05/10/05 — Shelter too crowded to take care of strays

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Shelter too crowded to take care of strays

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on May 10, 2005 1:48 PM

The Wayne County Animal Shelter has housed unwanted pets for half a century, but it is too small and outdated to meet the county's current animal control needs, say officials who hope to build a new shelter.

Thirty years ago, the shelter housed about 1,600 animals a year. Today, it has to accommodate more than 7,000 a year.

The white-frame building off U.S. 117 south is located down a side street near the Neuse River, surrounded by a gray chain-linked fence. Railroad tracks cut across the dirt driveway leading to the shelter.

The shelter's land is in the floodplain, and the building was damaged after hurricanes in 1996 and 1999. On a recent rainy afternoon, a leaking roof created puddles indoors where the animals are penned.

"The roof's going," said Animal Control Officer Wayne Benton. "We're going to have to do repairs, but it's just wore out."

A strong musty odor and the smell of wet dogs filled the interior of the facility.

Fourteen pens in the front part of the room house the dogs with a good chance of being saved -- from wriggling furry puppies to Labrador retrievers.

Benton said the dogs in the front pens are strays and will not be euthanized for at least five days.

"We give their owners a chance to come look for them here," he said.

But in the back part of the building, the room is darker, and the air seems heavier. If despair had a smell, this would be it. These dogs were abandoned by their owners. They could be put to death at any time.

A smaller room to house cats was added onto the building 25 years ago. Wild cats that have not known much human contact are kept in cages in the carport beside the building.

Earlier this year, the county's Animal Control Advisory Committee asked county commissioners to build a 10,000-square-foot shelter on Clingman Street.

The new shelter would be more than eight times the size of the existing one. It would have a larger areas for dogs and a separate room for cats.

The new shelter would be designed to be better ventilated and more hygienic than the existing one, which is insect- and rodent-infested. Staff would be able to isolate sick or possibly rabid animals.

Building the proposed animal shelter, which was described by committee member George Wolfe as a "basic-needs building" would cost about $1 million.

The animal control advisory committee visited several shelters and talked to officials in several other counties, Wolfe said. Most counties have either built a new shelter in the last 15 years or are planning to build new ones.

Wayne's proposed new shelter would be located on a 38-acre tract of land that the county owns on Clingman Street, near the old Wayne Community College campus and the city of Goldsboro's garage. About three acres would be needed for the shelter building and buffering.

The shelter would be enclosed to keep noise and odor from becoming a problem for neighbors, officials said. The building would be better ventilated than the existing one, they said.

County commissioners will consider funding for the new shelter as they develop a budget for next year.