Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

County Opens the Doors to the Newly Completed Animal Services Center
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Oct 8, 2012, 15:01

photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Board of Supervisors chairman Henry Parker cuts the ribbon with help from members of the Junior Beta Club, local officials and others who played a critical role in the creation of the facility.

For the government officials, it was an investment in the county. For the animals, it was a new home. For all, it was a long time coming.

County employees and the animal lovers teamed up on Friday to cut the ribbon on the newly completed, state of the art Animal Services and Adoption Center, located at 8391 County Drive in Disputanta.

“Eurphoric,” said county resident Guy Sotomayor, describing how he felt standing in the lobby of the new facility he spent nine-years championing

Sotomayor was a member of the nine-person team consisting mostly of county officials that toured other facilities and met with architecture firms in preparation for a county plan.

As a neighbor to the site, Sotomayor, who described himself as “a dog lover” kept an eye on the facility’s construction, helping to oversee a project that he felt needed to be done.

“When we moved here in 1994, we looked at the shelters that were around here,” he remembered. “Petersburg, Colonial Heights, and ours, Prince George, and I was appalled at what I saw.”

Sotomayor wasn’t the only one. Before the new facility opened on Friday, the county’s stray animals and their care takers were living and working in a shelter that hadn’t passed an inspection by the state Office of Veterinary Services since 1998.

County Administrator Percy Ashcraft kicked off Friday’s celebration with the Mohandas Gandhi quote, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.”

He said the new, $2.5 million structure standing behind him was a significant milestone in the greatness and progress of the county, which has celebrated a number of other high profile construction projects in recent years, including the completion of a new library and school and the extensive renovation of the Police station.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson A feline friendly playroom was amongst the innovative design features on display at Prince George county’s new, long-awaited Animal Services and Adoption Center.

“These are very special people,” Prince George County Board of Supervisors chairman Henry Parker said at the ribbon cutting ceremony as he called the county’s animal control staff to join him in front of the audience. “They do a very special task.”

Parker pointed out that those special people had done their special task in a cramped shelter that had been in use since 1975, but still managed to maintain a high adoption rate.

“These people operated in primitive conditions and they did an excellent job,” he said. “That’s with a capital “E.”

After the ribbon was cut, attendees at the ceremony were treated to tours of the facility. Parents in Prince George probably found themselves subjected to aggressive lobbying for pets, since members of the seventh grade junior Beta Club from J.E.J. Moore Middle School were amongst the first to get a glimpse at the new facility, delightedly petting the dogs and cats and watching the antics of a group of kittens playing in a special room with perches and cubby holes set aside for feline recreation.

For the past few years, the Junior Beta Club has been one of the biggest supporters of the new shelter, raising $16,000 from the spare change donated by classmates over the years.

At the opening, the club donated an additional $2,100 to help the shelter buy food and other necessary supplies to keep the 50 dogs and 40 cats the shelter is capable of housing happy and healthy.

Samuel Daniel, president of Daniel and Company, the contractors responsible for the construction of the new facility, presented a $20,000 check from his own company and the subcontractors they worked with to build the center.

Even the county’s dogs got in on the giving.

Parker presented Animal Services Director Joe Green with a check from his dog, Hobo.

“Hobo lives first class, and he wants all of his animal friends to live first class,” Parker said.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson A member of the J.E.J. Moore Junior Beta Club makes a new feline friend on Friday.

Although the donations will go a long way towards keeping the animals housed at the shelter well fed and healthy, the facility was constructed with the goal of increasing the county’s already high adoption rate. That goal informed the decision to locate the facility in an easy to find location on a main road, and shaped some of the design elements.

“It is our hope that this building will act in part with the county staff to promote successful adoption of animals in need of a full time, permanent home,” said Scott Wheeler, project manager for Enteros Designs, the Petersburg based architecture firm that designed the facility.

Sotomayor, who stood up at countless board of supervisors meetings to help speed the project along, said that at times, his mission could be frustrating.

“A lot of times, I would come home and sit down and say, ‘what am I doing this for?’” he remembered. “But here it is.”

He said that when he looked at the puppies visible from the entry way of the new shelter, he knew why.

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