Leaders weighing shelter expansion

Director: Overcrowding caused by regions population growth



The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter is working to find a solution to its biggest problemlimited spacewhich employees agree is long overdue, Services Director Cheryl Schneider said.



The no-kill shelter takes in at least 7,500 animals a year, a total that has outgrown its square footage, she said. Shelter officials are weighing expansion options in order to keep up with countys rapid growth.



The shelter has been over capacity and too small since the day we opened back in 2007, Schneider said. As the years go by and the population increases, so does our animal intake.



Though population growth is a factor, other reasons for the shelters overcrowding also exist, she said.



Overcrowding, our shelter is over capacity, and one of the main reasons is that one-third of our animals in [the shelter] are owner surrenders, said Williamson County Commissioner Valerie Covey, who is also member of the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter board. There are various reasons that we have a lot of animals in our shelters.



Schneider said the 15,000-square-foot shelter was originally built with 54 kennels, but it has since added more out of necessity. The shelters capacity levels are so high, she said, that in order to accommodate its intake staff members stack kennels, double up dogs in holding spaces and fill every empty closet with cages.



The idea of expansion is still in the early planning phase, and the board is still looking at its options.



The first phase, the phase were in right now, would be the planning, which would be ideas on what can be [done] to the shelter currently and then a possible expansion aspect, Covey said.



As part of this first step, in late July the Williamson County Commissioners Court is expected to award a bid to an architecture firm who will provide costs for expansion as well as a design schematic.



Also included in the design will be a needs assessment that will determine the number of kennels that will be needed in to keep up with the shelters service area demands, Schneider said.



There are a lot of decisions that still need to be made, she said. It will be a while before we know if were going to get the expansion or not. I think it will happen but how big and how soon is the question.



Schneider said the shelter is getting creative to handle the overcrowding situation. For example, shelter staff members are working to decrease intake by keeping stray animals spayed and neutered.



Weve had our no-kill status for three years, and thats very uncommon for an open-admission shelter, which is one that has to take all of the animals within their jurisdiction regardless of their behavior, temperament, health, age, anything like that, she said.



Schneider said the shelter is able to adopt out about 60 percent of the animals it has, and each year the shelter has increased the number of adoptions, but she anticipates that a lack of space will continue to be an issue.



Were very blessed to have a community that steps up to the plate and helps us out, she said. That being said, if we do run out of space and we dont have an optionwhich I cant imagine that because we have staff that is very committed to not killing animalswe did [euthanize animals] in the past before we got to our no-kill [status]. That would be a possibility, that we would have to start euthanizing more of the animals that we now try to rehabilitate to get ready for adoption.



The shelter is seeking new foster families and volunteers to help at the facility, and community members are urged to get involved by volunteering, Schneider said.



The challenge



The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter is participating in the 2014 American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Rachael Ray $100K Challenge, which the WCRAS is calling 2K in 92.



Participating shelters must find more animals homes this summer than they did in June, July and August of 2013. The WCRAS is in competition with 49 other shelters throughout the nation.



After the June 1 kickoff, the shelter has taken on the challenge of adopting out 2,000 pets in 92 days. As of July 2, the shelter had adopted out 513 animals.



Among all of the competitors, the first week resulted in nearly 5,000 adoptions nationwide, according to the ASPCA website.



To find out more information about the challenge, visit www.challenge.aspcapro.org or https://pets.wilco.org.



Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, 1855 SE Inner Loop, 512-943-3322,https://pets.wilco.org, Hours: Mon.Fri. Noon6 p.m. (open until 7 p.m. on Wed. throughout the summer), Sat.Sun. 11 a.m.5 p.m.



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