VALPARAISO | Porter County commissioners are considering donating land south of the intersection of Ind. 149 and Ind. 130 for the construction of a new animal shelter.
Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, said he believes the site is highly visible and centrally located, which are among the criteria recently suggested by a consultant.
"New shelters with high visibility will normally see their adoption rates double, thereby reducing animals held and reducing euthanasia and related expenses," according to a $6,500 needs assessment study completed for the county by Shelter Planners of America.
Evans said a lot of traffic flows through the intersection. A billboard could be used to draw attention to the shelter, and the building is likely to be visible from nearby highways.
The site is more centrally located than the current facility south of U.S. 30 on Ind. 2 and is closer to Portage, which will allow the county's largest city to resume using the shelter rather than continuing to travel to the Humane Society of Hobart, he said.
Evans said the proposed location has the support of the nonprofit pet adoption group Lakeshore PAWS, which is negotiating to build a new shelter and take over operations from the county.
Jeanne Sommer, co-founder Lakeshore PAWS, could not be reached last week for comment.
Evans said he hopes the negotiations will be wrapped up by fall, with a new building possibly in place by this time next year. The goal is to get the county out of the shelter business, though it may continue paying a subsidy to PAWS.
The consultant's report further recommends the county reverse its decision from last year and return animal control services to the shelter from the Sheriff's Department.
"The problem with this arrangement is the animal control officers believe they are not a part of the shelter function and therefore are not understanding of the challenges and needs of the shelter," according to the report.
Evans said animal control, which is required of the county by the state, will remain with the Sheriff's Department because it is an enforcement issue. The plan is to use the existing shelter as a place to hold animals picked up by the control officers until they can be evaluated by shelter representatives, he said.
He believes communication is improving between the shelter and Sheriff's Department.
Another critical concern identified by the consultant is the need for spay and neuter programs.
"The shelter should cease trying to call itself a no-kill shelter until it can reduce the number of animals needing to be surrendered to the number it can adopt," the report states.
Evans said he agrees with a recommendation that all animals should be spayed and neutered before they are adopted from the shelter. The new shelter should have the room needed to provide those services, rather than continuing with the current policy of providing the new owners with a certificate to be taken to a veterinarian, he said.