DuPage County Animal Services plans to spend $10.9 million to expand and modernize its facilities to meet the growing demand for animal care.
As part of that plan, DuPage County Council this week approved a $4.5 million loan for the animal control agency that will be repaid through a fundraising campaign.
The department says its live streaming rate has increased from around 50% to 89% over the past twelve years.
“It’s pretty amazing for a municipal shelter,” said Dr. Barbara Hanek, veterinary administrator at DuPage County Animal Services, said at a board meeting in April. “The problem is that our building hasn’t kept up with the progress we’re making.”
There are too many people for animals, staff and volunteers, she said. It is difficult to separate animals that might not get along and the cages are cramped which means the animals defecate not far from what they eat and drink.
The plan is to build an addition to the existing facility at 120 N. County Farm Road in Wheaton, with construction slated to begin in March 2023 and be complete by the end of this year.
This work will be followed by the renovation of the existing space, which is to be completed by mid-2024.
When complete, the facility will grow from 9,207 square feet to 9,750 square feet.
If fundraising does not cover the loan amount all at once, the remainder will be repaid in increments of $500,000 per year at 0% interest.
Because the agency does not use taxpayers’ money, its revenue comes largely from the sale of rabies labels.
In addition to increasing and reconfiguring shelter space, some of the money earmarked for the project will pay for improved medical facilities.
Officials said they have $4 million in reserves for the project and plan to use money provided by the DuPage Animal Friends charity arm and $900,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
The shelter receives more than 2,000 animals a year. Besides cats and dogs, he has also cared for rabbits, peacocks, lizards, chameleons, tarantulas, mini horses and kids.
“Unlike a private shelter, DuPage County Animal Services cannot choose which animals are brought to us,” Hanke said.
“We are literally the safety net for unwanted or homeless animals in our community and beyond,” she said. “Animals arrive in poor condition, and it takes an incredible team and significant resources to get them happy and healthy so they can be adopted and transferred to rescue groups.”
Operations manager Laura Flamion said volunteers and staff have adapted to the growing demand for services, “but frankly our building hasn’t kept up with that.”
The renovation will help the agency “provide healthy, stress-free housing for the animals,” she said.
“We are no longer the dog trap. We are not the pound. We do more than just welcome animals to the shelter,” she said.
“Our goal is that we want this to be the best place to work, the best place to volunteer. We do this when we create more functional and supportive spaces that allow us to truly do more for our residents.
Giles Bruce is a freelance writer for the Naperville Sun.