New shelter sounds nice, but staff should be key
The Charles County Board of Commissioners received an update last week about the feasibility of building a new animal shelter in an effort to replace the outdated Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville.
Much attention was brought to the existing facility last year after a former Calvert County commissioner urged Calvert to break away from its commitment to the shelter and create its own locally funded facility. The former commissioner, Linda Kelley, a noted animal lover and activist who recently died, cited numerous concerns about staffing and space issues at the shelter. Once Calvert ultimately decided to break its partnership, Charles and St. Mar y’s counties began exploring other options. St. Mar y’s has yet to make a decision on whether to keep contributing funds to the tri-county shelter, but Charles looks to be moving toward build- ing a new facility.
During its meeting last week, the board of commissioners were presented the results of a $50,000 feasibility study conducted by Design Learned Inc., FMD architects and Marrick Properties. Most of the discussion centered around whether the county should construct an entirely new facility at the cost of about $7.4 million — roughly the same cost it would be to update and expand the existing tri-county shelter at about $7.2 million. If the county were to renovate another building, the cost would be roughly $6.2 million.
Another focus was to create a facility that would have stress-free spaces for animals and put animals of similar sizes together.
This is a start, but the feasibility study didn’t address the elephant in the room: staffing. While we acknowledge this study was just an early step at addressing some of the larger concerns the tri-county shelter has, there should be some effort put into recruiting full- and part-time veterinarians and well-trained and equipped staff, particularly staffers who can help with one of the biggest problems that contributes to pet overpopulation: the lack of spaying and neutering for strays.
Before the county even breaks ground on this facility, a plan needs to be put in place to have a staff prepared to handle the amount of animals that come into the shelter. You can throw money at a problem — millions of dollars, in fact — and build a shiny, new, state-of-the-art facility in a central, visible location, but if you don’t have people in place to run it competently, you’ve wasted all that money and are still left with the problem that started this process.
We are pleased to see the commissioners are taking the issue seriously and exploring options, but we hope they continue to look for ways to address the staffing issue. This isn’t a “if you build it, they will come” situation.