animal shelter aerial

County commissioners voted Tuesday, May 11, to replace the existing shelter in Inverness rather than rebuild it.

Since 2014, county commissioners have been discussing building a new animal shelter to replace the outdated facility at the Inverness Airport.

Nobody denies a new shelter is needed but the stumbling block has always been cost.

The board will get another shot at it on Tuesday, April 13, when they hold a workshop at 9 a.m. to discuss design options and costs. The workshop will be at the Citrus County Courthouse, 110 N. Apopka Ave. in Inverness.

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And cost will likely be the problem again. An architect from the Bacon Group will present cost estimates and design options. The estimated price tag is $11.5 million.

Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said that price will likely be “dead on arrival.”

Kinnard said he wonders if the Bacon Group people even considered the county’s needs for a simple, practical shelter — not a Taj Mahal, he said.

But there may be an alternative. Expect much discussion Tuesday about the new shelter Lake County recently built. It’s got a simple design, no unnecessary frills and — most importantly — it only cost about $7 million.

A trip to Lake County

Commissioners Holly Davis and Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach — along with Citrus Animal Services Director Colleen Yarbrough — recently made separate visits to the Lake County Animal Shelter in Tavares.

Davis, who also visited the Humane Society of Tampa Bay facility, said she was impressed and believes there are elements of both that could be incorporated into Citrus County’s design.

“What I loved about both shelters is how they pull in community goals and community interaction,” she said.

The Lake County shelter, she said, was closer to what she believes Citrus County needs: less fluff and more functionality.

“Lake County feels very close to right for Citrus County because it’s practical,” Davis said. “They do a beautiful job of integrating with the county and leveraging that asset to further other goals in the community.”

For example, during National Library Week last week, shelter staff put up a bookshelf outside the cattery and kids could read to the pets. That increases childhood reading scores, Davis said.

Lake County also partners with their technical college by having vet-tech students use the shelter for internships and training.

Above all, she said both facilities are good at engaging the community and holding fundraisers to help pay for their shelters.

“We need to get the price down and be creative in fundraising,” Davis said. 

Kinnard said he’s researched the Lake County shelter and also liked the simplicity and practicality.

It has four separate adoption pods to separate the dogs and keep stress low. The outdoor kennels have little doors to allow them inside. There is also a drive-through adoption service.

New shelter is much needed

The shelter that has served Citrus County for decades out near the Inverness Airport has outlived its use and it’s too crowded, shelter volunteers say, and they have encouraged county commissioners in the past to look at building a new shelter in Lecanto.

“The current shelter has a poor working environment and is sub par for animal health,” Davis said.

There’s been much discussion about building it on county-owned property near the jail in Lecanto.

“It should go in the middle of the county,” County Commissioner Holly Davis said.

The exact location will be part of Tuesday’s discussion, she said.

For more information on Tuesday’s workshop and to view the consultant’s plans, visit https://bit.ly/3dNF8Ic

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com. To see more of his stories, visit  tinyurl.com/y6kb23vv.