A new animal shelter for the Town of Babylon is taking shape after more than four years of planning.
The walls are up and a network of ducts is being installed in the North Amityville shelter, which has an expected completion date of November.
It may only look like a concrete skeleton now but to animal shelter director Chris Elton, it’s much more.
“I’ve lived and breathed this for four years,” he said. “To me it’s a beautiful big square gray box.”
The town’s current shelter, located in an industrial area of West Babylon, was completed in 1989 for $1.18 million. But it has become inefficient and the needs are greater, officials said.
Since 2013, the town has bonded for $9.85 million to go toward the new shelter, which abuts Zahn’s Park. Babylon Town spokesman Kevin Bonner said officials don’t expect costs to go beyond $10 million. The costs rose by $4 million from original estimates and it was to open two years ago.
“It seems expensive and it is expensive,” Deputy Town Supervisor Tony Martinez said. “But in the end it’s to make these animals more adoptable so we don’t keep them for two or three years.”
A large part of the price tag is the building’s planned heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, or HVAC, system. The shelter will have 12 separate systems, designed for disease control and sound isolation, a significant upgrade from the current shelter’s two and a half systems.
The new facility will be about 13,000 square feet, an increase of 4,000 square feet. Currently, cats sit in cages in the lobby of the shelter. At the new location, two cat porches will be added in front, enclosed but with mesh windows and room for the animals to play and lounge. The entire cat section is separate from those for dogs so anxious cats won’t see, hear or smell the dogs, Elton said.
Dogs at the West Babylon shelter spend most of the day facing each other, experiencing constant stimulation, officials said. In the new facility, no dog will face another dog. A special one-way glass outside the kennels serves two purposes: the dogs can’t see their own reflection and they can’t see potential adopters observing them.
All of the measures designed to make the animals less anxious will also make them more adoptable, Elton said. Those measures extend outside the building as well, with seven planned play areas for the dogs with 10-foot high fencing. The current six-foot-high fence at the West Babylon shelter means some dogs cannot be left alone as they can easily escape.
Food preparation, laundry and medical services are now conducted in the same small room. The new facility has separate rooms for those operations and officials are eyeing adding a surgical area in the future that would allow for radiology, operations and recovery. Elton said the town is still searching for funding for equipment and staff for the section.
“It’s tremendously exciting to be at this point,” Elton said. “We’re going to be much more efficient and be able to better address the individual needs of the animals.”