Last August, Ingham County voters approved a property tax increase to fund a new animal shelter. This week, officials from Ingham County Animal Control unveiled the designs and location for that building.

They also revealed the price tag: $7.1 million. That’s $300,000 more than the $6.8 million raised by the millage. John Dinon, director of Ingham County Animal Control, said a nonprofit, the Ingham County Animal Shelter Fund, has pledged to raise the additional $300,000.

“They’ve already raised $100,000,” said Dinon of the Ingham County Animal Shelter Fund. “That money will help finish off the costs and if there is more raised? Well we can always find ways to use that.”

Dinon said he expects to break ground in May, with a construction period between 10 months and a year.

The new building is a replacement for the county’s 47-year-old building. It’s unsanitary, cramped and a stressful environment for the animals that are brought in,

Dinon said. The current building is 10,500 square feet and every inch is being used. A former custodial closet has been converted into a cat enclosure, while a garage bay has been made into a surgical and medical suite. The entire building shares the same air handling system, allowing airborne infections to spread easily through the animals. That single air handling system also leaves the smell of animal waste and cleaning solutions hanging in the air.

On top of that, the dogs and cats are so close together, barking stresses the cats. In addition, dogs have to be removed from kennels before they can be cleaned. That is potentially dangerous since the shelter is required to house aggressive animals under quarantine after attacking other animals or people.

Using the new money, Dinon and his team will build a 16,000-square-foot facility on county land on the other side of the Sheriff’s Office and jail, near the Drain Commissioner’s Office on Buhl Street in Mason, not far from the current shelter.

The plans show a facility designed with animal safety and human interactions in mind. It will have two entrances for the public.

“You want to make sure that animals coming in, say a stray, don’t interact with animals already here,” said Kate Turner, the shelter’s outreach manager.

“We don’t know what their health status is, but with this system they can be walked right into medical and vaccinated immediately.”

Indeed, the desk designed for surrendering animals is across the hall from a medical suite, which includes a prep area, surgery recovery areas and two surgical bays built specifically for surgeries.

Dogs will be housed in kennels that allow workers to clean them without touching the animals. There will be sliding doors between two equal-sized kennels in the isolation area so that aggressive dogs can be lured into one side while the other is cleaned. In the adoption area for dogs, the same set-up will also exist, but the sliding doors will separate the indoor space from the outdoor space. There will also be several play yards for volunteers and staff to socialize with the dogs, as well as to introduce a family to a dog.

Smaller dogs will have a separate housing space as well, reducing their stress.

For cats, the space adoption space will be on the opposite side of the building with its own air handling system to keep the temperatures a little bit higher for the felines. It will also include colony rooms, which cats can cohabitate, that attach to an enclosed patio.

“That way when someone says they are looking at an indoor/outdoor cat, we can say here is an idea to allow that to happen but prevent them from harms,” said Dinon. Those harms include injuries from fighting or being hit by a car as well as infections such as feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus.

— TODD HEYWOOD