Franklin County's new dog shelter promises to be people and pooch friendly.

Franklin County's new dog shelter promises to be people and pooch friendly.

"I'm very excited about our new shelter," said Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks. "We'll have about a hundred more spots for the dogs, and we'll have a lot of areas that are very friendly to the public and will allow them to see the dogs in an area that will encourage adoption."

Construction will start soon on the new $16-million shelter, located on the site of the former Northland Cinemas that stood apart from the old Northland Mall off Morse Road. A groundbreaking celebration is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 5, at 4340 Tamarack Blvd.

"We are moving along with plans for the new shelter," said Franklin County dog shelter spokeswoman Susan Smith. "It's been a long time coming."

The current shelter, 1731 Alum Creek Drive on the south side of Columbus, is one of the largest shelters in the Midwest, with more than 150 dogs and puppies waiting to be adopted daily.

"This location was built in 1979, so it's gone through quite a few iterations," Smith said. "It was really not an adoption facility when it was first constructed. Of course, things have changed considerably in 30 years. We've outgrown this facility several times over."

"It's very old and cramped," Brooks said. "It's been really a challenge for our staff to operate there, and frankly, for many of our volunteers and the public."

Although the new shelter will be bigger and better, Brooks said no additional staff will be hired.

When it opens in an estimated 18 months, the new shelter will take up 48,350 square feet, nearly three times larger than the present facility. It will be able to house 421 dogs, compared to 325 presently. Those dogs will stay in larger kennels, too, instead of the small, unhygienic cages that are currently stacked three-high.

"What we're building will be more like a caged space, but with a run attached to it," Brooks said. The dogs will be walked along a retention pond near the shelter.

The single-level shelter will be a green building, saving energy and tax dollars.

"We're building not just for the moment, but for the future, too," Brooks said.

"Shelters today are constructed a lot differently and (are) much easier to maintain and provide a lot of advantages, not only for the animals that are being housed there, (but) for the people that work there from a safety standpoint," Smith said.

Brooks said the new shelter will have two operating rooms.

"It's so important to work on the pet population. We wouldn't have so many strays if we had more dogs spayed and neutered," Brooks said.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, each county's board of commissioners is responsible for animal care and control.

"Under Ohio law, we are only authorized to shelter dogs that might be strays," Brooks said. "But we do work with organizations like the Humane Society and Cat Welfare to encourage pet adoption."

Brooks, the owner of a Yorkshire terrier and self-confessed "animal lover," said she grew up on a farm in eastern Ohio and has owned many dogs.

"I think they make a life more complete," Brooks said. "It's part of God's plan."