The city’s animal shelter is exploring an expansion to provide additional space for cats and dogs.

Columbus Animal Care Services, built in 1987 and located at 2730 Arnold St., was designed to be expanded after 10 years, but officials are only now looking at creating a larger structure three decades after opening, said Nicohl Birdwell Goodin, general manager of the shelter.

The city-run operation will be evaluated by a team at Cummins using a Six Sigma analysis, said Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development. The research, provided at no cost to the city, will make recommendations for areas of improvement, she said.

The shelter has three dedicated rooms for felines, one of which was created from office space in fall 2014. That addition doubled the facility’s space for cats, but Birdwell Goodin said the 4,600-square-foot building still struggles in providing adequate space for cats and dogs.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

“We’re way past the time to expand the shelter,” she said.

Columbus Animal Care Services is an open intake facility, which means it takes in any stray animals that are picked up within the city limits, Birdwell Goodin said.

Its mission: “Saving lives and finding homes whenever possible for all the unwanted pets that we receive,” Birdwell Goodin said.

When the Columbus shelter’s available space fills, it works with other shelters in Indiana and across the country to transport adoptable animals to cities such as Chicago and Cleveland. The shelter also has partnerships with facilities in Vermont and Maine, she said.

Once spring hits, the shelter — located near the Columbus Municipal Airport — remains full until the fall, Birdwell Goodin said.

“Space is always a concern,” she said.

Cramped conditions

As space for animals is tight, so is space for people.

The office area near the front door is too crowded for people to work comfortably, Birdwell Goodin said.

Space also remains a problem in the back of the Animal Care Services building, which is used to store equipment, pet food and dozens of crates used to transport cats off-site for a spay/neuter clinic three times a month, Birdwell Goodin said.

Brownsburg resident Debra Winter, who has volunteered at the shelter for more than three years, said the shelter lacks adequate space to store the food and other items that she brings in. Winter spends much of her time taking animals to veterinarian appointments, transporting them to other shelters and picking up food and cat litter.

“They’ve done a great job using the space they have,” Winter said.

But with more animals coming in, “it’s not just enough anymore,” she said.

Colleen Herrick, who has volunteered at the shelter for eight years and serves on the shelter’s appointed six-member commission, said she would like to see a dedicated meet-and-greet area for people who are considering adopting a dog.

A larger room for cats and dogs who are recovering from illnesses or injuries also is needed, she said.

Crates used to transport cats off-site to spay/neuter clinics are often stacked in the hallway, which also causes anxiety for animals when they are cramped together in such situations, Herrick said.

“We really could do a lot more if we had more space,” she said.

Birdwell Goodin said she would like to have a garage built so the shelter is able to store its vehicles on-site. Shelter vehicles are currently housed at Columbus Fire Department Station No. 2, just down the street.

City Councilman Tom Dell, another Animal Care Services Commission member, said improvements to the facility are long overdue.

“Animal Care Services has tried to maximize everything it can out of the original facility,” he said.

An expanded shelter would not only give staff and volunteers a better working space, but provide a safer environment for pets as well, Dell said.

“It’s one of those places that’s important to the community,” Dell said.

A capital fundraising campaign would increase public exposure and highlight available volunteering opportunities, he said.

While it remains unclear how much an expansion will cost, the city has begun dedicating funding toward the effort. The city appropriated $60,000 last year, and added another $150,000 in this year’s budget, Ferdon said.

Birdwell Goodin said that private fundraising likely would be a necessary step to complement city money earmarked for the project.

The city is in early stages of the planning process and an exact timeline has not been determined, she said.

Whole Kitten Caboodle

Donations are sought for the Whole Kitten Caboodle, a kitten shower to benefit Animal Care Services that will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Madeline Morris, a Columbus North High School senior, partnered with the shelter to help obtain items needed for kittens.

Individuals are asked to bring kitten chow, cat litter, bottles for nursing kittens, KMR brand kitten formula available at local pet stores or online, blue Dawn dishwashing liquid, in addition to bleach and paper towels. For questions, e-mail kittencaboodle2017@gmail.com.

Animal Care Services

What: Animal Care Services shelter, which has cats and dogs available for adoption

Where: 2730 Arnold St., Columbus

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to noon Saturday; closed on Sunday

Phone: 812-376-2505

Multi-family garage sale benefit

A multi-family garage sale to benefit Animal Care Services will be held from 7 a.m. to noon April 8 in the lobby of the Hamilton Community Center and Ice Arena, 2501 Lincoln Park Drive. The garage sale is part of Haley Hazard’s senior project at Columbus East High School.

All proceeds from the sale will go toward the Adoption Medical Fund at Animal Care Services to help with medical costs, pet care, pet food and to promote adoptions and educational programs. The fund does not use tax dollars and is funded by fines, fees and monetary donations.

Donations of old, gently used clothes, shoes, toys and other items can be given to Hazard and will be accepted until today.

To make a donation, contact Hazard by calling 812-447-3028, or sending an email to 17hazard@students.bcsc.k12.in.us or to hbh922@yahoo.com.

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com