New animal shelter plans start

County commissioners have authorized a design phase for a new animal shelter, a facility that County commissioner Tom Lundy said may begin construction during the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Catawba County’s current animal shelter has a capacity of 78 animals, but houses about 200 dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals on a daily basis. Walking down the shelter’s hallways, about seven dogs are assigned to one run — numbers that shelter manager Jay Blatche said are unacceptable.

“The county animal population has outgrown this shelter that was built 25 years ago,” Blatche said. “The ratio of dropping off animals to adopting one is (skewed).”

Capacity issues at the shelter have caused more animals to be euthanized, and the shelter now averages about 18 animals per day or 70 percent of the total animal population, according to county records.

The current shelter has limited air flow, and the dogs have no outdoor kennels or runs. Limited airflow means the potential for the rapid spread of disease, which is something the shelter does not have the means to treat.

“Every shelter in the nation has sickness coming in and out of the shelter, but it would be a lot easier to maintain with a new shelter,” Blatche said. “With a more modern facility, we would be able to treat some of these animals, and they would not have to be put down.

“Right now, we do not have an exam room or a treatment room. If a dog has kettle cough, we have no way to isolate them. We need some place where we can quarantine the animals, so they don’t affect the other animals in the shelter.”

Recently, Blatche said there has been a constant stream of animal drop-offs at the shelter — drop-offs that he cannot refuse.

“When they bring them in, we can’t say no,” Blatche said. “We can’t say no, and we’re going to make more room for them.”

Blatche said the shelter has studied the “pros and cons” of building a new shelter for the past two years and decided it’s time for a change.

“I went around the state and looked at a bunch of different shelters.

I’ve been to 10 different shelters to see what’s needed, so we get the biggest bang for our buck,” Blatche said. “With the influx of animals that we have here, the only way we are going to start correcting some of the sickness and the problems, is to get a new shelter.”

The Board of Commissioners authorized a design to be completed for the new animal shelter, said Catawba County Public Information Officer Dave Hardin, adding that the design process has already started.

“There is no particular timeline for that design to come back,” Hardin said. “However, once that design comes back, it is presented to the Board of Commissioners.”

Lundy said in May that the county plans to “break ground” on the new shelter in FY 2011-12.

The 2011-12 county budget approved June 6 reserved $187,500 for the county’s anticipated share of future debt payments for the new shelter.

Funds were also included to replace two animal control trucks with a van. The van will improve efficiency by allowing animal control officers to pick up multiple animals in extreme weather conditions, rather than having to immediately return to the shelter, Lundy said in his FY 2011-12 budget report.

For more information on the animal shelter or to look at adoptable animals, visit