Burlington Animal Services closing contract bids for new shelter

BURLINGTON, N.C. -- Helping people in the Alamance County community with their pets and pet issues is at the core of what Director Jessica Arias and the people at Burlington Animal Services try to do. The issue is there's something holding them back.

"The building is working against us," Arias said. "We just don't have adequate elbow room to move and do our jobs."

The space is cramped and some of it very outdated. Cats in crates fill the hallways outside the surgery room for spay and neuter operations, while technicians and volunteers scuttle up and down the tight corridor.

Across the way, dogs and cats are in separate rooms, but right next to each other, which can be startling for the animals and very noisy. And then in the back of the property, there's the intake building, built in the 1950s.

"We struggle with extreme temperatures in the summer and really cold temperatures in the winter," Arias said.

The basic mechanical infrastructure for climate control is very outdated and some kennels are partially outside, making them impractical for the summer and winter months. The staff here spends a lot of time maintaining the facility just to have it meet minimum state standards. All these reasons factor into why a change is needed.

"When I first stepped foot in the facility I realized how dire the need was," Arias said.

Now, four years after she took the job, a new shelter and facility is finally within sight. This week, the Animal Services will close contract bids for the new space. They hope to break ground this spring.

"One of the important things is for people to make an emotional connection with the dog," Arias said.

And Arias believes a new shelter will give folks a better experience from the second they walk in, to hopefully when they leave with a new adopted best friend.

Arias expects the new facility to cost about $5.25 million. Alamance County will commit $2.9 million and the City of Burlington has budgeted $912,000. The Pet Adoption & Welfare Society of Alamance County, a local nonprofit, will chip in at least $750,000, and Arias says is committed to filling in the gap, which could be more than $650,000.

Once the contract is awarded, the price point will become more clear, along with the timetable of the project, which could take about 18 months.