Manassas Journal Messenger | New animal shelter nearing final stages

The 1,000 or so lost critters picked up in Manassas each year will soon have a new orphanage.

The new City Animal Shelter is in the final stages of construction, and its doors may open by the middle of February, according to Chief Animal Control Officer Joan Strawderman.

The opening of the facility on Dean Drive will mark the first time Manassas has had its own animal shelter. For the past two years the city has been using space at the Prince William County facility. Prior to that, the Manassas Animal Shelter was housed at the Morganna Animal Clinic.

For the city animal control staff, the $1.2 million building opens up a world of possibilities. There will be room for 28 dogs and 36 cats in the building, if each animal has a cage to itself.

That’s about twice the space the city had at Morganna, Strawderman said. There’s also an “exotic animals” room, where any unusual animals that Animal Control picks up will be held. Usually it will be rabbits, snakes and the like, Strawderman said, but sometimes more unusual creatures show up in Manassas.

“We’ve had calls about iguanas, even a caiman,” Strawderman said.

The caiman, a slightly smaller relative of the alligator, isn’t the kind of animal that just wanders into town on it’s own. The really strange animals picked up by Animal Control are usually escaped pets, Strawderman said.

“Although how a 10-foot snake can just disappear from someone’s house, I don’t know,” she said.

The new animal shelter is located next-door to the Waggin’ Tails Junction, a kennel and animal care facility owned by Julie Hogan. The shelter will borrow four staffers and a manager from the kennel to assist the staff of three animal control officers and Strawderman.

In the future, Strawderman hopes to bring in a veterinarian to occupy the second story of the building.

“A vet on the premises is something you see at animal shelters more and more,” she said. “They’re doing that in places like Virginia Beach and Spotsylvania.”

In addition to helping out with emergency health care, having a vet on site would make spaying and neutering the animals much easier, she said.

Virginia law requires that any animal adopted from an animal shelter or from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals must be spayed or neutered.

The facility will also take advantage of the relatively new process of “chipping” pets. A small microchip containing information about a pet can be put under the fur. If the animal is picked up, the staff only has to scan the chip to find out to whom the animal belongs.

“The chips are a new and upcoming wonderful thing,” Strawderman said. “A dog can’t lose a chip.”

But no pets will be scanned for a microchip at the new facility until it can be completed and opened, a process that has taken a little bit longer than expected.

The facility was originally supposed to be finished by the middle of January, but last-minute details have pushed the opening back, Strawderman said.

“It reminds me of putting together a turkey dinner,” she said. “You have to get all these different aspects together to get the whole thing working.”

As soon as subcontractors can wrap up a few loose odds and ends in the building, the staff will be ready to move in. According to Assistant Police Chief Stephen Bamford, city staff hopes to begin training in the facility next week.

Manassas Park may also take advantage of the new building. Between 600 and 700 pets are picked up in Manassas Park each year, Strawderman said, and those animals are currently taken to the Prince William County facility at Independence Hill.

A formal agreement with Manassas Park should be presented to the Manassas City Council at the Jan. 10 meeting, Bamford said.

The new animal shelter is being built for the city by a partnership between Rector Construction and Ringer LLC. The construction companies are footing the construction bill, and the city will take over the property upon its completion in a 10-year lease-to-own deal.

The staff hopes to have an open house on the first Saturday in March to celebrate the opening of the new building.


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