Over the past year, John Castaneda and his compassionate staff at Gila County Animal Care & Control returned 306 lost animals to anxious owners frantic about their wayward pets. Creative Facebook posts by Felicia Ihrig helped place another 125 stray and unclaimed dogs in loving new homes and partnering with the Arizona Animal Welfare League in Phoenix to place another 325 animals. The Animal Care & Control team also fielded thousands of phone calls and emails, assisting walk-in customers with dog licenses and tags — and responding to animal-related calls ranging from a lost cockatoo to a pet tortoise; helped resolve neighborhood barking dog disputes — and investigated 185 reports of animal cruelty and neglect.
They accomplished all this from cramped quarters — a hard-to-find cinderblock building located behind the City of Globe cemetery, that was built in 1971.
Today brings a chance to applaud one truly bright spot of news for 2020: the Gila County Board of Supervisors and guests break ground at 1 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 1 on a years-overdue construction of a new animal shelter and adoption facility to be built near the County Fairgrounds. See photos of the event, and adoptable dogs, too, at facebook.com/GilaCountyAnimalCare.
When complete, Gila County’s new animal shelter will include 27 separate kennels for dogs, plus a grooming room where volunteers can bathe, comb and beautify hopeful hounds eager for adoption. The current building only has room for kennels and storage — grooming has often come from generous souls such as Charlene Giles, who donates doggie makeovers at her Tailwaggers grooming business in Globe. Onsite bathing and grooming are just one amenity; another nice touch designed into the new shelter is a “get acquainted room” where adopters can meet their prospective new family member. Once they meet-and-greet the pet, they can proceed to a leashed walk outdoors, with an adjacent fenced yard where they can walk together and spend some time to help ensure a good match. The fenced yard expands opportunities for volunteers, too — people willing to help socialize shelter pets can chaperon them for outdoor play and exercise.
There’s space for cats, too: 10 cages allowing cats to be housed separately when needed, plus a “Community Cats” room and even a “Catio,” along with meet-and-greet rooms similar to the space on the opposite side of the facility designed for dogs.
Professional shelter touches include industrial grade HVAC to keep animals cool and safe during 100-degree summer heat waves such as the area experienced recently, pressure-washer for hygienic and sanitary floors and surfaces, surgical space, and separate quarantine areas to monitor animals that were possibly exposed to rabies or other infections.
Gila County’s project design team did their homework, reviewing nearly a dozen animal shelters from comparable communities across America, ranging from a 16,000 square foot facility in California to a 54,000 square foot shelter in Spokane, Wash., checking the specifications of nearly a dozen from Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Michigan, with construction costs ranging from $343 per square foot to $840.
Thorough planning and design went into this important project. The groundbreaking was also an opportunity to recognize Loven Contracting, the Architecture Company, and Shelter Planners of America for collaborating on a design that does more than simply shelter frightened and lost dogs and cats, it’s designed to meet the county’s growing communities for decades to come and to give some overdue space, comfort and inspiration to John Castaneda and his Animal Care & Control staff, who display so much heart with the compassion they show to these animals, and pet owners, across Gila County each and every day.
Construction starts this month, with project completion expected in June of 2021.
Meanwhile, adoptable dogs at the shelter this week include Wonka, a handsome young male mastiff mix; also, a colorful five-month-old shepherd/hound pup. See photos of these two and others at facebook.com/GilaCountyAnimalCare (check out the three-year-old Queensland Heeler, with a striking salt-and-pepper slate-gray coat) or call during daytime weekday business hours, 928-425-5882.