Makeover at beastly shelter

Building: The county facility for animals gets ready for a $1.6 million renovation project.

May 16, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Kim Holloway's weekly trips to the forlorn-looking Howard County Animal Shelter to weigh her dieting beige Labrador, Star, won't likely change, but a long-awaited renovation and expansion project will soon transform her ritual.

"It will be wonderful," Holloway said as she emerged from the beige, water-stained building on Davis Road on Thursday and faced the three huge trailers in the parking lot.

Once the $1.6 million job is completed this winter, the structure will be barely recognizable.

Plans call for a 50 percent expansion, from 7,900 to 12,100 square feet. Additions are planned on three sides that will change the dreary exterior to red brick, with commercial-style green metal sloped roofs adorned with gold lettering, said Mike Giovanniello, chief of the Bureau of Facilities for the county Public Works Department.

Inside, the water-stained ceiling tiles, rusting window frames, worn walls and equipment will be replaced, and new heating and cooling systems, flooring and roofing will be installed.

"We've kind of outgrown this building," said Deborah Baracco, the county's animal control administrator.

The dozens of volunteers who help staff the shelter are also happy, said Ann Selnick, president of Animal Advocates of Howard County, which has urged improvements for years.

"We're grateful the county's moving forward," she said.

The larger, renovated quarters will help keep the animals physically and psychologically fit, she said.

"I think it will help a lot," said Jessica Snyder, the center's adoption coordinator and an employee of nearly three years.

Baracco said the 25-year-old facility will have 18 new dog runs, a larger cat room with 34 more cages, a room for exotic pets, a waiting room, a classroom and a lunchroom for employees, a new quarantine area and a visiting room, where prospective owners can see animals.

The shelter will remain open throughout the renovations, except for the one or two days required to move into and later move out of the temporary quarters.

The trailers - two double-wide mobile homes for the animals and a single for administrative offices - will be home to the shelter's 10 employees and menagerie of dogs, cats, lizards and guinea pigs, probably starting next month, Baracco said.

Indoor dog runs and other enclosures in the trailers will quickly feel like home to the animals, who stay an average of only 10 days, she said, adding that the workers also should quickly adapt.

On Thursday, the shelter held 38 cats, 17 dogs, two lizards in heated glass tanks and a mother-and-daughter pair of guinea pigs in the hallway who had partially chewed their pink name cards.

Sheba, a mostly black, tail-wagging part-husky, and Shelby, a "shy, nice, loving, extremely sweet" longhair gray and white cat, patrolled their enclosures, looking for attention and food.

Baracco said the shelter has a 65 percent adoption rate, which she called a good percentage.

Holloway, of Elkridge, said she began coming to the shelter several years ago when she adopted a cat. More recently, she turned in a feral cat that she found under her yard shed.

She was delighted that the cat was adopted. As she grasped a baby carrier holding Leila, her new 3-week-old grandchild, in one arm, and Star's leash in the other, she explained how eliminating human food had trimmed her father's formerly overweight dog from an obese 120 pounds to a svelte 75.

The shelter is closer than her veterinarian, she said, and the county was nice enough to allow her to use its scale.

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