Pima County Logo
  • Increase font size
  • Decrease font size
  • Print
  • RSS
  • Workshop helps design a better PACC

    Jul 28, 2015 | Read More News
    Share this page

    By Kim Smith
    Pima County Communications

    After four days of information gathering, the team designing the new Pima Animal Care Center is ready to move forward to create a facility team members believe will result in happier, healthier pets and higher live release rates.

    Volunteer forumLast fall, Pima County voters approved a $22 million bond to build a new animal control center. The county built the existing facility in 1968 when the population was one-third of what it is today. Capacity for the shelter is 500 pets, but often houses as many as 1,000.

    The county chose local architectural firm Line and Space to design the new facility and last week representatives from the firm met with PACC staff and volunteers over the course of four days to discuss their needs, objectives and dreams for the new facility.

    Joining Line and Space at the table were veterinarian Denae Wagner from University of California-Davis’ Koret Shelter Medicine Program and architect Heather Lewis from Animal Arts Design, a Boulder, Colorado, architectural firm.

    Over the last 15 years, architects and doctors have come to realize the way animals are housed has a dramatic impact on their physical and emotional well-being, Wagner said. As a result, facilities often become over-crowded because no one wants to adopt unhealthy and destructive animals.

    Many times shelters house cats in a single occupancy kennel that is approximately two feet by two feet, Wagner said.

    “That’s too small and it stresses them out because that means their food is by their litter box,” Wagner said. “Cats don’t like that because they are fastidious creatures. They really need space between their food and water, bed and where their litter box is.”

    The stress cats experience often leads to upper respiratory infections.

    A poorly designed building can also lead to inefficiencies, Wagner said.

    “If we end up spending most of our staff resources just on daily care, which we need to do, then we won’t have time in the day to do the other things that we really want to be able to do to get animals out of the facility alive,” Wagner said.

    Those things include talking to potential adopters, answering phones and spending time with the animals individually.

    “The design of the building is paramount, it’s the bones of the system that no one really thinks about,” Wagner said. “If it works really well, you’ve got great opportunities. It’s a tool and if the tool doesn’t work very well, it’s a struggle.”

    Lewis told the group that a Denver animal shelter saw a 40 percent decrease in upper respiratory infections after it changed their cats’ housing units.

    As for dogs, studies have shown they do better if they have separate areas to rest, exercise and relieve themselves, Lewis said. They don’t do well in loud conditions where they are over-stimulated.

    Pets see and hear the world differently than humans and accommodations must be made for them, Lewis said. They can be stressed by the buzzing of light fixtures, mechanical systems turning off and on and the clanking and banging of kennel doors.

    The best animal shelters also take retail theory into consideration, Lewis said. They try to show off their pets, hire “people people,” who are transparent, authentic, fun and creative.

    An Erie, New York, animal shelter raised its adoption rates by more than 30 percent after it was re-designed and adopters were given the opportunity to actually interact with the pets.

    PACC staff and volunteers said they have seen first-hand the impact a poorly designed and over-crowded facility has on the animals. They shared many of the problems they currently experience and they didn’t lack for ideas for the new facility.

    They included:

    • Separate areas for staff to meet with people about enforcement issues, adoptions, relinquishing strays, pets or sick animals
    • Requiring people to make appointments for relinquishing animals
    • Indoor/outdoor kennels
    • Multipurpose room for pet ownership classes, meetings
    • Grooming areas
    • Separate area so pet owners can say goodbye to pets about to be euthanized
    • Exercise/training areas
    • Quiet places where potential adopters can play with the animals
    • Shady outdoor areas
    • Group housing for cats
    • Additional storage areas for staff and volunteers

    Wagner said she is impressed by the community’s dedication to its pets. The fact that voters passed the bond with 59 percent of the vote and the passion with which PACC’s volunteers and staff spoke is “inspiring,” Wagner said.

    “You’ve got a great group of folks here who are doing the best they can,” Wagner said. “There are a lot of limitations here so they are doing a tremendous job.”

    Pima County’s Facilities Management Director Michael Kirk came away with the same impression.

    “Through the sessions, it has become even more apparent the outstanding job that PACC staff and volunteers do to provide high performance services to our community,” Kirk said.

    The entire experience was valuable, Kirk said.

    “There has been a tremendous amount of collaboration and dialogue in the sessions between PACC staff, volunteers, citizens, partners and the design team,” Kirk said. “The sessions have provided clear and comprehensive information to create a concept design.”

    “While we cannot incorporate all the ideas we have heard into the design, we are focused on including the ideas that promote the best practices, deliver the best value and support the best outcomes,” Kirk said.

    PACC Chief of Operations Kristin Barney said she is confident the new facility will be more efficient for the animals, staff and public.

    “We appreciate all of the time the architects and consultants have put toward understanding our complex operation,” Barney said.

    Line and Space architect Henry Tom said, “The programming workshop went very well; we were able to get a lot of information that will help shape the new PACC facility. The overall goal is to give the PACC staff the tools needed so that they may provide the animals with the best care possible.”

    Kirk estimated a concept design for the new facility would be completed before the end of the year with major construction to begin next year.

    Preliminary site preparation and installation of temporary structures to accommodate keeping PACC open while the new facility is built should begin by the end of the summer or early fall.