Daily Herald opinion: Planned expansion of DuPage animal shelter a positive step forward
DuPage County's Animal Services department has improved by leaps and bounds over the past 17 years.
In 2005, the department -- then known as Animal Care and Control -- came under heavy criticism for its treatment of animals and high euthanasia numbers. But policy and management changes have made a difference at the open-admission shelter in Wheaton and have helped save more animals.
Last year, 89% of the animals brought to the shelter left with a new chance at life. The facility had a "live release rate" of only 57% a decade earlier.
Now the department is poised to take another positive step forward.
County officials and animal advocates are planning an expansion of the shelter.
The project would bring a 9,750-square-foot addition, plus renovations, to the building and address years of chronic overcrowding.
"The problem is that our building has not kept up with the progress that we are making," said Dr. Barbara Hanek, the administrator of the animal services department.
The shelter admits well over 2,000 animals a year. And as our Katlyn Smith points out, those animals are not just cats and dogs. The facility also has cared for rabbits, chickens, hamsters, lizards and birds.
But space is limited, and shelter employees and volunteers make do with the cramped quarters. Animal cages line hallways.
The expansion plan includes additional dog kennels, separate rooms for cats and an expanded surgical and recovery suite.
Property taxes do not fund the operation of the shelter. Instead, the facility relies on the sale of rabies tags, private donations and volunteers to care for animals.
To pay for the estimated $10.96 million expansion project, county and shelter leaders have proposed a combination of funding sources, including $4 million the department has saved. DuPage Animal Friends, a not-for-profit charitable arm, has pledged nearly $1.6 million.
Officials are looking to raise funds to cover the rest of the project's costs. We hope efforts to raise the money are successful because the Animal Services department serves a critical role. Its services include sheltering stray and surrendered animals, providing medical care to animals, offering pet adoption and encouraging responsible pet ownership.
The department deserves to have an up-to-date facility with the space it needs to care for animals and continue its other important work. To donate, visit dupageanimalfriends.org.