A Dog Fight: Competing ideas for new animal shelters

By Dawn M. Aerts

Iron County Today


PAROWAN–In the world of pet shelters, there are places that can be described as “palaces of care” where dogs have ample kennels, exercise area, a warm blanket or a toy to keep them busy.  But you can also find dingy sites, small spaces where animals are held until someone claims them, adopts, or they are transferred “out.”


In Cedar City, plans are moving forward to build a new animal shelter to provide more kennels outside runs, and a floor plan to accommodate a growing number of stray pets.  “It’s all about humanely caring for animals,” said veterinarian Kelly Esplin of the existing 60-year-old storage building that was never designed as a shelter.


Still, others are skeptical of the proposed $ 1.2 million price tag attached.


“(Cedar City) is the driving force,” said Esplin of local resolve to turn 14 kennels into 30, provide exercise and isolation areas, expanded cat-quarters, ventilation systems and a 380 percent increase in space. “We’ve acquired the land, broken ground and have the architectural plan, so it’s a priority for this community in terms of the fundraising effort ahead.”


While the vision for a new and potential “combined” shelter has earned the support of some Cedar City officials, residents and the mayor, Iron County Commissioners don’t think it’s needed at all.


Dale Brinkerhoff, along with fellow commissioners Alma Adams and Mike Bleak, don’t concur with plans that would have closed and merged the Iron County facility into one Cedar City site.


“This is about not getting into a heavy debt structure (debt service) or spending money on something that several shelters already do,” said Brinkerhoff of County reluctance to get onboard. In short, they were not interested in the “buy in” proposal or presentation by Cedar City to merge (a new shelter) with the Iron County and Sheriff’s Department-run facility.  “We basically determined that it wasn’t something that made sense. The ‘buy in’ would be $400,000 plus design work, and then a maintenance/operating fee of $2,900 a year.”


While there was no effort to complete a budget analysis of “current” operational costs or on comparable costs, Brinkerhoff said there was issue with need versus price tag. Iron County Commissioners and Sheriff’s Department were unable to provide average monthly costs to operate, maintain and provide transport needs for dogs housed at the Iron County Animal Control facility waiting for adoption or claim.


“They said they could raise the dollars through donations,” said Adams, “but the consensus was ‘we have the existing shelter’ and I don’t think the operational amount ($2,900 a year) was a very realistic number.”


At present the Iron County facility is co-operated by the Sheriff’s Department, and staffed by volunteers, with free dog food provided by Best Friends in Kanab.


“There is a downside with the Iron County facility,” said Brinkerhoff of distance and public access.  “There are always need for repairs and (staff) or transport costs that fall under the Sheriff’s Department,” said Brinkerhoff.  “It’s been a long time since I was out there, but I don’t think we need a new construction.”


According to Brinkerhoff, the suggested annual maintenance cost ($2,900 per year) would be appealing.


“We would have ‘gladly’ done it — for that amount, but the ‘buy in’ amount would have to be dramatically different for us to revisit.”


In Iron County, the Sheriff’s Department oversees and maintains accountability, transfer, and operations, while the shelter is typically unmanned, and padlocked for 24/7 security. Dogs waiting for claim or adoption there must rely on periodic volunteers or (part time staff) for food, care, and cleaning.  In the end, Brinkerhoff noted that he would rather see the County pay down debt or consider improving sidewalks.


“I’m from a farming background, and we just don’t need a new pooch palace,” he said.


In the meantime, Rob Dotson, Enoch City manager and officials have plans in place for a new Enoch City animal shelter with groundbreaking this spring.


“Cedar City came to us with their presentation and proposal,” said Dotson of consolidating, “but we had to look at other factors, not only the associated cost and debt service, but also what we saw as the drawbacks.”


According to Dotson, the proposed site for a combined shelter in Cedar City would have a downside:  cost, response time, distance and the loss of a community-based facility. “I think the culture here has a different identity, with different needs.  And we’re very frugal,” said Dotson of community impact.


In Enoch City, a preliminary design was in place. “We actually had been meeting and planning for a new animal shelter for some time:  the water line is in, and work on the new road will begin this spring. said Dotson. “So we’re now working with local companies and trades people for donated labor and materials.”


Dotson said the goodwill of the community is the driving force behind the proposed site, which is on Minersville Highway.


“I would say the policy here is moved by dollars. We have a flat 10-acre parcel which will be easy for the public to see and to access.” There are also plans for an adjacent dog park with fundraising by the Friends of Festival Country K-9’s organization.

“So, we’ve set aside three-acres with a designated fence line for dog-walking,” said Dotson. “We have civil engineers and design people that are working gratis – and a building plan to accommodate the need for expanded space over time.”


The committed budget for the project is at $160,000 with $ 94,000 set aside to complete construction. “So it’s a great moment for us,” said Dotson.



Caption: (left to right) Chris Johnson, (Animal Control Manager); Enoch Police Chief Ames, and Rob Dotson, Enoch City Manager will be part of a community-wide effort to build a new animal shelter on a 10-acre parcel of land (N. Minersville Hwy) to include a (three-acre) Enoch City dog-park in fundraising partnership with Friends of Festival Country K-9’s.



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