WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — The Porter County Animal Shelter will close its doors for the last time Tuesday afternoon after 35 years in operation and Director Toni Bianchi could not be more ready.

"I want to be driving the bulldozer," she said.

The antiquated shelter along Ind. 2 served its purpose, she said, but it now falls far short of the needs of the more populated county and its homeless dogs, cats and other orphaned critters.

The facility is being replaced by a new $3.5 million shelter just northwest of the Porter County Expo Center along Ind. 49.

The new building is 14,000 square feet, as compared to 4,000 square feet at the old site. It has room for 120 dogs and 120 cats, as compared to 50 dogs and 80 cats at the existing site.

"It's encouraging to me to see this facility because it tells me what can be in Porter County," Porter County Council President Mike Jessen, R-4th, said during a ceremonial ribbon cutting Tuesday.

The new building represents what is possible when officials set their differences aside and work together, he said.

Porter County Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, echoed the same sentiment, acknowledging the roles played by shelter employees and volunteers, planners and contractors, and the various departments in county government.

"For me, it was very gratifying seeing everyone come together," he said.

Jacki Stutzman, aunt to Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, was also acknowledged for her $1 million donation to the project.

"I'm overwhelmed we have finally, finally, finally got here," Stutzman said.

She said her donation grew out of a casual remark she made after volunteering at the older facility along Ind. 2. She told an official that if the county ever decides to build a new facility, she would contribute $1 million.

Stutzman thanked all those who have hung in there despite all the problems at the existing facility, but said it is time to move on.

"Let's get the show on the road," she said.

Bianchi is wasting no time moving into the new building. Cats will be moved over Wednesday, followed by dogs on Friday, she said.

The new building, which will open for business Tuesday, also features animal-shaped sculptures outside, including two that were created in a cooperative effort by Hopkins' Ace Hardware and Duneland Collision Repair, both of Chesterton.

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Bob is a 22-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.