Cats, dogs, and even rabbits, birds, ferrets and guinea pigs will now have a little more room to stretch out with the completion of a new animal shelter in Islip Town, the first new shelter in more than 50 years.

The 17,727-square-foot building is in Central Islip and is 3,000 square feet larger than the town’s previous shelter in Bay Shore, which was built in 1964. The shelter opened on Oct. 22.

"It’s so dramatically different from what we had," said Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter. "The original shelter certainly served us well all these years, but with all of the advances that have taken place in technology, it was so woefully behind the times."

Unlike the previous shelter, the new facility is accessible to those with disabilities and has an advanced HVAC system and energy-efficient LED lighting. The new shelter, at 200 S. Technology Dr., also is more centrally located and has more parking, Carpenter said.

The shelter cost about $9.1 million to complete, with the town using nearly $1 million in state grants and bonding in two phases for $8.1 million.

Part of the lobby was designed with COVID-19 in mind, said Marty Bellew, commissioner of Islip’s Department of Environmental Control. Visitors have a separate desk where they can fill out forms socially distanced from workers and they can scan a QR code to view animals up for adoption.

With 14 more kennels and two more viewing rooms than the previous facility, the new shelter will allow for more animals to be brought in and to be shown off, officials said.

The kennels are designed so dogs cannot see their neighbors on either side, and with a three-foot tall privacy panel on the door smaller dogs can’t even see the pooches across from them. This will make the dogs less stressed, which in turn will make them more adoptable, said Teri Giacalone, the shelter’s supervisor.

The new facility also has an area where the cats can roam freely, as well as separate areas for birds and reptiles and four isolation rooms for animals recovering from medical procedures. There also are multiple pens outside for dogs, exercise equipment and more acreage for walks, Giacalone said.

"We have much more space now and we can utilize the space as we need to," she said.

That space includes a surgical suite with separate exam and holding rooms. Previously, medical procedures had to be done in a narrow trailer outside.

"You couldn’t fit more than one person in there," Giacalone said. "The vet tech had to stand mostly in the doorway."

There’s just one more feature officials would like to add: a barn. The shelter occasionally gets goats and pigs and has had to put them in dog kennels.

"It really wasn’t good for them because there was a cement floor and they were in there with the dogs barking," Giacalone said.

Officials hope maybe a small barn can be built as an Eagle Scout project so that any future farm animals that come in have a space of their own.

"Our ultimate goal is to get all animals adopted," Giacalone said.

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