Time to expand: City considers adding space to Animal Care Services

An expansion for Columbus’ Animal Care Services is being considered as a long overdue improvement to keep pace with the record number of animals being sheltered at the facility.

The city moved into the current building at 2730 Arnold Drive in the Columbus AirPark in November 1987, a brand-new 5,000-square-foot facility that at the time tripled the city’s capacity to shelter dogs and cats.

But even when the shelter was brand new, city administrators knew that the $300,000 building would need to expand within a decade, said Nicohl Birdwell Goodin, the facility’s general manager and Mary Ferdon, the city’s executive director of administration and community development.

The expansion didn’t happen in 1997 as originally planned because of ever-changing local priorities, said Columbus city councilman Tom Dell, the council’s liaison to Animal Care Services.

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“But what we realize now is that we are way overdue (for expansion),” Dell said. “And with the ramp-up of the city’s population, we realize the number of animals has also grown.”

Last year, Animal Care Services took in 757 dogs and 886 cats. That’s the highest number of dogs accepted since 2012, while the feline population was larger last year than it has been since 2011.

The department is operated by city tax dollars and through fines and fees.

While the general operating budget covers basic services including wages, utilities, and maintenance, the Adoption/Medical fund does not use tax dollars and is supported by fines, fees and monetary donations. Almost all of the animal food for the shelter is donated, Ferdon said.

In January, the Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety approved a contract with HST Solutions, LLC — a local company run by Steve Thomas. Under terms of the agreement, HST will perform a facility assessment of the Animal Control Services building for a maximum cost of $10,000.

Thomas, who has carried out similar work for the nearly-completed Columbus Fire Department training center, which is now under construction in the AirPark, is uniquely qualified to determine the needs of both staff and animals, and translate them to a qualified architect, Dell said.

Those plans might include meeting the needs of the community in handling wildlife, as well as domestic animals, Ferdon said.

While it’s likely those plans will be discussed frequently by the Columbus Board of Works in the coming months, specific proposals probably won’t be introduced until this summer, when the 2020 budget is considered by the Columbus City Council, Ferdon said.

If current council members want to know specific examples of overcrowding, Goodin said they are easy to identify.

When residents walk in the front door, they immediately see an office area being used by 10 employees which was designed to only accommodate six.

Just west of the glass-enclosed cat room is an extremely cramped room. It’s used for medical purposes, grooming, storage and housing of non-traditional pets like ferrets, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Originally, that room was also supposed to be used for pets and humans to have “meet and greet” sessions as part of the adoption process, Goodin said. However, there’s little space in that room for such activity, she said.

A garage in the back of the building is also overcrowded. It’s full of a variety of different items and supplies, including animal food, in packaging that is stacked higher than most people. Water pipes in this room have frozen periodically, causing some water leaks, Ferdon said.

City officials are anticipating that when warmer spring temperatures arrive, more animals will be brought into the shelter, Goodin said. That will likely lead to doubling up the canines in their pens, which results in problems for staff and maintaining cleanliness, she said.

While overcrowding is a concern, Animal Care Services is working with several shelters around the country to avoid euthanizing any dogs due to a lack of space. The other shelters, especially organizations near Chicago and Cleveland, accept certain types of dogs when the Columbus facility gets too full.

Although such an arrangement has not been made regarding cats, Goodin said other programs, including spay and neuter efforts, have helped to reduce the number of euthanized felines.

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2018 – 757

2017 – 641

2016 – 638

2015 – 561

2014 – 638


2018 – 886

2017 – 814

2016 – 840

2015 – 647

2014 – 767

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Columbus Animal Care Services runs a classified advertisement in The Republic daily detailing animals that have been picked up and taken to the shelter.

For more information, call 812-376-2505.

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Adoption fees — which help cover current vaccinations, spaying and neutering and microchipping of animals at Columbus Animal Care Services — are normally $100 for dogs and $80 for cats.

The shelter accepts monetary donations, while donated items for dogs and cats are also accepted.

Kitten food, dry cat food, cat litter, dog treats, puppy food, hand sanitizer, paper towels and bleach are among items being sought as donations to the shelter.

A full list of needed items can be found on the Columbus Animal Care Services website at columbus.in.gov/animal-care-services/.