Wednesday marked the official grand opening of the new Screven County Animal Shelter, upgrading to more than three times the space to house animals than was available in the existing shelter, located adjacent to one another on Rocky Ford Road in Sylvania.
"We've been waiting several years to get the new shelter built," said County Commissioner J.C. Warren, liaison for public safety.
Thomas Lariscy took over as animal control officer in November 2003, at which time, he said he began trying to lobby for a much-needed facility upgrade.
"Some financing came through SPLOST," Lariscy said, "then we got the go ahead about a year ago and started ground preparation."
The building structure and layout were designed by Lariscy and J.D. Meadows, construction detail officer for the county.
"Meadows is very talented at what he does and knows how to motivate the inmates," said Warren.
With construction completed entirely via inmate labor, Warren said the county saved taxpayers over $600,000.
Meadows began research for the project by visiting shelters in both Augusta and Savannah, where similar buildings were constructed at a cost of around $1 million, said Warren.
By Meadows' working state inmates, however, costs for the Screven shelter were cut down to $175,000, said Warren, a feat that could not have been achieved without the expertise of Meadows.
Meadows often takes on construction projects for the county and assured that no corners were cut in the building process.
With an open house preceding the grand opening at noon, Lariscy showed visitors around the new facility Wednesday.
The facility is divided into three sections, he said, quarantine, adoption, and intake.
The quarantine area has no public access and is designated for court cases, involving dog biting, for example.
The intake area is where animals are received, giving workers the opportunity to get them cleaned up and assess an animal's personality before putting them on the main aisle adoption floor.
An adoption room was built for introducing animals to their potential owners, where they can play and get to know one another.
Fifty-two pins, with the capacity for holding three to four animals each, Lariscy said, is a great improvement from the previous 18 pins he was working with.
A specified cat room was also designed for the building, where easy-to-clean cat condos house cats in a separate area from dogs.
"We received a great deal of support from the county commissioners and county management," said Lariscy.
The new shelter also features a full bath for personnel use, a food room for washing food and water bowls, and storage room for cleaning supplies.
Outside the back door, a wash area with drying cages helps cut down on disease, a top priority, Lariscy said.
Hanging water hoses along the inside ceiling were also designed for ease of cleaning and sanitation.
"I want the new shelter to stay clean, smell clean and stay nice for people who come through to look at the animals," said Lariscy, which is why he said he would be working the inmates hard to keep it that way.
New drop off pins are also located in back of the new shelter, where anyone can drop off an animal, even after hours, Lariscy said.
The very first animals to enjoy the safety of the new shelter were three litters of puppies and a bulldog, received Friday.
The old shelter, where several animals are still being housed, will remain in use, Lariscy said, for some time during the transition into the new building.
For more information about adopting a Screven County animal, call 912-978-1491.