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“ADOPTION” to be new watchword for county strays

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Construction underway on new center

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KAUFMAN COUNTY–Ceremonial gold shovels broke ground Tuesday on Kaufman County’s new pet adoption center – a facility that county leaders hope will bring together strays with new human companions.
In remarks at the ceremony, County Judge Hal Richards said he’s been admonishing people not to label the facility as an  “animals shelter,” a term he believes conjures images of caging and warehousing unwanted dogs and cats
“We’re not going to be in the business of warehousing pets. We’re going to be in the business of protecting stray and abandoned animals, helping them be healthy and adopting them out to a new family for a new life,” said Richards.
The county’s more than 12,000-square-foot adoption center will have capacity to shelter up to 58 cats and 66 dogs, according to Kim Dowdy, a principal at Quorum Architects, a Dallas firm that has designed more than 50 animal facilities in Texas. Funding for the $1.9 million project comes from a $50 million bond program approved by voters in November 2019. The shelter is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Instead of the sad, end-of-the-road depiction of shelters and pounds, the focus of the new center will be to make it a “happy place” for animals and humans alike, Richards said.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Cates, who says he looks at many things through a historical lens, dusted off the words of ancient Greek philosopher Plutarch, who said,  “While law and justice are generally applicable strictly to mankind, benevolence and charity toward all beasts is characteristic of a great human heart.”
Cates added: “I really think that as Judge Richards pointed out, that’s really what drove this effort. To be a positive aspect of county operations when it comes to pets and animals.”
Former County Judge Bruce Wood said the matter of what to do about stray animals had been at issue since his days on the Commissioners’ Court. Starting about 2012, the county explored various scenarios to address animal control and its cost. Wood estimated the county had been paying $100,000 to $150,000 annually to shelter strays at the Humane Society of Cedar Creek. “That was big money” for a county wrestling with a deficit, he recalled, and the county during his tenure never did find the funds to address the situation. 
Passage of the bond in 2019 changed the equation.
“It’s a much needed deal and there are a lot of animal lovers in our county, so I’m sure they’ll be very proud to see this up and going,” said Wood.
Kaufman County has been spending about $250,000 annually on animal control, about half of which goes toward homeless pets and animals, Cates remarked. An analysis shows that the county spends about $170 every time it handles a homeless animal, he added.
“While we’re investing a lot of money in this really beautiful facility … in the end it’s really worth it not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s sound fiscal policy,” said Cates.
Terrell Mayor Rick Carmona said it’s too early to say what implications, if any, the new center will have on Terrell’s shelter.
“We don’t know yet, but we’re going to work with the county and figure that out. We want to be as efficient as they are in handling the pets. So I’m going to put (City Manager) Mike (Sims) in charge of figuring out what the city’s going to do to help be supportive of (the county’s) efforts.”