Expansion project a positive step forward for DuPage County animal shelter

As an open admission shelter, DuPage County Animal Services provides a safety net for abandoned and homeless animals in the community.

Through positive policy and management changes, the facility in Wheaton has found ways to give many of them a second chance.

It’s an impressive turnaround for the agency that came under fire in 2005 for its treatment of animals and high euthanasia numbers.

At one point, the facility had a live release rate of about 50%. But this statistic has steadily improved over the years. In 2022, 89% of animals brought into the shelter will leave with a new lease on life.

Despite the progress, the 1970s-era building that houses the shelter suffers from chronic overcrowding and has not kept up with the growing demand for animal care.

That will change soon thanks to a major expansion.

In a story published Monday, Alicia Faber reported that construction is underway on a $14 million project that will add nearly 10,000 square feet — and extensive renovations — to the facility along County Farm Road.

“It would be a luxury to have double the space we have now once everything is done,” said Laura Flamion, director of operations for DuPage County Animal Services.

Animal Services shelters stray and surrendered animals, provides animal medical care, adopts pets and encourages responsible pet ownership. The shelter receives more than 2,200 animals annually.

As Faber points out, the list isn’t limited to cats and dogs. The facility also takes care of rabbits, guinea pigs and the occasional hen, goat or peacock.

But space is limited, and the shelter’s employees and volunteers have made do with narrow spaces. There are animal cages lining the walkways.

As part of the expansion, the shelter is getting “flex spaces” to make caring for the animals easier for staff and volunteers. Additionally, the expanded facility will include a large multi-purpose room and a “realistic room” that mimics a living room environment to help calm anxious pets.

Meanwhile, renovations to the existing facility will include updates to the medical area and the addition of dedicated space for volunteers to work with animals.

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 the animals.

Faber said the funds for the expansion project will come from a combination of public and private funding sources. DuPage Animal Friends, a nonprofit organization that benefits the shelter, helped secure nearly $5.6 million for the project and is working to raise millions of additional dollars.

It is inspiring to see the amount of private donations for the expansion. We hope the support from the public continues as animal services play a vital role in the county. The agency deserves to operate in a modern facility with enough space to care for the animals and continue its other important work.

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