DeKalb replaces ‘chamber of horrors’ animal shelter


Hundreds of playful puppies and purring kittens will finally have a safe and clean place to stay in DeKalb County until they find a home.

A $12 million DeKalb animal shelter opened Wednesday, replacing a run-down facility that a citizen task force labeled a “chamber of horrors,” where many animals didn’t make it out alive.

Euthanasia rates once exceeded 80 percent about 15 years ago, but they declined to about 10 percent by last month, according to Lifeline Animal Project, which has run the county’s shelters since 2014.

The county’s old animal shelter, located behind an incinerator near the county jail, had serious health hazards, including bug infestations and mold, according to a 2012 report from the citizen task force. It always smelled, there were drainage problems and the air conditioning didn’t always work.

“Who wants to come to a building behind the jail that stinks from the moment you get there?” asked Sonali Saindane, chairwoman for the DeKalb Animal Services and Enforcement Advisory Board. “This is a complete shift in how we view animal shelters — animals deserve an adequate standard of care. This was the result of citizen-driven advocacy.”

The shelter, located near DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, can hold more than 400 animals who are anxiously waiting to be adopted. The 33,440-square-foot building includes 12 adoption rooms, a clinic with spay and neuter services, a surgery room and a lab area.

Filled with wood-framed cages and animal roaming areas, the shelter could drive down euthanasia rates further because it’s more welcoming for residents looking to adopt a new pet, said Kerry Moyers-Horton, the shelter’s director for Lifeline.

“Nobody wanted to go to the old shelter. It was dirty and dingy and dark,” she said. “More people are going to want to visit and adopt. The door is going to be revolving more than it was.”

And until the end of July, the shelter is offering free adoptions. Normally it costs $85 to adopt a dog and $65 for a cat, with those costs paying for spay/neuter, vaccinations, deworming, microchipping and tests.

Protests from red-shirted animal advocates over the last 10 years pressured elected officials to find funding for the shelter, said DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson, who supported its construction.

“It has been a long journey,” Johnson told a crowd of animal lovers, shelter employees and government employees before a ribbon cutting. “Thank you to all the taxpayers … This is truly a good day.”

The shelter’s construction cost $8.6 million, and an additional $3 million went toward architecture, kennels and equipment.

Besides larger spaces for animals and a cleaner facility, the shelter also will minimize smells with a trench drain that’s attached to kennels and flushes every three minutes, said Dave Buser, director of operations for Reeves & Young Construction.

“It’s a healthier environment for the dogs,” he said. “It’s invited to the public. It’s not just a place to see a dog — it’s an event.”

The shelter is open to the public and already houses about 100 dogs and 40 cats. Many more animals will be moved from the old animal shelter before it closes next month.

The new animal shelter is located at 3280 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Chamblee, Ga., 30341.

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