St. Louis County Finishing New Animal Control Center

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OLIVETTE, MO ( — Forget what you think about dog pounds. The St. Louis County Health Department is getting ready to open a new animal shelter that will look more like a giant retail destination. Chris Hayes got an advance, inside look. To see the difference, you first have to know how St. Louis County keeps stray animals now. It’s a sad place you might expect when you think “dog pound”.

The north St. Louis County Shelter, (one of two currently) is cramped and dingy with animals sometimes kept in the garage bay. Dogs and cats are clearly stressed.

That’s why St. Louis County is opening this new space. It’s still under construction, but you can see the vision right at the front door. Innovative displays will feature animals that need homes. A welcome desk will promote adoptions. Health Director Dr. Dolores Gunn said, “Our primary mission is the control of disease between animals and humans and the best way to do that is to have both of them healthy.”

The new shelter will include bigger surgery rooms, with plans to double the number of animals saved. Cages have easier access to get strays from crate to cage. They also include features to ease feeding and watering. Many cages are actually suites, with large doggie doors between rooms that allow workers to close off one side while they clean the other.
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The new shelter even has a cage for the unexpected. Several years ago they had a camel which they could put in the cage.

Chris Hayes asked Dr. Gunn, “Have you been through every room in here?”

Dr Gunn replied, “Yeah, but I got lost several times, ha ha.” Hayes said, “You could fit the entire north shelter in this building.” Dr Gunn responded, “Yes you could. The new facility takes both of the facilities; even combined it increases our capacity by 85 percent.”

But it’s about more than space for strays. They need to find more homes for them. St. Louis County euthanizes about 400 animals every month. Dr. Gunn said they want that number to drop, by adopting out more, not just through better marketing, but also by working with volunteers.

Dr. Gunn said, “Not only expand the number of volunteers we have, but actually set up a volunteer program that includes training education, seminars and infrastructure and strengthens the ability of the actual volunteer themselves.”

She’s already hired a special coordinator. Dr. Gunn said they don’t even have the space for many volunteers at the old shelters. It could be only another month before workers move every animal into their new shelter, a space that may end up being a model for animal care and control facilities.