2017-05-18 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Half time at the construction site of the new Babylon Animal Shelter! The complex has taken shape in concrete and steel, and is about 50% complete. There’s been lots of progress since the floor was poured in December. The Town is hoping for an October 2017 grand opening.

Babylon Town Board first ap- proved a bond in April 2013 for design, engineering and site preparation at the shelter’s new address- 80 New Highway near the border of North Lindenhurst and North Amityville. The entrance will be on New Highway across from the cemetery at Dominican Village (once Queen of the Rosary Academy).

Last week shelter director Chris Elton gave me a tour of the shelter construction. At 13,000 square feet, the footprint of the new shelter is about 4,000 square feet larger than the current one. Dog capacity will be basically the same, using the extra space in safe and hygienic ways.

The new shelter property is a triangular two-acre parcel as compared to the current Lamar Street facility which is a one-acre rectangle. Presently the staff and volunteers take the dogs for long walks around the completely fenced sump behind the shelter yards; whereas the whole perimeter of the new property will be fenced as a walking trail about six-feet wide.

The Lamar Street shelter is 28 years old. Its modular structure hasn’t held up well, and no longer meets the animals’ needs. Over the years the purpose of LI municipal shelters changed from “pounds” as short-term holding tanks ending in fast owner redemptions or euthanasia , to adoption centers holding pets for extended stays, often years, while trying to place them in permanent homes. The dog population has shifted too with few Shepherd or Lab mixes to 85% of longtime residents being Pits or Pit mixes. These dogs are active and strong, requiring outlets for exercise, training and socialization.

Innovative features fulfill three essential needs to improve animal welfare, stress levels and safety. Below are specific examples of ways plans for the new shelter plans will meet these three needs.

1) Cats won’t see, smell, hear or have any clue there are dogs in the building:

*The present shelter has cat cages everywhere- in the lobby, off the food prep room, in the garage and at times in the garage. The official cat room flows into the small dog room. Cats are often in the presence of dogs. This stresses them, at times sparking illness and/or making them frightened and less adoptable.

*The new lobby has lots of glass and 18-foot ceilings. When entering, you pass two types of cat-free roamer rooms across from the office area. First a mesh window, showing two cat porches where the cats will be screened in and will also have view of outdoors; then a glass window revealing two separate catteries with benches for “coffee and cats” as Chris describes it.

*As you continue down the lobby and pass the feline adoption corridor, there are two cat adoption rooms with cages, cornered by the feline services center and a cat holding area. No dogs are on this side of the shelter.

*In the old shelter all animals found or surrendered by the public go through the side door into the food prep area. Cats in carriers may be near dogs being examined. The office staff never sees incoming animals. The new facility has a “surrender corridor” for dogs and cats on the other side of the office where office staff will admit the animals which then go directly into a temporary holding area awaiting intake exam and vaccines. This section is removed from other hustle and bustle.

*Solid walls above the lobby ceiling abate noise.

2) Dogs are never looking across the aisle at another dog like prisoners in jail.

*Imagine the frustration of being a dog languishing in a kennel staring at the dog across from him for months or years, especially if that dog airs his discontent by snarling at you each time he catches your eye.

* The new shelter has four pods (A-D) with 11 side-by-side runs each for medium and large dogs. Built-in beds are in the rear part of the run. Two runs in each pod have wire covers for escape artists. Visitors walk down the hall seeing the dogs in the pods through one way glass, angled to minimize noise. Several doors at the rear of the runs lead directly to the seven fenced yards or walking trail so dogs do not have to negotiate the “gauntlet” passing a long line of disgruntled dogs.

* Small dogs have their own pod. Additional pods E and F are side by side- true isolation, jutting off from the medical, surgery and radiology rooms.

* The seven exercise yards will have 10-foot fences with solid hockey board to discourage fence fighting or chasing dogs in adjacent yards. A large agility yard will be in a corner outdoors. A indoor room will double as a classroom or training room.

3) New shelter will foster efficient cleaning, hygiene and safety.

*To localize and add ease to kennel cleaning, there are two clean rooms interspersed between the pods. A huge generator restores electricity during a power outage.

*Separate grooming and laundry rooms contain a commercial washer/dryer plus a trench drain.

*Rather than installing just a central air system, 12 HPAC units that treat the air with ultraviolet light are planned. There is also a dehumidifying system because moisture breeds disease.

*Shelter trucks will enter an enclosed Sally Port for safely loading and unloading dogs. This prevents a panicked dog or cat from bolting.

By no means is this list complete, other improvements are part of the design of our new Babylon Shelter. Can’t wait until the big move to New Highway.

Special Needs Cats for Adoption at Babylon Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: As a kitten “Gizmo’s” front leg was trapped by a garage door, and ultimately amputated. He’s now five and his kind owner/ savior passed away. “Squeakers,” a four-month-old orange tabby, was ill when he came into the shelter. Staff recently realized he was blind. His eyes don’t look scarred like a typical eye infection kitten. Instead, his pupils stay dilated. Both cats are super sweet.

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