New animal center could open by year’s end

Published on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 01:54 - Written by KELLY GOOCH

A Tyler animal care facility could be functional by the end of the year.

City Manager Mark McDaniel said the city has purchased and closed on the property, located on Texas Highway 31 off South-Southwest Loop 323, which at one time was the site of a manufacturing plant. The city entered into a sales contract in December for $550,000 for the 10 acres and existing buildings, according to the city.

“The architects on the project believe that the building is highly suitable for use as an animal care facility due to its sound structure, existing layout, location, a fire sprinkler system already in place and room to accommodate future phasing according to an overall plan,” McDaniel said in a December news release. “One of those future phases might also be a dog park on surrounding grounds that includes a water feature, wooded area and open space.”

In the next couple of months, he said a contract will be presented to the city council for consideration that would “go to the next step” as far as things such as plan specifications and putting together construction documents.

He said Tyler initially looked at building a 10,000-square-foot facility, but is now looking at about 20,000 square feet. A 10,000-square-foot facility was estimated to hold 75 dogs and 50 cats at one time, according to a news release.

McDaniel said the animal care facility will be more than a shelter, and described it as having a “public health safety perspective” instead of “an animal rescue approach.”

“There will be a need for some euthanasia. We want to do some spay and neuter programs. We want to do an adoption service as well, then have a shelter type of veterinary medicine operation there for injured animals,” he said.

Additionally, he said, surrounding cities have shown interest in using the facility, and Tyler Junior College is interested in working with the city in establishing its vet technician program.

“There’s all sorts of programming we’ll be looking at, but that’s kind of the next step as well to see what makes sense,” he said.

The city also must decide “what phasing will be and what we’ll try to do first,” McDaniel said.

As far as funding, he said there has already been at least one sizeable donation, and the city plans to seek more. The project also will be funded with half-cent sales tax.

Originally, McDaniel said the city hoped to have the facility “up and running” by Oct. 1, 2014. However, he said it could be longer.

“It will take … months to complete. This isn’t going to open tomorrow. We’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that what we want to do is within budget, within our resources, and so the phasing is going to be real important. Then we’ll be talking to our potential partners over the next few months about their involvement,” McDaniel said.

Meanwhile, the city currently contracts with Klein Animal Shelter in Jacksonville to house animals.

But Klein Animal Shelter Executive Director Angela Wallace said they are pleased with what’s happening with Tyler’s animal care facility project.

She said they hope it encourages more people to adopt animals, and it allows Klein to focus on Cherokee County.

There are “plenty of animals to care for here. … We’re looking forward to being able to focus on Cherokee County,” Ms. Wallace said.

Financially, the shelter will still have to rely a lot on its donation base, but they are not necessarily worried about their ability to take care of expenses, she said.

In fact, she said the shelter hopes it is able to reestablish it’s spay and neuter program.

Aside from the Tyler facility, other animal facilities also are being proposed, including one called Nicholas’ Pet Haven in Smith County. It is named for 14-year-old Nicholas Nash, whose love for animals and concern that many lost dogs and cats in Smith County were being put to sleep each week, led him to create a Facebook page to help families reconnect with their pets.

But Nicholas didn’t stop there: Instead, he announced to his family he wanted to open an animal shelter to help alleviate the need to euthanize animals. The proposed shelter would be located on family land at Interstate 20 and Farm-to-Market Road 2015.

Nicholas’ mother, Cindy Nash, said the plan includes a shelter, which will not euthanize healthy animals, as well as a dog park that would act as a “rest stop for dogs.”

She said fundraising for the project is in the works and hopes a temporary shelter is in place within the next six to eight months.

Project Facilitator John David Carrasco said a fundraiser, featuring a short film, is planned for next month at Graciela’s restaurant in Tyler.

“It’s very riveting,” he said of the film.

Tim McCellon, founder of the group Cyclists 4 Love, said a 24-hour mountain bike race is also planned for November. He said 25 percent of the proceeds will go to Cyclists 4 Love, while 75 percent will go to the shelter project.

The SPCA of East Texas also is looking to build “a community animal shelter,” according to its website.

“Our goal is to build a warm, family friendly, local animal services center,” the website states. “This community center will be able to serve both the city of Tyler and Smith County in the rescue and adoption of as many homeless pets as possible. Additionally, this organization will promote and educate our community about the humane treatment of animals, pet overpopulation and the prevention of cruelty to animals.”

Staff Writer Kenneth Dean contributed to this report, and excerpts were taken from Tyler Morning Telegraph archives.