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New Putnam animal shelter expected to open next month

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Daffy waited patiently, wrapped in a blue towel and cradled by Rene Blaylock, who explained the situation.

Someone had given the fluffy black cat to Blaylock's fiancé, but her daughter is extremely allergic to cats. Daffy hadn't been neutered, and they weren't sure how old he is, Blaylock told Lisa Herdman, office manager of Putnam County Animal Relief Services.

A few minutes later Wednesday morning, a medium-sized black dog was brought in on a leash, 15 minutes after the shelter opened its doors for the day.

As many as 20 animals are brought to the shelter each day during the summer months, according to chief humane officer Jon Davis, and the county's current shelter, built as a temporary facility in 1986, isn't equipped to handle the demands of the area.

The county's new animal shelter, on W.Va. 62 near the Winfield Bridge, is scheduled to open Aug. 15.

It was supposed to be open last month, but a few snags in construction and tweaks to the building design pushed plans back, said County Manager Brian Donat.

"There were a few problems with how the earthwork was designed, and so we had to go back and make tweaks in the design of the building -- precisely, the layout of the building on the property itself," Donat said.

For Davis, it has been worth the wait. The new shelter will boast more space to house dogs and cats, and will allow new animals to be quarantined. It will be able to house 55 dogs and 35 cats, compared to 35 dogs and 17 cats at the current shelter.

According to Davis, each canine kennel will have a separate air circulation system to prevent the spread of communicable diseases like kennel cough and distemper, and each kennel will be separated by concrete walls, preventing dogs from coming into direct contact with each other and potentially spreading disease.

"I think it's a plus to be able to treat our animals better than they were being treated," Donat said. "Now they're not subject to as many diseases as they were, because new animals will be segregated from the existing population until they can be determined to be healthy. Any time you operate an animal shelter, that safety measure is always ideal."

The new facility also will include an office where veterinarians can spay and neuter animals. Currently, the shelter contracts with a veterinary clinic in Barboursville and transports animals there.

"With the new facility, we'll be able to have them come down, probably once a month, and do sterilizations at our facility," Davis said.

He said he hopes the extra space -- combined with state laws and the county's efforts to sterilize animals that come through the shelter -- will decrease the number of animals killed.

"We don't have a set time like a lot of shelters; as long as the animal is healthy and isn't aggressive, we try to make every effort to find it a home," Davis said. "When we do euthanize, we base it on whether an animal is aggressive -- we don't want to put a dangerous animal back into the community -- or if an animal is extremely sick, or if we're just out of room, then we do have to look at euthanasia."

According to state law, a person adopting an animal from a shelter in West Virginia that has not been spayed or neutered has 60 days to have the procedure completed. There is a $50 deposit at the time of adoption, which is returned once the shelter has received proof of the surgery, and the shelter will cover the cost of the surgery if the animal is taken to the veterinarian it has contracted.

"With the spay and neuter programs, we are seeing fewer animals come through the shelter than in previous years, so we're starting to see the effect from that," he said. "A lot of our problem right now is just the small capacity that we're working with."

Silling Associates Inc., an architectural and planning firm in Charleston, designed the new shelter. The land the shelter sits on was donated by the state, and the Putnam County Commission approved a $2.3 million construction plan for the facility in February 2012.

The existing shelter will likely be torn down, according to Davis, but old shelter or new, anyone interested in adopting a dog or cat from the Putnam County animal shelter can call 304-586-0249 or visit www.petfinder.com/shelters/WV96.html.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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