Adoption center making adjustments to help dogs

ZANESVILLE — Despite some growing pains, the Muskingum County K-9 Adoption Center is up and running.

“The building was a huge success,” Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said. “We’re in a more modern, updated, larger facility. It’s light years away from where we were.” The new facility opened to the public in February.

As with most new construction, Muskingum County Commissioner Mollie Crooks said, there are still bugs to work out. Stewards tried to be cost conscious, Crooks said, and to use materials they felt would work in place of more expensive stainless steel kennel walls. “But things don’t always go as planned,” she said.

Some dogs were able to chew through the plastic walls of some kennels, damaging them. It was initially thought that doors with opaque lower halves would help reduce noise, but this was found to not help dog behavior. “One volunteer compared it to isolating dogs,” Crooks said.

Volunteers and staff have a better interaction with the dogs when they approach them in the eye, said Amanda Dunlap, kennel master. “It’s very divisive looking down on them,” she said.

“These things perpetuate certain negative behaviors in dogs,” Crooks said. While the opaque panels in the doors helped reduce noise, “our core philosophy if improving behaviors and creating adoptable dogs was being lost.”

Abbie the dog looks out of her kennel at the Muskingum County K-9 Adoption Center.  (Photo: Chris Crook/Times Recorder)

Only a handful of walls are damaged, Dunlap said, but once a dog manages to poke a hole, others can find a way to make it bigger.

To remedy the walls, the commissioners voted to retrofit half of the kennels with stainless steel walls and replace some of the opaque panels at the bottom of the doors with tempered glass. Once the upgrades are done and tested, the rest can be done later if needed. Crooks and his colleague Cindy Cameron voted for the $130,000 project. Commissioner Jim Porter was absent during the vote, but has indicated in previous meetings that he was not interested in spending more money on the project. After the drainage issues were resolved last year, the total cost of the project exceeded $700,000.

Meanwhile, Lutz adjusts to his new role as a dog sitter. The law enforcement side of being the dog sitter is relatively straightforward, Lutz said. “When it comes to law enforcement work, dog licensing and dogs in general, it’s normal law enforcement work that we’re used to doing.

“The learning curve is on the kennel side, what it takes to run one of these facilities. We now have one that is more than double the size we had, with all the trials and tribulations of trying to take care of 50 dogs at once,” he said.

Two assistant dog guards and the three kennel handlers work with Lutz. They also have “the best volunteers in the county,” Lutz said.

Lutz and Crooks are impatient.

“We’re working on bugs for a new install,” Lutz said. “We want to make sure we’ll be able to operate from here for a while and sort things out ahead of time instead of waiting years and realizing we should have done something sooner. .”

“We need to get this facility to a level where it’s good for the next 30 to 40 years,” Crooks said. “We’re building for the future. We know there are things wrong with the setup, we need to make sure we fix those things and make sure we have a setup that everyone is proud of. “

In hindsight, Crooks said, efforts to save money initially may have caused the stewards to overlook the value of expertise in building kennels. “Hindsight is 20/20,” she said. “We have to keep investing to get it right.”

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