Less than a decade ago, the Shelbyville/Shelby County Animal Shelter building was nearing condemnation.
In the years prior to that, animals were euthanized because there simply was not enough space to house all of them.
Those days are long gone now to a city and county partnership that helped construct a larger facility to safely house all of the animals and, now, through a generous donation, the organization has its own presentation shelter on site that can be used for many purposes, including celebrating those that have adopted from the animal shelter.
“Five to seven years ago we were discussing in the office whether or not to condemn the building that the animal shelter was in,” said Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun, who assisted in the ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday morning for the presentation shelter, which sits adjacent to the animal shelter’s main building at 705 Hale Road. “Think about that when you are talking about condemning an animal shelter. That’s some pretty serious stuff. We came out here and we had rat problems. The bottom of the building, it was a pole barn that was adapted and it was rotting. We were getting unbelievable utility bills for heat. It was animal shelter and we were getting complaints about inhumane treatment.”
Now, the animal shelter refuses to euthanize healthy animals. It is better structured to house a large quantity of cats and dogs. Trails have been built in the wooded area behind the facility to allow for walks with the dogs. There are fenced-in play areas as well.
And now a covered open space to hold events or showcase animals up for adoption thanks to Marjorie J. McNamara, who died on Nov. 18, 2014, and left just over $76,000 to the local animal shelter with one caveat: the funds were not to be used for operating expenses.
Just short of five years later, the presentation shelter offers plenty of options for its use.
“We can finally give more back to the community,” said Chris Browder of the Shelbyville/Shelby County Animal Shelter. “We’ve always wanted to have a way to honor those that have adopted and have them come have a cookout with us. We want to do more of those types of events, just to give back appreciation to those that support us, especially through adoption and donating. It’s nice that we have a place that is quite attractive.”
Browder, who works in the animal shelter office and maintains the organization’s social media presence, confirmed just how bad of shape the shelter was in before it was recreated to its current state.
“It was a jungle,” she said. “You plug in the vacuum cleaner and you blow all the fuses. Everything was rusted so that the dogs were able to squeeze out of the kennels into other kennels. You couldn’t really do the deep cleaning because of the cracked concrete. The roof leaked when it rained so you wouldn’t know if there would be water beside your computer. It was ongoing and we outgrew the facility.
“Now, look at it. It’s not just an animal shelter but the grounds and Marjorie donating like she did is unbelievable. We are so fortunate that we have people out there that believe in us and support us in the community.”
The animal shelter is a showcase of how city and county government worked together to fix an issue.
“Starting off with the new animal shelter, it’s a city/county project that was our first design-build project,” said DeBaun. “We had a good team on both sides of the city and county government who helped us create that. It was very successful. It’s a very attractive building.”
DeBaun learned from local attorney Jason Karmire, who was in charge of McNamara’s will, about the donation and is thrilled with the outcome.
“With Chris Browder and (Animal Shelter Department Head) Keith Barrett and their staff, they came up with this concept,” said DeBaun. “We green-lighted it and they far exceeded our expectations.”
Along with the new shelter house is a small waterfall installed by Barrett, who added an old handle pump that delivers water and placed all of the rocks.
“He does not like any recognition, any acknowledgement ... nothing,” said Browder, who had a plaque made especially for him and his dedication to the animal shelter. “He never wants a pat on his back. Whenever we thank him for something he does at the shelter, he says, ‘No, no, I’m not doing it for that reason.’
“It’s everything he does after hours and on the weekend. It’s his passion.”
The staff and the shelter’s corps of volunteers have helped turn the animal shelter into a local success story.
“We’ve gone from housing animals and storing animals to having compassion and providing these animals with a future,” said DeBaun. “I know adoptions are way up. I know euthanizations because of space are non-existent anymore. It takes that passion and dedication that most people don’t have.”