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Strays get new digs

New county animal shelter nearly completed

January 30, 2011
By MARK LAW, Staff writer

WINTERSVILLE - Construction is nearly complete on Jefferson County's $1.4 million new animal shelter located at the Jefferson County Air Park.

The shelter will open in the next couple weeks and an open house is being planned for the spring.

Voters approved a 1.3-mills levy on the March 4, 2008, primary election ballot, which generated $1.6 million to construct the new animal shelter. Money from the one-year tax levy was collected in 2009 and construction began in the spring of 2010.

Article Video

Tour of the new Jefferson County Animal Shelter

The county commissioners hired TC Architects of Akron to design the new facility. John Russell Construction Co. of Steubenville was the contractor.

The 6,875-square-foot building will have 40 dog kennels capable of holding up to 80 dogs if two dogs double up in a kennel. There will be cats kept at the shelter, but the commissioners have entered into an agreement with the Jefferson County Humane Society for the care of the cats since state law does not allow taxpayer money to be used for cat care.

The new animal shelter has stainless steel dog cages with glazed block walls, which will makes maintenance easier and reduces the risk of diseases becoming attached to the surfaces. There is a welcome desk in the lobby and an office for the humane society. There is a community room, which Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham said will be used for classes on how to care for dogs and cats and for meetings to encourage pet adoption.

Article Photos

INSIDE VIEW — Jefferson County Engineer James Branagan, left, and county Commissioner Thomas Graham inspect one of the dog kennels at the new county animal shelter. There are 40 stainless steel kennels at the shelter for dogs. County officials said the shelter was designed to keep staffing and maintenance to a minimum. — Mark Law

The cat room, which includes an open range area and kennels, can hold up to 40 felines.

There also is a get-acquainted room, where people interested in adopting a dog or cat can spend time with an animal before making a decision, said county Engineer James Branagan, who assisted in the design of the building and helped oversee its construction.

"Our goal is to get the animals adopted," Graham said. "We are trying to make it as close as possible to a no-kill shelter."

The animal shelter also includes an office for the animal shelter keeper, a food prep room, dog wash and grooming room, staff room, with eating area and showers, medical room for a veterinarian and an office for the county's dog warden.

There also is an isolation room where dogs first spend time to make sure they don't have any diseases, such as parvo. The air in the room is isolated from the rest of the kennel areas to reduce the risk of diseases being spread.

The building will be heated with a geothermal system to reduce the operating costs.

Graham said there will be a card-reader entry system to monitor staff entering the facility, and there are security cameras around the building. He said the county still has to add an alarm system.

There is an outdoor kennel where the Steubenville or county animal control officer can place a stray dog, and there is an outdoor exercise area for all the dogs.

Graham said the current animal shelter located off Fernwood Road is "barbaric."

He organized a committee several years ago to study the concept of a new animal shelter. The county's humane society and other animal groups participated in the planning.

Sally Wehr, county humane society president, and Debbie Welsch, humane society board member, co-chaired the levy committee.

Jefferson County Commissioner David Maple said he is "extremely pleased" with how the animal shelter has progressed and the construction has been managed.

"The project got started because of an outcry from the citizens for a change. We are very close to seeing something very positive for the county, and it will be a great asset," Maple said.

Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile said the animal shelter construction has been a challenge, but he believes the taxpayers have received the best possible facility for the money.

"It will be easy for the staff to operate, unlike what we learned at the county jail. I am proud when I see it. It is an asset to the airport and the buildings around it," Gentile said.

Graham and Branagan both praised the work of John Russell Construction.

"We asked them to do things above and beyond what was expected and they exceeded it," Graham said.

Graham also commended Branagan and Andy Bryan, county chief deputy engineer, who volunteered to be at the construction site on a daily basis.

"I want to thank the taxpayers for support for this state-of-the-art facility. What we had was a barbaric situation. People showed how much they care about dogs and cats in the county," Graham said.

(Law can be contacted at

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