New shelter brings extra space and hope for animals

New shelter brings extra space and hope for animals

New shelter brings extra space and hope for animals
April 01
01:30 2014

Caitlyn Jones // Staff Writer

Less than a block away from the Denton County jail on Woodrow Lane sits a sand-colored building with a chain-link fence, housing dogs and cats from Denton, Corinth, Krum and Roanoke. The musty animal smell greets you as you walk in and furry faces look in the window, waiting in limbo for someone to invite them into their lives.

This is the Denton Animal Shelter.

“Way back, shelters were designed to be the place no one wanted to know about. It was a place where animals that weren’t wanted went to ‘go away,’” said Captain Scott Fletcher, who is in charge of the Animal Services division for the Denton Police Department.

Today’s shelter was built with this mindset in 1979, although it is an upgrade from the metal cages under an awning that used to exist, Fletcher said.

“When I first took over the shelter, it had a fence around it with razor wire,” he said. “It looked like the jail next door. It wasn’t conducive to get people to adopt.”

This summer, however, the facility on Woodrow will no longer house the city’s stray animals. They will be taken to a new home on Highway 77 across from Discovery Park at the Linda McNatt Animal Care and Adoption Center.

Breaking Ground

Construction on the new shelter began August 1, 2013. The building is expected to open in August this year, construction project superintendent Fred Geiser said.

“The weather has slowed us down but we should be flying on the roof trusses sometime next week,” he said.

Once the exterior is completed, the interior construction will move along quickly, Fletcher added.

The idea of a new shelter came about in 2007 when the Denton Animal Shelter Foundation (DASF), created in September 2006, partnered with the city of Denton to build a new, $6 million animal facility.

DASF generated $2 million through fundraisers, grants, and private donations. Fundraisers included golf tournaments, fun runs and a benefit concert with the UNT Wind Symphony.

Jim McNatt of Luttrell-McNatt Chevrolet donated $500,000 to name the shelter in honor of his wife, Linda.

The city provided the additional money and the idea became reality.

“We did the best with what we could at the location on Woodrow,” Fletcher said. “But it was more feasible to build a new shelter rather than renovate the one we had.”

New Shelter, New Atmosphere

The new shelter will take up 15,200 square feet as opposed to the current shelter’s 7,000. It will be able to house more than 400 animals at one time, almost four times the current maximum capacity of 114.

“The old shelter just didn’t have enough storage. They had a whole room dedicated for food,” biology senior and shelter volunteer Holly Baselice said. “The new shelter will be a lot cleaner and the dogs and cats won’t be so crammed.”

The interior of the new building will feature glass partitions instead of metal cages and have tile floors and walls, Fletcher said.

“The front end will look more like a pet store,” Fletcher said. “It’s more retail-oriented to get people to walk in to see the animals.”

Amenities will include two cat colony rooms, separate quarters for cats and dogs and an outdoor patio with Astroturf where potential adopters can interact with the animals.

“At our current shelter, we used to have grass at one time and now it’s dirt and mud,” Fletcher said. “It’s hard to maintain and hard to sanitize. Anything you spray to kill germs will also kill the grass.”

Houses for newly arrived animals will be located in the back of the building, where they will be cleaned up in a grooming center and also be examined in the on-site veterinary clinic. A veterinarian will be at the shelter three days a week and a veterinary technician will be available five days a week, Fletcher said.

Currently, animals with health problems have to be taken to a local veterinarian, and when animals are adopted the new owners pick them up at a clinic after being spayed or neutered and given shots.

At the new shelter, all of this will be taken care of in-house and animals available for adoption can be taken home immediately.

“It will change the way we do business,” Fletcher said.

McNatt Shelter Drawing

More Space Saves Lives

Because the animal shelter is a public entity and has to accept every animal, it doesn’t qualify as a “no-kill” shelter, meaning that if an animal is at the shelter for too long, it is euthanized.

“If you’re a ‘no-kill’ shelter, you have to turn people away,” Fletcher said. “Generally animals that reach us are sick or people just don’t want them anymore and don’t want to pay the fee to take them someplace else. As a government service, we’re the last stop.”

The goal of the shelter is always 100 percent ‘live release,’ Fletcher said. In 2007, the live release rate was 50 percent, meaning half of the animals at the shelter were euthanized. Now, the rate has risen to 86 percent.

However, the extra space at the new shelter may help boost adoption numbers.

“You can only hold an animal in a cage for so long,” Fletcher said. “Animals get stressed and their behavior changes. It really lowers the chance of someone picking an animal for adoption if it’s wild and jumping and barking because it’s stressed. Having the space means that we get to give those animals an opportunity.”

Even though the shelter is months away from completion, both the community and city management are excited about the prospects that it will provide.

“The community involvement in this has been tremendous,” Fletcher said. “It shows how much people care about what happens to the animals here.”

Center photo: An artist’s rendering of the Linda McNatt Animal Care and Adoption Center shows what the shelter will look like when the construction finishes in late summer. Construction began on the new building on August 1, 2013 but has been delayed by inclement weather. Exterior supports have been put up and roof supports are expected to be raised this week. Graphic courtesy of Scott Fletcher

Feature photo: Construction for the Linda McNatt Animal Care and Adoption Center is expected to be completed by July 2014. The new center is located at 3717 N. Elm St. in Denton.Photo by Zixian Chen / Senior Staff Photographer

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