In two years, the Memphis animal shelter will be just as convenient — and probably more so — than Wolfchase Galleria.
Plans for the new Memphis Animal Services facility, to be located at Appling and I-240, were unveiled at a City Council committee meeting last week. The current shelter, located on Tchulahoma Road near the Memphis airport, has long been criticized for being isolated and inaccessible.
"Increased visibility and a larger site will hopefully lead to more adoptions," said city architect Mel Scheuerman. "We'll be right there by the interstate, near the Bellevue Baptist complex."
The 40-year-old shelter on Tchulahoma is 15,000 square feet, but the new $11.1 million shelter will be more than double that size and have 30 percent more dog kennels. Scheuerman estimates it will be complete in about two years. The new shelter is expected to meet the city's animal-control needs for the next 40 years.
In addition to more space for dogs, the design incorporates a larger feline adoption area. Outside the shelter, dog runs will allow the public to get acquainted with adoptable dogs. Sound-proof walls will separate rows of cages to prevent multiple dogs from barking at the same time, and a "real life" display near the public entrance will simulate an actual living room with a couch and play area for dogs.
"It's a warm, fuzzy room that, when people come in the door, they see a nice, clean shelter. And they see a very adoptable dog," Scheuerman said.
The new facility will also contain multiple ventilation systems to help prevent the spread of airborne illnesses, such as distemper.
"That's one reason the cost of animal shelters across the country is so much higher than building a library or community center. You're basically building a mini-hospital," Scheuerman said.
The new shelter will have space for exotic animals, such as birds, ferrets, and snakes. A barn and pasture behind the facility will house large animals.
"If a truck overturns and six cows get out, we'll have somewhere to put them," said Keenon McCloy, director of public services and neighborhoods.
The area where animal-control officers unload captured animals will be covered to prevent dogs from escaping.
"There is no cover over the area where officers unload animals now, and dogs can escape," McCloy said.
In recent months, Change Our Shelter, a grassroots group of animal advocates, has been speaking out about the high rate of euthanasia at Memphis Animal Services. In 2006, 81 percent of the animals taken in by the city were euthanized.
Though Change Our Shelter member Sylvia Cox is pleased with the new design, she thinks it is a smokescreen for current problems.
"Keenon McCloy is announcing plans for a new shelter, which is still years away from being a reality, to try and deflect attention away from the current, acute shelter problems that need to be addressed now," Cox said.
As a long-term solution, McCloy hopes that the addition of a low-cost spay and neuter program at the future facility will address the euthanasia problem. Currently, the shelter does not provide this service to the public.
"We need the expansion, and we need the additional level of service," McCloy said. "It's going to be a much healthier, more sanitary, friendlier environment. Hopefully, that will attract new adopters and encourage folks to come in for vaccinations and spay and neuter services."
The City Council approved the proposed design, and construction firms will soon begin bidding on the project.