by Christie Lagally
Most weekend afternoons are bustling with patrons at the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) as families visit in the hopes of adopting a furry family member. But recently, the shelter has been a bit quieter while the building undergoes renovation of its dog kennels, a project that requires most of the animals to reside in foster care for more than a month.
In November, SAS foster families were called upon to take not just dogs but also rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters that were displaced by the renovation. Amazingly and generously, the shelter’s volunteer community rose to the occasion and took nearly every dog and small animal into its collective care.
Although few animals are currently residing in the shelter, fostered animals are brought in during open hours to meet with potential new families. On a recent Saturday, SAS volunteer Rose Torbin introduced me to some guinea pigs that were spending the day in the shelter lobby for an adoption event. Torbin is part of the Critter Team at SAS, and she is also serving as a foster parent to two rats, Lucy and Pixal, during the renovation.
Creating a better environment
It has been about a decade since the dog kennels had been upgraded. Thanks to an $80,000 grant from the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation, $68,000 from the shelter’s Help the Animals Fund and $12,000 of city building funds, a three-phase project is being implemented to upgrade the entire facility.
As part of phase one, cat condos were purchased for the front corridor of the shelter just last year, and the in-progress kennel upgrades are designed to make the space more dog- and adopter-friendly.
Seattle Animal Shelter director Don Jordan explained that the kennels were once designed for a shelter where dogs did not stay long. But, today, the shelter boasts a 93-percent live-release rate for animals coming into their care. Live-release rates are a measure of how many animals can be successfully returned to their owner or re-homed upon arrival at the shelter, and this includes animals that are too sick or injured and must be euthanized.
The kennel upgrades were designed by SHKS Architects in Seattle, and major work was well underway by mid-November. The chain-link doors on each kennel were removed, and all poles and sound baffling were taken out so the floors and walls could be resurfaced.
Jordan explained that small dogs would often slip past the poles in the kennels; hence, the area was not safe for all dogs in residence. The newly renovated kennels will have glass doors with a visual barrier to calm dogs that are stressed by seeing other dogs nearby. Renovations are expected to be complete by mid-December.
Phase two of the shelter renovations will include upgrades to the facility’s HVAC system. Jordan explained that improving ventilation should help reduce incidences of upper respiratory infections (URI) that commonly inflict dogs and cats residing in shelters or kennels.
“Our goal is to create a healthy and happy environment as a whole,” Jordan said.
Rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and other small critters will be the beneficiaries of phase three of the renovation project. Additionally, upgrades to the shelter’s kitchen and laundry areas are planned.
Donations are needed to help fund phase three, and the shelter will work with the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation for longer-term planning.
Currently, critters are housed in four dog kennels separate from the main kennel room. The space is not ideal for smaller furry friends that are primarily housed in larger rodent cages placed along the walls. Upgrades to this area will include a more enriching space for these special creatures.
During kennel renovations, the shelter is not taking in animals, but it has provided the public with alternatives for dealing with stray or surrendered animals. If you find a stray, you are asked to hold the animal and check for tags or ask a local veterinary office to scan for a microchip. With this information, list the animal on SAS’s Reuniting Owners with Missing Pets System (ROMPS) online database (web1.seattle.gov/dea/romps).
You can also post the found animal on local blogs or put up flyers around the neighborhood to find the owner.
In the event the animal’s owners cannot be located, SAS has partnered with local shelters, including Seattle Humane Society and PAWS, which have offered to take in surrenders during the temporary intake closure.
Jordan said that people have been very understanding when they find they cannot surrender an animal during the renovation.
Once phase one renovations are complete, the shelter will host a reopening event; watch its website for more information.
In the meantime, animals in foster care and cats residing at the shelter are available for adoption. You can visit the Seattle Animal Shelter at 2061 15th Ave. W. in Interbay, and follow the shelter’s progress as it works to make our local animal shelter increasingly comfortable, welcoming and safe for animals and people alike.
To foster, volunteer or adopt at the Seattle Animal Shelter, visit www.seattle.gov/animalshelter. To learn more or donate to the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation, visitwww.seattleanimalshelterfoundation.org.
CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane, a news site about humane-conscious lifestyles at livinghumane.com. She also writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at www.sniffingouthome.org.