Animals out in the cold

Willow, a Labrador mix, takes a break from a game of fetch to watch someone walk past her enclosure at an animal shelter.

HUNTSVILLE — The city of Huntsville is taking a major step towards building its own animal shelter.

For the past three years, stray dogs and cats picked up in Huntsville have been picked up and sent to a shelter in Conroe, costing the city nearly $200,000 per year. However, with two years left on the agreement, the city is looking to restart plans that will utilize up to $1.4 million in taxpayer funds.

“As a city we are in the animal control business. When we pick up stray animals we have to have a place to take them,” City Manager Aron Kulhavy said.

The new shelter will be separate from a new facility that is currently being constructed by the Rita B. Huff Humane Society on Veterans Memorial Parkway. The local shelter cut ties with the city in 2016 over a lack of funding and in the pursuit of becoming a no-kill shelter.

Following the parting of ways, city leaders began the process of constructing a city-owned animal shelter. That included selecting a construction site near the city’s transfer station, hiring an architect and purchasing a pre-engineered metal building that currently sits in storage.

“I don’t know all of the reasons, but no bids were awarded for construction of the facility and nothing awarded for management of the facility. Everything that the city was doing just stopped,” Kulhavy noted.

Huntsville Police Chief Kevin Lunsford said that the city has collected 122 stray animals so far this year. The city is allowed to drop off 480 animals at the Conroe Animal Shelter under their current contract, with a $1,000 penalty for each animal over the allotted amount.

City leaders were unsure on the cost to operate an animal shelter, but expect it to be at least $500,000 a year.

Also, unlike Rita B. Huff the city-owned shelter will be a kill shelter.

“The proposal is to house animals, hold those animals for the required amount of time with some associated adoption. The intent was not to have a shelter that operates the same as Rita B. Huff, which focuses on an adoption program.”

“The main thing that we are trying to achieve is the objective of being responsible enough to get our own place,” council member Russell Humphrey added. “Nobody wants to have one, but we really don’t have a choice.”

City leaders say that they will bring an item before the city council at a public meeting in the coming months. 

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