(Cheryl Weiss, Oct. 6, 2017)
Pontiac, MI – Oakland County’s stray and surrendered pets have a new $15.5 million state-of-the-art facility as they wait to be adopted to their forever families. The Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center held their grand opening on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 and proudly took guests on tours of the spacious, beautiful new building. Large kennels, natural lighting, a state-of-the-art ventilation system, expanded state-of-the-art medical unit with an operating room and x-ray machine, soothing music played throughout the shelter, twelve outdoor dog runs, two large outdoor play areas, separate areas for adoptable cats, dogs, and strays, and pet-safe cleaning products are just some of the points of pride for the new Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center.
The ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening was a celebration of three years in planning, and over a year in construction. Included in the ceremony were kids from Bailey Lake Elementary in Clarkston, who volunteer at the shelter every year as a service project. They also contributed posters on display in the community room. About a dozen protestors were at the ceremony as well, holding signs criticizing breed discrimination, response to animal cruelty investigations, and Manager Bob Gatt. “They’ve been given a state-of-the-art facility; you’d think they’d be cheering, “responded Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. “We can’t make everybody happy, obviously, but we do our best,” he said.
The Oakland County shelter has a save rate of 85%, which is the best save rate in Michigan among open admission shelters who take in over 4,000 animals yearly. “We take every dog that comes in the front door. That stands in contrast to many other shelters which control the number of dogs they take in,” Patterson stated. Since this new shelter is in a central location and more accessible, Patterson expects to see more pet adoptions. Mark Newman, Director of Public Services for Oakland County said, “We always try to get better. No healthy dogs are put down. They are only put down if they are unhealthy or unsafe.”
One change that came with this new building and new location is a new name. Previously, it was called “Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center” and now it is called “Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center. According to Patterson, this change was made to “emphasize the focus of our mission: care for dogs and cats and to adopt out as many as we can.”
When asked about how the kill rate and how long pets are housed at the shelter, Manager Bob Gatt said there is no time limit. “We want all of them to have forever homes,” he said. “Several breeds, however, those who are potentially dangerous, are only adopted through rescue groups. As a public service agency, public safety is a priority. So, we adopt them to rescues. Rescues have the ability to check homes, check with the veterinarians of potential adoptive families. . . anyone who wants one of those dogs can get one of those dogs.” There is also a dog trainer/handler on staff who works with the dogs and trains staff. Already, the Oakland County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is receiving national attention. Other states have inquired and visited the facility.
When asked what he is most excited about with the new shelter, Gatt said, “Everything! It’s a joy just to walk in.” “This will improve the conditions of all pets,” he said. “Since moving to the new facility, the dogs are friendlier and more rambunctious after just two weeks.” In addition, the cats are more relaxed since they are not stressed out from hearing dogs bark constantly. They have their own area, which is nearly soundproof.
Every aspect of the new shelter has been planned to create a healthy, happy, positive place for pets. Even the cleaner has been improved. At the old shelter, they used bleach, which was not good for pets. Now, they have a non-toxic cleaner, and the facility is cleaned constantly. There are taps which make it easy for employees to hose down cages as needed, and many drains are placed in the floor to allow for quick, easy drainage. The HVAC system circulates fresh air fifteen times every hour, eliminating odors and providing a healthier environment.
Carole Brower has been volunteering at the shelter since March, when she moved to Oakland County from Macomb County. “I love it!,” she said. “I love animals. It’s rewarding to be able to give love to the dogs, it’s a way to give back.” Wednesday morning she was in one of the twelve large dog runs, playing with Penny, an energetic, loving beagle mix up for adoption. As Brower spoke, Penny jumped up, resting her paws on Brower’s arm, snuggling and licking Brower’s face. The joy they both experienced as they played together was unmistakable. In this new shelter, “There is so much more space to have the outdoor environment for them. It’s much healthier for them, they are happy,” Brower enthused. Each spacious run has a plastic pool for the dogs, and toys to play with.
Currently, all pets are in a double cage with plenty of space to stretch out, play, eat, and greet visitors. If more cages are needed, a partition in the dog cages can be lowered to divide the cage into two separate cages, yet they will still have a spacious cage. In the cat section, a round hole separates the litter box area from the rest and play area. When cat cages are cleaned, the cats go into one section until the cleaning is completed. This set up allows for up to 150 dogs and 120 cats to be housed at the shelter.
