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New animal shelter on pace for completion

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | MARCH 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa City Animal Shelter has not had an appropriate building to house animals since the 2008 flood, but with construction of its new building going smoothly, animals in Johnson County will have a new home in August.

The 2008 flood damaged the previous animal shelter, and the shelter was forced to occupy a temporary location for more than seven years, 4852 Sand Road. The new shelter, 3910 Napoleon Lane, will be ready by the end of the summer.

“It took a couple of years before we were able to find out whether or not we could go back to the old building,” said Liz Ford, the animal-services supervisor. “Once it was determined we couldn’t go back, we looked for a shelter that would serve us best.”

Officials then decided that a completely new building would be built, and the groundbreaking began in July 2014.

“Once construction started, things started to move very quickly, and we’ve been very pleased with the progress since then,” said Simon Andrew, the administrative analyst in the City Manager’s Office.

The project, budgeted for $2.8 million, is on schedule and on budget. 

“We’re looking at substantial completion by July 31 and final completion by Aug. 31,” said Kumi Morris, the architectural services coordinator for Iowa City.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, because of the flood damage, funded $1.4 million of the cost. The fundraising commitment from the friends of the Animal Center Foundation also raised $1 million, and the rest of the funding came from the joint efforts of Johnson County, including Iowa City, Coralville, the University of Iowa, and University Heights.

The funding has allowed the animal shelter to undergo improvements to the facility that Andrew said were greatly needed, because this is the first building that is being built as an actual animal shelter.

The first shelter was initially a cinderblock building that was used as an animal shelter in 1967. After the flood, the animals were moved into a temporary building where there were not adequate living conditions for the animals.

“The temporary facility wasn’t built as an animal shelter,” Andrew said. “They’ve done a great job of making it work in the meantime while they’ve been displaced, but it’s not an ideal long-term solution.”

The new shelter, however, will be specifically designed to accommodate to the animals and all the needs they may have.

In order for all the animals to be properly housed in this new shelter, volunteers are going to be needed to transport cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits, and any other small animals that could be considered household pets.

Volunteers will be required to go through an hourlong orientation, and animal-handling classes that could take anywhere from two to four hours depending on the species. 

Once the animals are transported to the new shelter, they will be experiencing a whole new environment.

“The new shelter is designed with materials and spaces that are appropriate for housing animals,” Ford said. “The insides of animal spaces are going to be easily cleaned and more efficient for the staff to use in caring for the animals.”

Ford said the older shelter was built so long ago that a lot of it was outdated, but this new shelter will be bigger and have more appropriate building designs.

“In the old shelter, we were running out of space,” she said. “We were housing animals in places where animals shouldn’t live.”

Now, the new building will allow staff to effectively separate animals based on health, and whether or not an animal could be potentially dangerous to staff members or other animals.

Ford also said the heating and electrical aspects of the new building are specifically designed to house animals.

“When it comes to animals and how they perceive their world, it’s really important to have adequate lighting, the right kind of lighting, and definitely have adequate air flow,” she said.


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