Warner Robins City Council approves animal shelter expansion

WARNER ROBINS — Officials already are approving expansions to the city’s new animal shelter — a week before its official grand opening — after housing requirements stated in an agreement between the city and other officials were not met.

Mayor John Havrilla said during the Warner Robins Urban Redevelopment Agency meeting, held Monday afternoon before the City Council meeting, that the facility built didn’t support the number of animals that are to be housed from Warner Robins, Houston County and Centerville.

“The county said they’d like to see us take timely action to be able to provide a facility to meet those obligations,” he said.

The board, comprised of the Warner Robins City Council and the mayor, approved a plan to seek $250,000 in funding from the council to add space to the new animal shelter to cover all animal housing needs. At its meeting, the council approved that measure and also voted on how to allot current space between the two cities and the county.

The city recently opened the new animal control facility at 208 Stalnaker Drive, replacing the old Bay Street location. The shelter, which takes in about 5,000 animals yearly, currently houses more than 100 dogs and cats.

Warner Robins police Capt. Brenda Parks-Matthern, who manages the facility, said being unaware of the space allotments for animals being brought in from the three jurisdictions, she’s been alloting space for animals as they come in. Another portion of the space was to be for housing personal pets given away by owners who come to the point where they feel they can no longer care for their animals. Because of space restrictions, she said, those animals have been turned away.

“Do not put that burden on the city,” she said, speaking of owners who turn in their pets. “If you have a pet, it should be your responsibility to have it adopted or whatever happens.”

Currently, the 64 dog-holding pods are split up, giving 46 to Warner Robins, 14 to Houston County and four to Centerville.

Of the 16 puppy holding areas, 11 are used for pets found in Warner Robins, four for those in Houston County and one for Centerville’s puppies. Twenty-one cages are used for feral cats, which are deemed too dangerous to adopt out. Another 16 cages are used for “nice cats,” which are available for adoption. Officials are discussing the addition of 40 dog holding pods and transforming a food storage room into a cat holding area. That may not alleviate all the issues, Parks-Matthern said.

“We need to know exactly where what needs to be built,” Councilman Bob Wilbanks said. “You can’t just build a new section out there and have all we need in the same place. We do know that we need to fulfill that contract.

“A contract’s a contract. We’re obligated to do all of it.”

Terry Horton suggested taking bids for the project.

Councilman Clifford Holmes said better planning needed to be done for the execution of the facility.

“We just opened … and we’re already short,” he said. “We know what we planned for because we’d been bickering back and forth with the county and Centerville.”

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.