Animals luxuriate in new digs

FILE+PHOTO

FILE PHOTO

The Animal Care & Adoption Center holds an open house at its new facility.

By Anders Frieberg  | [email protected]

The animals at the Iowa City animal shelter just got a new abode — although it’s not humble in the traditional sense.

After the 2008 flood destroyed the previous building, the animals and staff are finally settled in the new home of the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center, 3910 Napoleon Lane.

The newly finished facility has been open since mid-August, and Sept. 26 was the official grand opening. Center supervisor Liz Ford said the damage to the old shelter was absolute.

The center moved to the Johnson County Fairgrounds that June, and workers immediately moved the animals and began taking in animals from people displaced by the flood.

Because of an agreement with the fair board, the center was allowed room there if ever displaced by a disaster.

However due to the fair in August that same year, the center moved to a building five miles south of town, where it remained for seven years.

“It didn’t take too long to figure out we wouldn’t be able to get into the new building for a while,” said Ford.

Ford said adoption rates did initially decrease at the temporary facility, because of its location.

“There were other places that were more convenient for people to get pets, and we were a bit forgotten because we were so far south,” she said.

With the decreased accessibility, Ford said they also had to work harder to recruit volunteers to travel and help take care of animals.

Debra Lee, a volunteer for more than 10 years at the center, said there was always a need for adoptions.

“We have an over-influx of kittens in spring, and then we’re loaded down with cats, more so than dogs,” Lee said.

Program director Lisa Bragg also said there were sometimes issues with animals taking awhile to be adopted.

“The animals eventually get adopted, but sometimes they are here for quite a while,” she said. “We have a cat named Queen Lola who has been here for almost a year now. Sometimes, our dogs, depending on the type, are here for about six months.”

Bragg said there is a temperament test for each animal to ensure they don’t let a dangerous animal out to the public.

The staff is grateful for the new building to do these kinds of tests and day-to-day work in.

“We’re five miles back in town now. There’s a bike trail. People can walk here. There’s a huge parking lot. It’s easily accessible,” Ford said. “It’s more central to the community that we serve — as far as both being a shelter where visitors can come but then also for our animal-control officers to go out and do enforcement in the community.”

The total project’s cost was around $3.5 million and was funded through a joint effort of the city of Iowa City, the city of Coralville, the city of University Heights, Johnson County, and the University of Iowa.

Along with local funding, the center received $1.4 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state funds, as well as a grant. The Friends of the Animal Center Foundation, the center’s fundraising arm, donated another $1 million for the project.

Ford said around 300 people attended the grand opening, while around 200 to 250 people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 25.

While the center received a new permanent facility, Bragg said it’s still only a temporary home for the animals.

“I wish we could move them faster,” said Bragg. “I think most people come and adopt because they know they are literally saving a life.”

Bragg also said she was optimistic about the new location’s effects on adoptions.

“It’s an awesome building; I think the animals are more relaxed here, they’re less stressed,” she said. “I think we have the opportunity to keep them healthier, so I think adoption rates are going to definitely increase.”

The facility can be found on the southern end of the city.

“If you’re looking for an animal — cat, dog, rabbit, whatever — come to the shelter and check it out,” Lee said.

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