Making a healthier habitat for animals in Carroll

Humane Society repairs aim to keep out viruses

February 10, 2005|By Katie Martin | Katie Martin,SUN STAFF

Casey, a 2-year-old German shepherd, waited in a kennel at the Humane Society of Carroll County as an employee prepared to take her to visit with a potential adoptive family.

Casey scampered out of the kennel and followed the employee to another room, passing sheets of plastic hanging on the other side of the hall that block the wing where half of the dog kennels are being renovated.

She is one of several dogs - along with a large white goose - inhabiting a limited number of kennels during the renovation project. The 18 cages on Casey's side of the hall are to be completed next.

Space to house dogs and other large animals, like Casper the goose, has been cut in half until the end of the month while the Humane Society's 36 kennels are being repaired.

The $87,000 project was needed because of wear on the floor and wall surfaces of the kennels, which made disinfection difficult, said Nicky Ratliff, Humane Society executive director.

The yellow finish on the walls of all of the kennels is cracked and peeling, particularly near the base where the dogs' food and water dishes sit. Rugs in several of the cages cover the floor, which is also cracked.

"In an effort to keep the animals healthy and to be able to sanitize ... and also as far as aesthetic purposes, we needed to have the surfaces refinished," Ratliff said.

During the renovations, the Humane Society has asked that owners interested in surrendering their unwanted dogs wait until the project is completed because space is so limited.

Lost or stray dogs picked up by animal control officers will be accommodated, so the request is an effort to prevent the reduced number of kennels from filling, Ratliff said.

While overpopulation has not been a problem so far, she said, the Humane Society does have a few options.

"We can sacrifice one bathroom" to house a dog, Ratliff said. Large barrels and plenty of straw can also serve as makeshift doghouses for dogs that can be outside in the cold.

Several local organizations, including Tails of Hope in Mount Airy, volunteered to shelter dogs in case of an overflow.

Frank Branchini, executive director of the Humane Society of Baltimore County, said his organization is willing to take animals.

"But it appears people are doing what they asked them to do, which is, if they are planning on giving up an animal, hold on to it until the renovations are complete," he added.

Facilities for cats and other animals are not affected by the project.

The Humane Society of Carroll County, a Westminster nonprofit, works to alleviate the pain and suffering of animals, while educating the public about their needs and enforcing related laws, according to its Web site. The Littlestown Pike facility opened in the early 1980s.

A similar resurfacing project was completed about 10 years ago, but it was inadequate, Ratliff said.

"[The maintenance] is normal and ongoing, but we should not have had to do it this soon," she said.

Innovative Floor Systems Inc. of Baltimore is completing the renovation, said Thomas Rio, chief of Carroll County's Bureau of Building Construction.

"The previous coating has been failing and leaving cracks, and there are parts of the floor that have dislodged, so the Humane Society staff were concerned about the ability to disinfect and keep it clean for the animals," Rio said. "We are taking the failed surface off and replacing it with a new, bonded surface."

Ratliff said the dog kennels are a high-use area, cleaned every day with a high-pressure spray and disinfectant. Sanitizing the facilities became difficult when the surface started to break apart.

"It peels up, and moisture, water, urine and germs can get back under there, and so germs and viruses just stay there," Ratliff said.

Unsanitary conditions in improperly cleaned facilities can cause parvo virus and coronavirus to spread among dogs in the close quarters, she said.

"Dogs get it; it's lethal to them or extremely expensive to cure," Ratliff said. "We've had problems with [the viruses] in the past, and hopefully we won't when we get the floors fixed.

The new finish can be applied in cold weather, allowing the work to be completed at the slowest time of the year for housing dogs, she added.

The project is scheduled to be completed at the end of this month. It was slightly delayed because of difficulty in removing the old surface.

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