A celebratory grand opening is planned from 2 to 4 p.m. on April 4, and the community is invited to come in, walk a dog, meet the staff and check out all the changes.
A new shelter director has been named. Sheriff Deputy and Putnam County Animal Control Officer Clint Cooper is now the executive director of the Shelter. Trustees from the jail are being trained to work at the facility to feed and walk animals, as well as clean and help with maintenance.
Only four full-time employees will work at the re-organized facility.
"Before we closed, we did not have one full time employee and were operating with numerous employees working from 20 to 30 hours," said Board President Lynn Bohmer.
Renovation for the shelter cost less than $20,000 because of volunteer labor. Individuals have donated their skills to paint, rip up floors and do whatever was needed. A local licensed electrician gave free labor on Saturdays, and contractor Barry Grimes offered his help. Many local businesses offered heavy discounts for supplies as well.
The facility has been cleaned and new areas have been created, including a quarantine room for cats, a better quarantine area for dogs and a separate area for wild creatures or stray animals brought in by police.
One of the highlights is a new windowed room for little dogs that also have a small play area surrounded by a picket fence.
"Smaller dogs get spooked out with all the big howling dogs, so we created a more comfortable area for them. We really have managed the space we have much better," explained Bohmer
There is an improved medical care room where animals may be able to eventually be sterilized without taking them out of the facility. Members of the board plan to add on at the back of the facility as well. They already have the funds to pay for the addition.
"The money came from adding up everything that we got or raised since last September or that was gifted to us. We received close to $150,000. Part of that was $80,000 in a bequest. We're trying to hold on to that money and use it for a rainy day fund," explained Bohmer.
The Shelter has been able to make all the renovations using money other than the bequest.
"And, because we closed down and did not have that huge expense of personnel, we could pour that amount back into shelter renovations," added Bohmer.
The Board of Directors is delighted to have Cooper on board as the director. Nate O'Hair, who is also a Sheriff's Deputy, will work part-time with Cooper.
Equipment for the deputies is being purchased with Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter's Forfeiture Fund. Some of that equipment includes dog poles, bite gloves and a vehicle.
Cooper believes having the county animal control officer in charge of the shelter will better serve the community.
"This lets deputies do the things they need to rather than animal control. We will expect to still have help from officers and town marshals in catching animals. It's a big county and we'll need their assistance," said Cooper.
The grand re-opening will be a chance for the public to see the changes that have been made at the shelter.
"It's open to the public. People can come walk the animals, adopt a dog or cat, meet the new employees, sign up to be volunteers and have cake," said Cooper.
The director has five years of experience under his belt with the Putnam County Sheriff's Department. He also has a lot of experience with dogs, cats and livestock.
One of his biggest concerns is that the current recession will result in more animals being dumped or neglected, including livestock. On his days off from the shelter, he plans to check on farms to make sure the bigger animals are being taken care of.
"Once we get things up and going, we hope to take some of the land we have and make room for some livestock. Last year, you could buy horses for $200 and people were even giving them away because they couldn't afford to take care of them," said Cooper.
Animal control in the county hasn't even officially started yet and Cooper has already been out every day since March 9.
"Yesterday, we chased 10 big horn sheep that got loose. We got them corralled into a corner and the owner brought a trailer down to get them. We have strays being called in and a pit bull that got shot. We tried to save it, but couldn't," he said.
Cooper is pleased to be the animal control officer as well as the director for the shelter. Even though the facility has not been open for some time, there have been animals there.
"Our turnover rate is quite high. In February we took in 25 dogs. Of those, 18 were adopted and two went on transports. That's an 80 percent turnover rate in one month," he said.
The shelter is also in the process of instituting a new match program that includes personality testing for potential adopters and animals.
The new match program has been approved by the ASPC and improves the length of stays for animals and the return rate. Volunteers are currently being trained to work with the program.
People are being asked not to drop off animals at the shelter before the April 4 opening date.
"If someone has an animal to surrender, they need to call us to make sure we have room before bringing it out here," said Bohmer. "We don't want to go over capacity. We do have a good foster program."
For information about the humane shelter, call 765-653-9251 or email firstname.lastname@example.org