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Group tours local animal shelter
Visit sheds light on proposed facility
Shelter WEB 1
A cat plays with a sign at the current Forsyth County Animal Shelter. A local committee charged with making recommendations for a new shelter recently toured the current one. - photo by Autumn McBride

Cats and dogs filled nearly every cage in the Forsyth County Animal Shelter on a recent afternoon.

At 264 animals, the shelter neared its maximum capacity of about 300.

Cages were stacked throughout the 9,200-square-foot facility, including the room where the Forsyth County Animal Control and Shelter Committee was meeting.

Barking sounded in the background and cats provided the backdrop as the committee resumed its task of making a new animal shelter a reality for the county.

Lanier Orr, owner of the county’s current shelter contract, opened up every door of his Old Atlanta Road facility on Tuesday for the committee to tour.

Orr, who is also a member of the group, has made it clear that he and his wife do not want to continue running the county’s operation.

“It’s gotten too big for us,” he said.

Orr, who started running the shelter in the 1970s, has been waiting for years for the county to take it over.

The current shelter underwent one expansion to keep up with the growing population.

As it stands, the facility has five rows of runs for dogs or smaller livestock and four rooms dedicated for cat cages.

It also has a medical room, several kitchenette cleaning spaces, makeshift and closet storage spots and a front desk area.

Orr has continued to make improvements to the shelter over the years, most recently adding fenced-in runs for dogs to play outside.

After touring the facility, the committee reflected on what it had seen.

Chairman John McGruder commended the Orrs on the organization of the shelter, especially considering the space they have to work with.

Animals are labeled with different colors depending on their status as adoptable, sick or under animal control.

Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt, a non-voting committee member, was also impressed.

“It’s a neat and clean and well-run facility,” he said. “My hat’s off to you.”

As the committee members looked toward plans for a new shelter, they moved their focus to what the current one lacks.

Some favored additions, including a separate front office to keep out noise, dedicated storage and a Sally port, or controlled entry for trucks.

Orr and his wife also pointed to some difficulties in the design of their shelter.

“We made mistakes and you probably will too,” he said. “If we can correct most of them before we ever do it, we’ll be better off.”

The committee debated the need for a surgical room, incinerator and X-ray machine, services that could also be contracted out.

The group has been working to pin down the needs for a new shelter since early this year.

The construction of a new facility is included in the list of projects that could be funded by a continuation of the 1-cent sales tax.

A referendum on the tax extension is set for Nov. 8.

If approved by voters, that round of the special local option sales tax, or SPLOST, would not begin collections until June 2013.

However, another funding avenue could bring in the money to start the project more quickly, said Commissioner Todd Levent.

Levent, a member of the committee, declined to discuss specifics, other than to say that option would be revealed if the tax extension passes.

If all went according to plan, he said, the shelter could open within two years.

The committee aims to wrap up the plans for facility’s design during its next meeting on Oct. 25.