Thursday, September 07, 2000

Halls overflow with potential pets

Private funds sought to pay for Warren shelter addition

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Every corner of the shelter is filled with animals.

        A former closet is now a maternity ward for pregnant cats and their newborns.

        A hallway is lined with four large, wheeled cages of kittens.

[photo] A puppy's kiss in a crowded hall rewards Wendy McAdams, vice president of the Warren County Humane Association. The lab-mix pup will enter a training program at the Warren Correctional Institution.
(dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
        The former classroom is now the director's office and home to abandoned fish and hamsters.

        It's another consequence of being the second-fastest-growing county in the state: Warren County's humane association has run out of space at the shelter.

        Stray dogs by law must be kept for three days before they're euthanized; and with just 46 dog runs, the shelter can't keep even the most adoptable ones for more than five to 10 days, executive director Mari Lee Schwarzwalder said.

        So the private, nonprofit association has decided to expand the shelter the same way it built it in 1987: with private donations.

        The plan is to add 5,700 square feet to the 9,500-square-foot building on Cook Road in Lebanon, at a cost of $1.2 million.

        That would enable the shelter to take in up to 8,000 animals a year, said architect Bill Meade, a specialist in animal shelters.

        The association took in 5,456 dogs and cats last year, and is projected to see 7,200 annually in a decade, he said.

        Almost doubling the number of dog runs would allow animals that are ready to be adopted to be kept in a separate area from strays, Ms. Schwarzwalder said.

        “It'd just be much easier to keep diseases down,” she said.

        The shelter also would get its classroom back and be able to expand its night drop-off room.

        County commissioners had been mulling building their own shelter ever since the humane association warned this year that it would ask for twice as much operating money — $200,000 — next year. They appeared impressed last week, however, by numbers Mr. Meade presented suggesting it would cost the county a minimum of $318,000 a year to run its own shelter, not factoring in construction costs of at least $1 million.

        “I would think they're leaning toward striking a continuation of the agreement,” County Administrator Bob Price said Wednesday.

        County officials, Mr. Meade and residents alike agree that the humane association has done a good job of running the shelter.

        The average cost per animal handled is $56, compared to national averages of $75 to $200 per animal, Mr. Meade said, adding that staffing also is lower than average.

        “They have a very high-quality operation,” he told commissioners.

        On the downside, shelters nationally adopt out about 50 percent of their animals, he said in a 1999 study, far more than the Humane Association of Warren County. However, the shelter has increased its overall adoption rate from 19 percent in 1995 to 24 percent last year.

        Prospective pet owners impressed with the shelter have turned into repeat customers.

        “It's very nice, clean,” said Faylene Doty, a Mason resident who has been to the shelter several times in the past couple of years. She was back Wednesday looking for a companion for her Siamese cat, Cookie.

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