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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Animal shelter.

Just the sound of those two words conjures up negative vibes. But for the first time in more than 50 years, Guilford County’s about to throw out that term.

In October, it will open the brand new 33,000 square foot Guilford County Animal Resource Center on Guilford College Road in west Greensboro.

“What I would like everyone to know is we’re here to help first and foremost,” Guilford County Animal Services Director Jorge Ortega told me as he gave me a tour of the new place. “We’re not the dog catcher. We’re not the dog police. We’re not the dog pound.”

And while that may have been the underlying mission of the facility the new building is replacing, the 1950s-era Guilford County Animal Shelter off West Wendover Avenue looks anything but.

I’ve covered so many stories about and involving that facility over the years, I’ve lost count. But I haven’t lost the memories of the squeaking mechanical gate, the concrete building with few windows and the smelly, dark, damp and loud conditions.

The new place doesn’t even have a fence completely around it. And it’s just what Ortega wanted: a more welcoming, comfortable and, yes, humane facility.

“I want our community to look at us as a resource,” he said. “We are in the people business.”

Now that may sound a little unusual coming from an animal services director. But Ortega feels if the county solves some of the “people” problems associated with animals, animal welfare in the county will improve and more animals will survive.

It’s a theme throughout the new place.

Take, for instance, both the intake lobby (where people can surrender their animals) and the separate adoption lobby (where prospective adoptive families can enter and begin the process of adopting their next pets) are welcoming and have plenty of natural light.

There are several, separate “get acquainted” rooms for families to get to know both dogs and cats. For dogs, there’s even an artificial-turf courtyard to play with their potential humans.

There’s even an education area where Ortega hopes to hold summer camps for young people in hopes of teaching them how to properly treat and care for animals.

When someone brings an animal to the intake lobby, staff works diligently with that person to find alternatives to surrendering the animal in hopes of boosting the chances the animal can find a forever home.

The animal services team also hopes to continue its work with other county agencies to learn the reasons so many people abandon their pets and address those issues.

Ortega feels this will significantly cut the number of animals arriving at the Resource Center in the first place.

But for those that do end up here, this facility offers so much more.

Animal control officers can drive their vehicles into an enclosed area to unload stray animals they pick up.

There is a full animal hospital on site in which two full-time veterinarians will perform surgeries and treat sick animals in addition to spaying and neutering.

“Whether they (the animals) are in the ICU unit within the medical clinic or they’re in their kennels, the way the building is designed with a medical clinic, it’s easy access for the technicians or the veterinarians to get to those animals pretty quickly,” Ortega pointed out.

And in the adoption area, animal housing areas are about as modern as they can get. There’s plenty of room in the indoor/outdoor runs which are designed to keep disease spread at a minimum.

The new facility is capable of housing around 600 animals. That’s about the same as the old shelter. But then again, Ortega feels we shouldn’t be building larger animal shelters because it shows you’re not doing enough to keep animals out of shelters in the first place.

Oh, and by the way, the new place was budgeted to cost more than $15 million. It’s actually coming in a little under budget. How often do you hear something like that?

Not often.

Just as Ortega hopes not to hear the term “animal shelter” in the future. At least not when it comes to Guilford County.

For more information on Guilford County Animal Services, click here.