One of the most impressive aspects of the new shelter is the medical area. A medical suite with an operating room and x-ray facilities are a major improvement from the old shelter, which had minimal surgical capabilities.
Officer Chris Klebba was one of the many staff and volunteers who led a tour around the new facility. He paused at one of the large outdoor play areas with a pool and toys for dogs to play with, and explained that it also has a special artificial turf that is designed to be durable for rough play, yet easy to clean and care for. Urine passes through the turf and sprinklers are mounted above the play yard to clean the area. “You need this with the number of dogs that go through the yard every day,” he explained. Klebba not only works to care for Oakland County pets; he has adopted two dogs of his own. Most recently, he fostered a Blue Heeler, and realized he was meant to be a part of Klebba’s family forever. “He’s a good addition to the family,” Klebba said, along with the rescued Chihuahua and two rescued cats that were once housed at the shelter, then adopted by him.
Klebba introduced Joan Trevaskis, a kennel assistant specializing in cats, or as she refers to herself, “Cat Lady”. “This is the best thing for cats,” she enthused. “There are no dogs to stress them out, there is extra space, it is easy to clean, and this is a cat-friendly environment.” At the old place, condensation from the air conditioning dripped on the computer all the time. This new shelter is an outstanding place for the animals.
Kittens and cats in the shelter are playful, energetic, and happy; there is no sign of stress as there was in the old shelter. Here, in a quiet and clean environment, the cats are comfortable and well cared for. In one cage, two kittens stretched their paws through the bars, trying to reach the visitors and receive attention. From young kittens to elderly cats, there is a perfect feline here for everyone.
There is a separate section for feral cats, as well as a cat quarantine section for those that are ill.
For school groups who come to the shelter and want to interact with cats, a large indoor playroom is available with plenty of space for humans and felines. In addition, there is a small “Kitty City Lobby” with toys and climbing areas. One orange cat was enjoying the space at the time, leaping up to check out the view from the window.
Another innovative aspect of the new shelter is the large Community Room. At the Grand Opening, it was set up with free hot dogs and giveaways for visitors, pets, and their families. It can be used for large gatherings and events.
As the tour continued through the adoptable dogs section, one hound mix stood out. “He needs a home,” Klebba said. This friendly furry guy wagged his tail and came to the front of his cage, hoping for some attention. Not only is he ready for his forever family, but he has also learned scent training, according to Klebba.
A small, elderly long-haired Chihuahua danced in his cage, whining softly. Much more energetic than one might expect for a thirteen year-old dog, he ran from one end of the crate to the other, tail wagging so fast it was just a blur. He was found as a stray, and has not been claimed, so he is available for adoption.
A few cages away, a white pit bull mix made everyone laugh with his antics. With no warning, he would suddenly leap into the air, all four paws off the ground, and land with what looked like a huge smile on his face. He is looking for his forever home, and one of the local rescues can assist in facilitating the adoption.
Wednesday was a lucky day for a little Yorkie. He was brought in and surrendered this morning by a man from Pontiac who was unable to housebreak him, but then a woman fell in love with the tiny dog, and adopted him immediately.
Perhaps the most touching story of the day was the story of Chico. The little four year-old Shorkie (Shih Tzu/Yorkshire Terrier mix) got out of his Bloomfield Hills home when someone opened the door. Fernando Gonzalez said Chico was gone for four days. “I was going crazy!” he said. “I get misty just thinking about it.” But Wednesday morning, he came to the shelter, and there, in the Lost and Found area, was his Chico! Fighting back emotion as he signed the papers and waited for Chico to be immunized and released, Gonzales said, “I wish I could thank whoever found him.” Then, as Gonzalez entered the Lost & Found area again, Chico’s whole body wagged in excitement as he waited for the cage to open. As they reunited, both Gonzalez and Chico’s joy was unmistakable.
The Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center has completely separate areas for stray dogs, adoptable dogs, adoptable cats, feral cats, a medical area, areas to play, and areas for humans to socialize with pets they are considering adopting. If you are considering adopting a pet, adoption fees are $136.50 for dogs and $57.50 for cats. However, on Saturday, October 14, 2017, pets at the shelter can be adopted at no charge for Clear the Shelters Day. The Oakland County Animal Shelter & Pet Adoption Center is located at 1200 N. Telegraph Rd, Bldg 42E, Pontiac, MI 48341. 248-858-1090. More information can be found at the shelter’s website.