of the animals now housed at two shelters operated by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County. The project will make it easier for people to search for lost pets as well as ease crowding and improve conditions for the animals, said Michael Williams, director of the county animal center.
The plan is expected to increase the number of animals at the county shelter by more than 50 percent to approximately 18,000 animals a year. The Board of Commissioners approved a schematic design for the expansion in February, including a 6,175-square-foot addition, interior renovations and mechanical improvements.
According to Williams, 84 dog kennels and 75 cat cages will be added in the new wing of the building along with four air conditioning units. The 18,351-square-foot building currently holds 140 dog kennels and 100 cat cages.
While canines, felines and other species at SPCA of Wake County will be transferred to the county center in 2010, animal control officers in Cary and Garner have already started delivering stray and homeless animals to the facility.
"Our goal was to duplicate the capacity we have between two shelters in one location," Williams said.
Construction is scheduled to begin in early August and be completed by July 2010.
Hope Hancock, executive director of SPCA of Wake County, says the private, nonprofit organization will continue to take in stray and unwanted animals but will transfer most of them to the county center. That will allow the organization to place more emphasis on education, sterilization and adoption.
Stan Norwalk was the lone commissioner to oppose the center expansion, believing it will take money away from human services.
"If you interviewed 10 people on the street I doubt it would get the vote, especially at times like this," Norwalk said at the board meeting Monday. "I think it's a bad decision regarding priorities to put money into an unneeded animal shelter."
Norwalk thinks the SPCA has the capacity to take care of all the animals it currently holds and said he doesn't support hiring more employees for the expanded county center.
"It blows my mind," he said.
But County Manager David Cooke replied that the consolidation has been talked about for years. The discussion continued for 30 minutes, with the majority of commissioners backing the project.
"It's a workable model, and I'm a little stunned that we're having a discussion about not doing this," Commissioner Paul Coble said.
Williams feels grateful that the project was passed in the end and said he hopes it will improve the center's "reclaim rate," referring to how many owners locate lost pets at the shelter.
"Our goal is to increase the amount of animals returned to their owners," he said. "If we can reduce the amount of time animals spend in the shelter it's positive for everybody."
Williams also hopes to increase the amount of adoptions made at both the county animal center and the SPCA. This year, of the 5,265 animals already taken in by the county center, 1,996 have been adopted, and 399 have been returned to their owners.
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