Last month, the save rate was 90 percent — good for the animals, but bad for logistics in the overcrowded facility that also has problems with rats, asbestos and lead paint.
The shelter, built to house no more than 120 animals, had 377 dogs, 29 cats, two gerbils and a hen on site Monday.
In addition to space issues, Guinn said, the current facility is outdated. It wasn't designed to be open to the public for adoptions, and there's no area to isolate sick animals.
“This is a really tough environment for them,” she said. “Everything about it is obsolete.”
Plans for the new facility are still in the works, but leaders envision a spacious area with room for each animal to be housed separately, and plenty of room for dogs to play outside. They want space for behavioral modification training, and training services for the general public. And they hope to be welcoming for adoptions.
They’re looking at property near the county’s airport, Charlie Brown Field, and have grand plans for a shelter that they say would be the biggest in the state and cost some $25 million to construct.
But the details will be determined over the next several months, as PGAL, the contractor conducting the study, looks at locations, designs, comparable facilities and animal welfare trends. They’ll finish the study this fall, and the county intends to open the new building in 2021.
“We’d like to leave behind the pound vision,” Guinn said.
Now, the facility is near the Fulton County jail, and any expansion on that site would be hampered by nearby railroad tracks and difficult topography. There’s a steep dropoff at the back of the property that would make it hard to build more. Still, the county is spending about $300,000 to make the space more habitable in the short term.
Construction is currently ongoing at the front of the building, to improve an adoption area, and work was being done on the air conditioning system, and to improve food storage to make it less accessible to rodents.
“The existing shelter, it can only be described as grim,” said Alton Adams, the county’s deputy chief operating officer for public safety.
Pitts will announce newshelter plans in his Tuesday state of the county address, along with other improvements planned at the county airport. While the study is just the first step, he said he is "really excited" about the plan, which is one of the largest new construction projects for the county government in recent memory.
Fulton County’s shelter
The Fulton County Animal Shelter sees 8,000 animals annually. It adopts out between 3,000 and 3,500 each year and about 2,500 are sent to rescue groups that help find the animals homes. About 1,000 animals are reclaimed by their owners.
In 2018, the save rate for animals was 87 percent. In April, it was up to 90 percent. Rebecca Guinn, the CEO of LifeLine Animal Project, said euthanasia rates have to be 10 percent or lower to be considered a no-kill animal shelter.
On Monday, the shelter housed 377 dogs, 29 cats, two gerbils and a hen.