By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
Rainbow City recently decided to build its own animal shelter. The idea for the new facility came out of necessity.
Previously the city contracted its animal control services out to a local veternarian, but the contract was set to end at the end of 2016. Faced with a hefty price increase, Rainbow City officials searched for another facility to contract its animal control services to. They approached the Humane Society Pet Rescue and Adoption Center, but found that the shelter did not have the capacity to take on the additional animals.
“The more animal control contracts you have, the more animals come in and space dictates the fate of a lot of those animals,” said Humane Society director Christi Brown. “We knew that if we took the contracts, basically, that we were going to be increasing euthanasia because of space issues.”
The Etowah County Animal Shelter faced the same problems as the Humane Society.
Although unable to provide the necessary services, Brown said that the Humane Society aims to lead the community through compassion, education and community outreach. To help, Brown put Rainbow City Police Chief Jonathon Horton in touch with the Humane Society Alabama State Director Mindy Gilbert.
Gilbert helped Horton and other city officials research what a new shelter facility would need. She had Horton tour facilities in areas roughly the same size as Rainbow City to see what would work. Amidst the toured facilities, Horton said that the one in Scottsboro stood out. Scottsboro’s shelter and staff provided valuable assistance in determining what works and what does not.
Horton said that some of the practical advice included ventilation, hold times and outdoor kennel areas to prevent healthy animals from getting sick; drainage to help maintain a clean facility; and even an adoption specialist employee to get as many animals out of the shelter as possible.
The new animal shelter facility will be located near the intersection of Pleasant Valley Road and Steele Station Road on a parcel of land provided by the Rainbow City Fire Department. According to Horton, the location is also good for Southside, who was in the previous agreement with Rainbow City and will continue to partner with them.
The new facility is set to cost about $650,000. The land has already been cleared and plans finalized to begin building later this month. Horton says that they hope to finish building by late April or early May.
The facility will be 10,000 square feet and have the capacity to hold 110 to 120 animals.
In the meantime, a suggestion was made to “divide and conquer.” Short term contracts were made for the Humane Society to provide services to Rainbow City, and for the Etowah County Animal Shelter to provide services to Southside.
“I am thankful that all the shelters can work together,” said Brown.
Horton said that Rainbow City deals with 800 to 1000 animals coming through animal control every year. About 30 percent of those are returned to their owners. About 20-25 percent are adopted out. The rest are put to sleep. Of the animals put to sleep, about 60 percent are feral cats.
To combat the feral cat population, Horton plans to implement a trap, neuter and release program.
New animal control officers Brianna Ware of Southside and Andre Willett of Rainbow City are currently being mentored by the Humane Society. Two additional employees are scheduled to be hired to run the new facilty.