Accommodations better for county’s stray animals

First Posted: 1/15/2009

ST. PAULS - The new Robeson County animal shelter opens Monday and, for the county's stray dogs and cats, it will be like moving from the outhouse to the penthouse.
Members of the Board of Health took a tour of the 14,000-square-foot, $370,000 facility Thursday. It is a state-of-the art, climate-controlled animal shelter that is a drastic improvement over the old pound, said Jeff Bass, who will manage the facility.
“It's like comparing a Cadillac to a Volkswagen,” Bass said. “The animals will be a lot more comfortable.”
Bass did express concern that the number of adoptions might decline because the pound is no longer in the middle of the county.
Health board members saw a roomy, 42-by-350-foot building that will house up to 200 dogs and 50 cats, keeping the canines and the felines in separate areas. It will be serviced by a modern temperature control system based on chicken-house technology to ensure the comfort of the animals.
The new pound will be open to the public Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Construction on the new shelter, which is located at 255 Landfill Road, began in January. It replaces the old 2,000-square-foot pound at 3169 Elizabethtown Road, which did not have a climate-control system, exposing the animals to the extremes of heat and cold.
The new shelter also has a pitched floor to improve drainage. There is enough room to keep dogs that need to be quarantined separate from the rest of the animal population - something not always possible at the old shelter.
Bill Smith, Robeson County's health director, had his own analogy, saying the new and old shelters are “as different as night and day.”
“It's what we had hoped for,” Smith said. “Much more room and temperature control. I don't know what the animals could be lacking for.
“It will be easy to clean,” he said. “The other operation was 50 years old, and you just couldn't keep it clean.”
Hugh Cole, the county's director of environmental health, said the old shelter had about 20 dogs as of Friday, most of which would probably have to be euthanized before the new shelter opens Monday. Cole said most of the dogs are puppies and that they couldn't be moved to the new shelter because they might carry diseases with them
The new shelter already had nine dogs in the new pens on Thursday. Animals are housed for five days before they are euthanized.
Bass, one of two full-time employees at the shelter, hopes the new facility matches the adoption rate of the old facility.
“The old Lumberton shelter was a central location for folks,” Bass said. “I just hope we don't lose the folks coming from Fairmont and Rowland. But maybe we'll pick up people from Bladen and Cumberland County.
“We did some pretty good adoptions at the old shelter,” he said. “Some days, as many as 20. I just hope it's the same here and we can get even more animals adopted.”
While Bass hopes adoptions increase, “illegal” adoptions will be harder, thanks to a video surveillance system.
According to Smith, people commonly broke into the old facility to steal dogs used for fighting. Cameras have been installed to stop this activity, and access to the pound can be closed off with a gate.
Smith said he hopes to eventually use technology to allow people to look at animals in the pound without driving to St. Pauls. Under this plan, digital photographs of animals at the pound would be posted on the Health Department's Web site. There is no word on when such a system might be implemented.
Noah Woods, chairman of the Board of Health, said he can't wait to show off the new facility.
“I'm very excited about it,” Woods said. “It's something we can afford and, at the same time, it will take care of the animals. This is a big improvement over the old one. There's no comparison - it's just like the old jail and the new one.”

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