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Editorial: New animal shelter makes sense

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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While Iowa City has hunted around to find an appropriate bid for the construction of the new Animal Care and Adoption Center for some time, it seems that plans are finally underway for the construction of a more capable facility. As reported in The Daily Iowan on Tuesday, the Iowa City City Council approved a new bid for $2.806 million from Muscatine-based Hackett Construction.

The number may seem a little daunting, but the necessity for a new, more able facility — following overcrowding caused by the 2008 flooding of the old animal center and the subsequent move to the current location on Sand Road — is quite clear.

But what makes the new facility, which would house several hundred animals at a time, so costly? To be fair to anyone who might criticize the investment in a larger, brand-new, state-of-the-art animal shelter, it is a large sum of money, a large check the city will have to write. Housing several hundred stray or unwanted cats, dogs, and other pets doesn’t seem as if it should cost such a large bill.

According to Pawnetto Lifeline — a not-for-profit animal-rescue organization located in Charleston, South Carolina — the requirements for constructing a clean and safe facility are numerous. As explained on its website, new centers need separate heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems to isolate animals, especially strays, and help prevent the spread of airborne diseases. They need effective, reliable plumbing to remove large amounts of animal waste. They need surfaces that can stay clean without harboring germs and disease. They need separate facilities to house sick animals. And — of the upmost importance when it comes to preventing animal overpopulation — they need to be equipped with veterinary facilities to spay and neuter cats, dogs, and even rabbits.

The long list helps to justify the $150-per-square-foot cost of constructing a new shelter as estimated by the Humane Society of the United States. But what, besides the being an animal lover, justifies the reason for the investment? The answer is pretty straightforward, though thanks to the work done by the city’s current center, it is difficult to see.

Without a proper animal shelter to house misplaced and stray animals, all of the problems fixed or stifled by the previously mentioned shelter technologies would not be isolated in an easily controllable location. Stray cats and dogs roaming the streets would result in the spread of disease. Animal waste would pile up all over the city. Most importantly — considering how many cats and dogs brought into shelters aren’t spayed or neutered — animal overpopulation would result in a dramatic worsening of these issues. 

The investment in an appropriately equipped facility would reap big rewards. The big price tag will pay itself off quickly — the Humane Society of America estimates that the United States spends more than $2 billion impounding, sheltering, euthanizing, and disposing of stray pets, or about $6 per person, every year.

The upfront cost is large, daunting even. But with continued use, a new, larger animal shelter will help improve quality of life for the people of Iowa City. By ensuring that facilities are properly equipped to handle the recent surge in animals without homes, the shelter will enable the city to safely house, heal, and find new families for our furry companions. Whether you’re a dog person, cat person, or hate animals, the plans for the new Animal Care and Adoption Center make sense.


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