Sunday, December 23, 2007

A shelter story and Happy Howlidays!

It's 40 degrees and finally feels like holiday weather. I have short hair and don't particuarly like cold weather, but you've gotta admit Christmas feels better when frost is in the air.

The New Year is fast approaching and there are some exciting plans afoot. WAG will be starting their education programs soon, teaching more kids about ways to help animals. There are some very enthusiastic children in our county and it's great to see their interest in animal issues.

Big news on the homefront with the planning of our new government animal shelter. The Walton County Commissioners have recognized the need for a new shelter and the SPLOST tax approved by voters in 2006 will provide much-needed money for the facility. But the funding has both a good news/bad news aspect. Only $750,000 has been approved for building the facility. Will that be sufficient? Depends on how you look at it.

The current facility, built in the late 1980's, is grossly overcrowded. An insulated, metal building housing more cages was was added in 1997. Still, crowded cages are common, as are respiratory infections and other typical hazards of animal overcrowding.

Walton County Animal Control saw nearly 3400 animals come through their doors in 2006. To have sufficient space, government and industry recommendations are for a minimum of 3-4 sq. ft. per animal. Under those calculations, the shelter's current usage requires a building of 10,000 - 13,000 sq. ft.

Looking toward the future, our predicted growth of animal population calls for 15,000 - 20,000 sq. ft. to adequately maintain a healthy environment.

The county's current plans are for a shelter of approximately 8,500 sq. ft.

Certainly, slicing the government pie is never easy and there are plenty of departments in line for handouts. Animal control is one of many projects planned. But this situation begs the question - Although we desperately need a new facility, is building a strcture too small for our current needs a wise expenditure?

County officials have met with WAG leaders and other interested parties to discuss our concerns with the proposed project. Tweaking the plans may help to squeeze out some much-needed space, but we'll see what the future holds. This is our best shot at a new facility, so it's vital to maximize every square inch of space offered.

More on that later. In the meantime, I got a big hambone and new chewtoys waiting on me under the tree. Merry Christmas to everyone and Happy New Year!

Til Later,