County continues to move forward on building new animal services facility

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 4/21/21

CUTLINE: The county is the closest it's ever been to building a new animal services facility, something that’s been needed for years.

CLAY COUNTY – The county is the closest it’s been to …

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County continues to move forward on building new animal services facility

Posted

CUTLINE: The county is the closest it's ever been to building a new animal services facility, something that’s been needed for years.

CLAY COUNTY – The county is the closest it’s been to finally building a new animal services facility, something that’s been needed and talked about by the Board of County Commissioners for years.

The county has been talking about a new animal facility services building for nearly a decade, if not longer, and the BCC requested an audit in 2016 for the project. A workshop was held in May of 2017 and the topic has often popped up at BCC meetings since. The BCC held another workshop on April 15, and the new building is looking more and more like a reality.

“We’ve wrestled with this for years,” BCC Chairman Mike Cella said during the meeting last Thursday. “The Friends of Clay County Animals is even in favor of the new shelter. It would attract new interns and new volunteers ... and it would enhance our services greatly.”

Cella said the current building was built in the 1970s, with some parts of it having been built even earlier. It was built when the county had a population of 40,000 people, Cella said. Clay County’s population is now more than 220,000.

The BCC didn’t vote on it during the meeting, but it seemed to come to a general consensus the facility is needed. That’s because animal services lead, Troy Nagle, spent the meeting telling the board why a new building is needed.

Five hundred and fourteen dogs and 1,161 cats were adopted in 2020 from the shelter, with another 229 animals adopted at Petco and 307 at PetSmart, both of which are partners with the shelter.

“The idea is that we should be the last resort for your animal,” Nagle said. “We offer assistance though. If someone needs food, we have a food bank. Sometimes all people need is help with food. We try to help people find other alternatives before we take an animal into our animal shelter.”

It costs $27.85 for a cat to be taken in on its first day and $7.16 for every day after that. Dogs, on the other hand, cost $42.22 on the first day and $13.57 after that. When animals are taken in, there’s a good chance they’ll go into foster care – but not before proper medication and spaying and neutering.

The shelter did 1,521 sterilization surgeries last year and 249 trap-neuter-release procedures. It also treated various dogs for heartworms and other ailments.

“What we’ve seen happening is people bring us their animal to leave here because they can’t afford to get it fixed,” Nagle said. “So, we say, ‘let’s work with you, let’s get fines paid, let’s reduce the fees, and let’s get these animals where they need to be.”

Nagle said during kitten season, which has just begun, the shelter will have 100 to 200 kittens in foster care at any given time. Two hundred and forty-five dogs and 717 cats were fostered in 2020, which was a slower year due to COVID-19, especially compared to 2019, which had 257 dogs and 829 cats fostered.

All of that was possible due to the shelter’s “incredible” team of foster families and volunteers. Fostering, sterilization, and adoptions aren’t all the shelter does, however.

“We have six full-time and one part-time animal control officer positions,” Nagle said. “At this time, three of those positions are filled. Our animal control officers are responsible for the entire country except for Orange Park, and we respond to calls every day of the week, all 365 days of the year.”

Nagle said they had 3,597 calls last year and 9,063 executable actions last year. The shelter’s live release rate is greater than 90%, which means the shelter is a no-kill shelter.

“With all of that...what’s needed in a new facility?” Nagle asked. “Twenty-eight thousand square feet of space is needed to house 100 dogs and 100 cats. The idea is that (a building of that size) should take us through the next 10 years with the possibility for expansion if needed after that.”

The cost for that will run around $10 million. There’s $714,000 in design work on the current budget with $7 million in construction costs for the 2023-24 capital improvement plan. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s happening. It just means some of the money is there, but something could happen to divert the money elsewhere.

The shelter’s veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer Broadhurst, said everyone at the facility would “love to see the new shelter built sooner rather than later.” She said one surgery table would be great, but multiple would be even better, especially since so many interns and college students come to Clay’s animal services facility to shadow.

Everyone agrees the need for a shelter is there. It’s now just a matter of determining when it will be addressed.

“I think we have a good plan for the coming years,” commissioner Betsy Condon said.

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