The dog days are over at Saginaw’s old animal shelter. Here’s a look inside the new site.

KOCHVILLE TOWNSHIP, MI — Neighboring pet adoption agencies and advocates helped the Saginaw County Animal Care and Control Center avoid a capacity problem it faced during last week’s move to its new facility here, officials said.

The number of dogs at the county shelter’s now-former headquarters, 1312 Gratiot in Saginaw, was larger than the capacity at the new site, 5615 Bay in Kochville Township. As staff and volunteers readied to move its canines in advance of the new facility’s Monday, Aug. 28, opening, officials anticipated they may need to find creative ways to house an excess of animals on day No. 1 at the shelter, said Bonnie Kanicki, the shelter’s director.

But, in the days before staff planned to transport the dogs on Thursday, Aug. 24, 18 of 95 dogs under the county’s care were sent elsewhere to seek adoption, she said. The move meant the number of canines there fell below the new shelter’s 80-dog capacity.

The Humane Society of Midland County took 13 dogs, Undercover Angels Animal Rescue of Saginaw took four dogs and Midland County Pit Stop took one dog, Kanicki said.

“It’s been a blessing that so many people came out to help us,” she said.

The assist from outside agencies provided the added benefit of sharing the adoptable dogs with a new region and new audiences, Kanicki said.

The 18 dogs transported to outside agencies last week were some of the old Saginaw County shelter’s longest-tenured residents, meaning their likelihood of being adopted there was in decline, she said.

“People (in Saginaw County) have had a chance to see them, and so the dogs have a better chance of getting adopted now that we’ve sent them somewhere else to get rescued,” Kanicki said.

Help along the way

The community support of the county shelter’s moving effort — which largely spanned Wednesday to Friday, Aug. 23-25 — extended beyond outside agencies stepping up to house an excess of dogs, she said.

Staff and volunteers with the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department, Bay County Animal Services, Undercover Angels Animal Rescue of Saginaw as well as the Saginaw County Animal Advisory Council helped transport furniture, equipment, computers and all sorts of pet-friendly material from the old headquarters to the new site Wednesday. That same day, G’s Pizzeria Bar and Grill, of Saginaw Township, provided food for staff and volunteers.

When the dogs and cats were moved, Bay County Animal Services transported some of the lot.

Kanicki said about 70 people were involved in the 3-day effort to relocate animals and resources.

Along with Saginaw County Animal Care and Control trucks, a rotation of seven vehicles spent five hours Thursday moving nearly 80 dogs and 40 cats five miles north to the new Kochville Township shelter.

Staff and volunteers were stationed at the old and new headquarters. In Saginaw, the animals were removed from their aging kennels and lifted into specialized shelter vehicles. At the Kochville Township site, the pups and felines were led into fresh living spaces.

The group focused on the canines to start the morning, beginning shortly after 9 a.m. The final dog to exit the old shelter — a recently-arrived black pit bull mix the staff had yet to name — was loaded into a Saginaw County Animal Care and Control Center truck at about noon Thursday.

As the vehicle pulled out of the parking lot off Gratiot, about 20 staff and volunteers gathered to cheer the milestone. Some embraced each other and cried, the culmination of spending years planning and anticipating a move Saginaw County voters approved in an August 2018 millage election that funded the new, $11.7 million building project.

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The exodus of cats from the old shelter, after a lunch break, was more swift than the effort experienced by their canine neighbors. There were half as many cats compared to the dogs, and more felines could be loaded at a time into a single vehicle. Unlike the dogs, which spent their trip separated from each other in isolated compartments within the trucks, the cats were secured in carriers that could be fit in groups within those same individual compartments.

After less than an hour of loading, the last batch of cats caught a ride out of the Gratiot site’s parking lot shortly before 2 p.m.

New digs

While the capacity limit for dogs decreased at the new site — the now-abandoned shelter in Saginaw possessed a capacity limit of 100 — the size of their new living quarters increased.

At the aging Saginaw site — a former Rite Aid converted into a shelter in 1998 — dogs were sheltered in kennels stacked one on top of another, resulting in tight living quarters for animals unfamiliar with each other.

Housing so many canines in such close proximity agitated them, causing a near-often state of barking among the population, which agitated the animals further, officials said. The kennels were located in rooms several doors removed from a window with an outdoor view, meaning the residents there only enjoyed natural light when staff or volunteers led them to the property’s back yards.

The new animal shelter — which measures 23,000 square feet in size compared to the 7,680-square-foot former headquarters — does not feature stacked kennels for dogs. Walls separate several hallways where the adoptable animals are housed. And each hallway includes a door with a window, which provides some natural lighting. A hallway at the far end of the facility provides the canines there with a wall of windows facing the facility’s west yard.

As for the felines: The new facility increased upon the old site’s 40-cat capacity, pushing that figure now to 100.

At the new headquarters, the shelter’s felines reside in glassed-enclosed rooms Kanicki labeled “cat condos.” There, the animals play with peers while scaling multi-level carpeted pet towers together. Planners designed the space surrounded by windows, which exposes the cats to a view of the facility’s front parking lot.

The added room to roam will improve health conditions, reducing the spread of disease among the dogs and cats that sometimes plagued animals at the old shelter, Kanicki said. An improved sewer drainage system for the animals also will help in that effort.

The county’s shelter operations closed to the public beginning Wednesday to accommodate the move. Services will resume at 8 a.m. Monday.

Kanicki said she plans to host a grand opening celebration in mid- to late-September, when she hopes to invite community members to see the new shelter they helped fund.

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