Investing in the future: Why cities need to fund new animal shelters

Just about everywhere you look these days, there’s a story about crumbling infrastructure. National Public Radio recently posted a piece about the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and the need for $400 million in repairs. Similarly, most states are struggling to deal with issues like deteriorating roads, and local governments are trying to figure out how to fund critical projects to save or rebuild government buildings.

Animal shelters are no different. The vast majority of them across the country are relics of a bygone era when a shelter definitely was not a shelter, but instead a stark, prison-like structure designed only for quarantine and killing.

While some communities have found a way to succeed even in antiquated, lifeless buildings that resemble something out of a horror movie director’s imagination, communities that invest in better infrastructure have obviously seen great returns on those investments. New facilities are designed with animal safety, lifesaving and customer service in mind. Diseases are better contained, which translates to a safer stay for pets. Architects design for flow, with an eye for showcasing animals, which means healthier animals and better adoption numbers overall.

Of course, these projects cost money, and in large cities with high shelter intake numbers, the price tag can present some sticker shock to the average taxpayer. In just a couple of weeks, voters in Houston, Texas, will head to the polls and if they approve Proposition 3, Texas’ largest city will get a new $24 million shelter.

The project is sorely needed because the current shelter, which takes in approximately 25,000 animals per year, was built in the mid-1980s and was only intended to handle a yearly intake of 12,000. And, while modern buildings are no guarantee of progressive, lifesaving programs, they encourage more adoption foot traffic, attract volunteers and offer a more positive environment for the animals — all of which create a great place to start.

Whether or not voters approve this project, animal lovers in Harris County must still continue to push for accountability from their leaders. Poor facilities are no excuse for not saving more lives, just as new facilities will not automatically take Harris County to no-kill.

Houston is a world-class city with world-class medical facilities, technology centers, universities, major league sports teams and art venues aplenty. Likewise, Houston’s homeless pets deserve a world-class animal care and adoption operation.

Even if you don’t live in Houston, every American will be voting on issues and candidates in their communities next week. You can help decide the future for animals in your own community. Get active, and figure out who and what you’re voting for this November. Research the candidates and find out where they stand. Voting for candidates who are ready to save lives is an important step toward a time when we Save Them All.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society