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Animal shelter opening next month in north Forsyth
Separate cages on either side of a walkway would be used to see if two animals could get along well enough to live with each other before actually putting them in the same enclosure, according to Chris Peninger, manager of the Forsyth County Animal Shelter. - photo by Micah Green

NORTH FORSYTH — Forsyth County’s new animal shelter is on track to open Aug. 1.

Construction of the shelter, which is on County Way off Ga. 400 in north Forsyth, was funded by the voter-approved 1-cent sales tax.

It will replace the county’s current shelter on Old Atlanta Road, which is operated in partnership with veterinarian Lanier Orr from Orr Animal Hospital.

Work, which began in March 2013, is nearly complete, said Steve Rhoades, capital projects manager, during a recent tour of the facility.

When finished, the shelter will house 100 to 200 cats and dogs, which will be available for the public to adopt. About 100 of the animals will be moving into the shelter on July 29, with help from the Humane Societies of Forsyth and Dawson counties and Forsyth County Animal Control.

In the lobby, there will be viewing windows so people can look at the animals available for adoption. The shelter also has “meet and greet” areas for people to interact with them.

If someone is serious about adopting a dog, they can take it to an “animal interaction area,” which has been set up outside the shelter. The fenced area is designed for people to bring their current dogs to meet a possible new addition. A barrier in the middle is a safety precaution, in case the dogs don’t get along, said Chris Peninger, shelter manager.

The animals at the shelter will be able to have plenty of outside time.

The kennels have doors, which shelter employees can lift to let the animals outside. Animals will be separated by gender and will have their own kennel spaces.

There will be a space on site for animals to be spayed/neutered before or after adoption.

“If an animal is adopted out of this shelter, that animal must in some way be spayed or neutered [per state law], whether it’s done here or we give them a certificate and it’s done at another location,” said Tim Merritt, deputy county manager.

All incoming animals will also receive several vaccinations on site, and a veterinarian will be available to care for them.

The Animal Control and Shelter Advisory Committee has recommended Pet Vet Inc. on Martin Road in Cumming as the shelter’s veterinary services provider. However, that decision is not official and still requires the approval of the county commission.

A group called Friends of the Forsyth County Animal Shelter has donated $10,000 to the facility, while the Humane Society of Forsyth County has given $1,500. Both gifts have been used for cat cages, Merritt said.

Peninger said cats will also be able to stay in “cat apartments,” rooms with toys and plenty of play space.

As for staffing, Peninger said the hiring process has begun for an animal shelter coordinator, veterinary technician, two administrative technicians and four kennel technicians.

Animal control officers will also be on site and will be bringing in animals to be evaluated for adoption. Even if an animal is not approved for adoption, the shelter will help find it a home.

“An animal may not be a candidate for adoption in our shelter,” Peninger said. “We plan to use a lot of the rescue groups and animal advocates in the area to see if we can re-home that animal in some other way.”

The shelter has a separate relinquishment lobby where residents can give up their animal to the shelter or reclaim a pet brought in by animal control or someone else.

“We’re proud to be able to offer this to Forsyth County,” Peninger said.