Animal shelter proposes Worton site for new facility

This rendering shows the current concept plans for the Animal Care Shelter for Kent County’s proposed facility off Worton Road. The plans are slated to go before the Kent County Planning Commission next month, according to project engineers.

WORTON — The Animal Care Shelter for Kent County is taking another swing at replacing its aging headquarters, this time with the requisite zoning hopefully in hand.

On Thursday, Jan. 9, the Animal Care Shelter held an open house at the Kent County Community Center in Worton to offer would-be neighbors a first look at plans for the nearly 11,000-square-foot facility the organization proposes.

The site currently carries a Mary Morris Road address, but access would be off Worton Road (state Route 297). The 5-acre subdivision from property owned by Danny McHenry would be located directly south of the AmeriGas and Creafill sites, said Kevin Shearon of the project engineering firm Davis, Moore, Shearon and Associates LLC.

This is the Animal Care Shelter’s second bid for a new facility in recent years. A previous effort to build on a property also owned by McHenry off Still Pond Road near Kennedyville stalled as a result of a lack of county zoning clearly allowing animal shelters and concerns raised by some neighbors.

Kent County has amended its zoning code to explicitly allow animal shelters in certain districts. The Worton site reportedly fits the zoning.

“I think the stars aligned finally,” said Richard Keaveney, Animal Care Shelter executive director, at the Jan. 9 open house for the new project.

Keaveny said the Animal Care Shelter has about $3.2 million of the $7 million needed to make the new facility a reality. The hope is to break ground for construction in the fall or winter, with a ribbon-cutting in fall 2021.

“It does take a lot of money. But we think we’ll get there,” Keaveney said.

While DMS is handling the site engineering, the shelter building is designed by Boulder, Colo.-based Animal Arts. That firm seeks to design shelter spaces that “reduce stress, promote good health and behavior, and positively showcases animals,” according to an information packet supplied by the Animal Care Shelter to open house attendees.

“Everything is about providing a safer, healthier and less stressful environment for our animals and humans too,” the packet states.

For dogs, that means no more jail house-style runs. The plans currently call for four dog dorms, housing six to eight canines each with two-sided kennels so the dogs will not be able to see one another. There will be a center hallway in each with windows that allow people to view the dogs without disturbing them. The dogs also will have access to shaded outdoor yards for “quick and easy relief and play.”

Cat housing will include a silo for feral and barn cats. There will be 32 cat condos, providing separate areas for sleeping and eating, two cat group rooms for socialization and two fresh-air “catios.”

The new facility will have a veterinary care center. There also will be isolation areas for dogs and cats and overnight surrender safe rooms.

Shearon said there will be a forested buffer of about three-quarters of an acre, as required by the county. There also will be a walking trail around the site.

“This is a great concept, a great design. It’s well thought out,” Keaveney said at the open house. “We’ll be great neighbors.”

Jane Welsh, director of operations for the Animal Care Shelter, spoke about how much has changed when it comes to animal welfare since the current facility on state Route 213 north of Chestertown was built 60 years ago.

Welsh said it is no longer about dog catchers picking up animals and putting them in cages, hopefully to be picked up by their owners or adopted by a new family. She said now the animals picked up and housed at the Animal Care Shelter need to receive vaccines and other veterinary treatment that was never thought of when the current facility opened.

“We’re thinking about something that’s going to last 50 or 60 years again,” Welsh said of the design for the new facility.

Shearon expects the plans to go before the Kent County Planning Commission next month for initial concept review.

“It’s going to be a nice project,” he said.

To learn more about the Animal Care Shelter, visit kenthumane.org.

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