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Columbus looks to expand animal shelter to keep up with growing population

COLUMBUS, Ind. -- Columbus officials are considering a plan to expand the city’s Animal Care Services facility in order to keep up with the growing demand for space.

City Council member Tom Dell (D, At-Large) says the crowded kennels and crates are a byproduct of the growing population in the Columbus area.

“As the city has grown, so has the population grown, so has the animal population grown,” Dell said. “To some degree, it’s the prosperity of a community that is seeing growth over good times. And I think that’s a good thing. I think what we’re doing is just catching up on this aspect of how we take care of animals.”

Last year, the shelter took in 807 dogs, the highest number since 2011. The shelter also took in 875 cats, which was also the largest amount since 2011.

Nicohl Birdwell Goodin, the facility’s general manager, says the need for adequate space at the shelter has become a daily challenge for the employees and volunteers who help run the facility. Even now, during the slowest time of the year, Goodin says all the dog kennels are full. And some of the dogs are only getting half the space they are supposed to. A free-roam cat room, which was recently converted from office space, was completely full until the cats were transferred to a partner facility, she said.

As a low-kill shelter, Goodin says shelter workers try to avoid euthanizing as many animals as possible. With continually limited space, the shelter is reaching out to a growing number of organizations and shelters around the country in order to transfer dogs and cats to them.

“We’re constantly networking to get those relationships built so we can send them to places when we need to,” Goodin said.

But transferring animals to places like Maine and Vermont is a time-consuming effort, Goodin said. Shelter managers would rather be able to house animals in the Columbus facility and prepare them for local adoption.

A garage and bathroom at the shelter are also being used to store supplies like animal food, crates, laundry supplies and other items.

A plan to expand the facility in 1997 never materialized. Dell now says the city has contracted a consultant, HST Solutions, LLC, to examine the needs of the facility, based on recent trends in animal intake. The city has set aside $10,000 for the consulting work.

“We have to look at a facility that has served us well over years, but now is possibly inadequate for the services we need to provide for the citizens of this community.”

Dell hopes to take the information gathered by HST Solutions and have an architect design a specific plan. He hopes that plan will be complete in time to be included in council discussions of the 2020 budget this summer.

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