VALPARAISO | Porter County Animal Shelter Director Jon Thomas sees magic in a proposal to build a new shelter along U.S. 6 at Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Liberty Township.
The site would offer the shelter greater visibility and a more centralized location to better serve the county's large population centers of Portage, Valparaiso and Chesterton, he said.
The park also attracts thousands of young people each year.
"A facility on that site can open up opportunities for a lot of educational programs," Thomas said.
The Porter County Board of Commissioners, who announced plans last month to pursue a new shelter at Sunset Hill, will start that challenge Thursday when they seek support for a land donation from the county park board.
The meeting is at 6 p.m. at the Porter County Administration Center, 155 Indiana Ave. in Valparaiso.
There are reportedly mixed reactions to the shelter proposal among members of the park board and park foundation.
County officials have been grappling for years with overcrowded and outdated conditions at the 41-year-old shelter south of U.S. 30 on Ind. 2.
Thomas said Wednesday the shelter was at capacity with dogs and had 15 to 20 more cats than it has room. The shelter took in 184 stray dogs and 152 stray cats during the months of May, June and July alone, he said, all the while working to maintain a no-kill rate of more than 90 percent.
"I think what we do is good for the community," he said. "I think it reflects positively on the people who make up this community."
Porter County Sheriff David Lain, who is now charged with animal control services, sees the need for a new shelter from a public safety perspective.
There are times when animal control officers are not able to quickly unload animals at the shelter because of capacity limitations, he said.
"It's the same issue we have at the jail," he said, referring to the overcrowding problem.
The challenges faced by the animal shelter are now being threatened further by word that the city of Portage may soon no longer be able to take its stray and problem animals to the Humane Society of Hobart. Officials are looking to a new and larger county shelter as an alternative.