Some dogs share kennels in the main building. Fulton County proposes to build the largest animal shelter in the state (and one of the largest in the country). Their existing shelter, built in the ’70s, is overcrowded and needs renovations. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com AJC FILE PHOTO

Fulton County to build new $32.5 million animal shelter

Fulton County commissioners unanimously agreed Wednesday to build a $32.5 million animal shelter.

The decision drew a round of applause from dozens of animal advocates who came to the county meeting to support replacing the existing animal shelter.

That building, which was built in 1978 to house 120 animals, has long been overcrowded and in a state of disrepair. In August, there were 405 dogs and 91 cats in the building, which also has a barn for livestock.

Commissioners approved conceptual renderings of the new facility, which will be near the Fulton County Airport, and agreed that they would let bonds to pay for the shelter. The final design will still go out to bid.

A portion of the cost will be paid for by the cities in Fulton County, which already contract with the county for animal control services. An estimated $7.5 million in those funds will go to the new shelter.

Construction is expected to start next year, and it’s expected to open in summer 2021.

“I am thrilled,” Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said. “It’s long-overdue, it’s needed.”

Animal advocates agree, and over the past several months have come to county meetings to urge commissioners to improve the decrepit shelter. Alton Adams, the county’s deputy chief operating officer, said he saw some residents crying tears of joy after the vote passed.

“It was heart-warming to see their reaction,” he said. “The support from the community has been incredible.”

Fulton’s building will be 50,000 square feet — bigger than a large supermarket — with an additional 13,200 square feet of outdoor covered space and additional uncovered yards. It will be built to house 376 dogs, 99 cats and as many as 18 chickens or other livestock.

The county completed a $270,000 concept study before deciding on a plan, and consultants said the new shelter would lead to increased adoptions and healthier animals.

Fulton leaders were also given the option of a slightly smaller facility, which would have cost $27.5 million. They rejected that option, citing issues DeKalb County has had with its new shelter, which opened in 2017.

A DeKalb spokesperson said the 33,440-square-foot building was built toaccommodate 350 animals, but is capable of housing twice that many. The shelter is currently operating at capacity, with 492 dogs and 150 cats.

Pitts said he wanted the Fulton shelter to have enough capacity for 50 years.

“When DeKalb County opened theirs, they needed more space the day they opened to accommodate capacity,” he said. “Rather than build something that would not be adequate Day One, we decided to be forward-thinking.”

Adams said the county will be able to host educational programs and other events at the new shelter, and it would be a better environment for volunteers.

Dick Anderson, the county manager, called the vote a “major statement” for Fulton.

“Probably for many of us, it’s personal, because you’re thinking about your own pet,” he said.

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