Madison-Jefferson County Animal Shelter director Jenny Slover says she believes the county needs a new shelter building. Although she says the animal capacity would be the same, she hopes to have a garage, better facilities for animal care and a large multipurpose room. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Madison-Jefferson County Animal Shelter director Jenny Slover says she believes the county needs a new shelter building. Although she says the animal capacity would be the same, she hopes to have a garage, better facilities for animal care and a large multipurpose room. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Inside the Madison-Jefferson County Animal Shelter, a cat room doubles as a record room, small, medium and large dogs share the same kennel area and the medicine room is also the staff lunch room.

Those are a few space and structural issues shelter director Jenny Slover and the shelter's advisory board hope to fix with a new and upgraded facility.

"It's old," Slover said of the current shelter. "I can show you the cracks in the walls."

Slover, who has been the director for six years, brought plans for a shelter nearly double in size to the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners earlier this month.  She said a new shelter would better divide dogs by size, provide designated intake and quarantine areas, create more room for storage and include a more efficient medical station.

Despite the need for more space, the plan isn't to increase the animal capacity. The shelter currently has 20 dog kennels and two cat rooms, and it rarely runs overcapacity.

Considering the number of homes available for animals and the number of intakes, Slover said increasing capacity would not decrease euthanasia rates.

More than half of the animal intakes come from the county, 38 percent come from Madison and 8 percent come from Hanover. This year, the euthanasia rate for cats is about 63 percent, and many of those animals were sick when they were brought in, Slover said.

"If people want to decrease the euthanasia rate, they are going to have to spay and neuter their animals," she said.

One of Slover's primary goals is to create a better layout for disease control.

Currently, animals surrendered to the shelter or brought in by animal control pass through the lobby, which puts the general pet population at risk of disease.

Slover's preferred plan would include a garage entry way for animal control - which would include special holding areas - and a special owner-relinquish room accessible through a separate exterior door.

Preliminary designs call for a facility of more than 6,500 square feet at a cost of up to $1.5 million. No official architect has been commissioned for the project, but Slover said builders she has consulted have recommended a demolition and complete rebuild. 

The cost of building would be between $175 and $275 per square foot, about 30 percent of which would go to HVAC, electrical and plumbing.

"When you build an animal shelter, you're basically building a giant bathroom," Slover said, referring to the number of drainage locations and water hookups needed throughout the facilities - inside the kennels, wash rooms, quarantine areas, etc.

The project would require cooperation from a variety of government entities because the city of Madison owns the land while Jefferson County owns and maintains the building.

Slover acknowledged that the designs are entirely "subject to change" if the county proceeds and an architect is hired, but she feels many of the desired changes are within reason.

"I think we've come up with a good plan. It's functional and bigger but not too big," she said.

Slover said also she is confident in the donor base - community and corporate. There is a building fund available through the auditor's office that was started by a shelter supporter who died and left money specifically for a new shelter in a will.  

"I never imagined when I started working here that any county could love its pets as much as this county does," Slover said. "Seriously, I really didn't."