Televisions, sound system, clean air for animals at the new Dan Cosgrove shelter in Branford, under construction

BRANFORD — Laura Burban is looking forward to bringing the puppies back to the new and super-improved Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter once the $4.8 million renovation is complete in November.

When asked if she misses the canine residents, shelter manager Burban shouted, “We all do!”

At the old place, “we used to do a lot of dog playgroups, so we’d be outside with two or three dogs running around, assessing their behavior — kind of all of that.”

Burban is also eager to get into the new digs which have many features to make animal loads more comfortable and safer.

After starting in September 2021, the shelter, which serves Branford and North Branford, has taken up temporary residence in the former Canoe Brook Senior Center on Cherry Street in Branford.

All dogs were transferred to the Guilford Dog Pound during construction.

Burban spoke enthusiastically about some of the improvements, which she hopes will be emulated by animal shelters across the country.

“We hope to be the first net zero animal shelter in the country,” meaning the facility will “return” as much energy as it uses, she said.

“So we’re essentially self-sufficient,” she said. Solar energy, energy efficient lighting, heating and air conditioning are the latest technologies.

Branford’s sustainability manager Diana McCarthy-Bercury “played a pivotal role in the design of the building,” she noted.

In the old building, “We had the same HVAC system throughout the building, which was a problem – because you never have fresh air circulation and basically you contaminate everyone with something thing like ringworm,” she said.

“Cats would get it, dogs would get it, rabbits would get it, humans would get it,” she added.

“We never had a quarantine area with its own separate system, where it would exhaust the filthy air and introduce fresh air into it and it would be separate from the rest of the building,” she said.

“I really wanted to have a sanitary and bacteria-free building and also for the animals to be safe and comfortable, as well as people in the building or coming to visit,” she said.

Improvements affecting quality of life include the creation of a larger dog adoption area – previously this was in the cramped kennel area.

The new open-air kennels are more spacious, glazed, radiant heated and air conditioned; there is also a visitation room for dogs. There will also be puppy kennels, pregnant dog kennels, and decompression kennels for stressed pooches.

Volunteers can also walk dogs on new trails on the grounds — previously walks were limited to the driveway — and there’s even a wading area for pooches on hot days.

“We spent years designing the type of housing for these animals that we wanted,” Burban said. “I did my master’s thesis on environmental factors that affect shelter dogs.”

“But when I was collecting data, I was also looking at how cats and critters were housed and kept in these facilities,” she said.

She wanted to “determine what would be the optimal conditions for them to be accommodated. So we took a lot of time to look at those kinds of things.”

Cats get major improvements

In the new facility, cats also get a big improvement.

“What we didn’t have was a chat room or a motherhood/mom and babies chat room,” Burban said of the old location.

“So we have an area for sick cats…and they’ll have their own quiet space and they have a pregnant mom with a baby cat room.”

“As well as having different types of housing units in each room, we also now have a large rabies quarantine room for cats,” she said.

“When you take a cat that has injuries of unknown origin – we know the cat was outside – a very friendly cat, but it was attacked by something like a raccoon. Or…we don’t know everything just not what it is,” she said.

She noted that animal shelters have two choices — animal control officers can either euthanize the animal or hold it for six months in a small cage, she said.

“Just because we had a very, very old rabies quarantine room, so we had very, very small cages.”

“So these cats would stay in a cage the size of a 2 by 2 for six months. And no one was allowed to handle them because they could potentially be contaminated with rabies.

“It made them very uncomfortable and, as you can imagine, they would get depressed,” she said.

In the Cat Rage Room, felines can lie down on four- and five-tier cat towers. It also includes a playground.

“That way they’ll be more comfortable while they’re stuck with us while we figure out if they’re sick or not.”

She noted, “The only way to determine if an animal has rabies is to euthanize it and test its brain for the virus.”

“If an animal is badly off and in pain, obviously we’re not going to put it through that,” she added. “Fortunately, in our state people tend to vaccinate animals, so we don’t hear much about that stuff.”

There will be benefits in these detention rooms.

“In these rooms where they are stuck, they will have televisions. Not only do we make sure everything is sanitary in the building, but we also make sure these animals have enrichment, comfort, so we keep them mentally stimulated while they are with us,” she said. , noting that the TVs will show video of birds and nature scenes.

“We have a sound system that runs throughout the building to provide the animals with soothing sounds, whether it’s nature or anything from opera to zen-like music.”

Then there is a “large open cat adoption room which also leads to a large fully enclosed outdoor cattery for the cats so they can be outside as well,” she said. “We had a very small outdoor space for them before.”

“It’s kind of cutting edge design, it’s absolutely beautiful – I can’t believe I’m saying that about an outdoor cat play area. It’s really cool. “

Inside the kittens’ adoption room, for play and “to stimulate their brains,” a projection device will show “different creatures, different fish, and objects on the floor for the pets to play with,” Burban said. .

While dogs and cats are more than covered, Burban didn’t want to forget the critters.

“We are kind of unique in the world of animal control because we also welcome critters. We welcome everything from birds to guinea pigs, rabbits and iguanas” and the occasional bearded dragon and ferret.

“In our old shed, we made a little bug room out of a little closet we had.”

“This new building, we have this hall of giant creatures which is absolutely stunning. It’s full of windows and it’s bright and open,” she said.

“And there are also places for playgrounds – it will definitely be comfortable,” she said.

In the old shelter, for visitors, they were content with “a hall that was really, really small…it was just a really small, narrow area.”

“And now we have this really big lobby,” she said.

Which leads to a “community education and training room” that will house volunteer orientation and dog handling and behavior classes. Here, staff can “do things with schools and provide therapy for seniors in Evergreen Woods.”

Another novelty is a medical examination room; Before, a visiting vet would perform an exam in the laundry room, she said.

Burban noted that the shelter raised about half of the $4.895 million for the project.

“The rest was given to us by the city” and North Branford. It was supported by both donors and people everywhere. People donating from California, Italy.

Much of the donations were received through social media or visits, she said.

People will tell us they were driving from New York for a vacation and just happened to stop and fall in love with…our theories on animal care

Wish list

Burban is looking for volunteer painters and muralists to create paintings of animals and people – scenes of families with their pets.

So far they have a “family on the boat with their dog and life jackets” and “a mom and just a kid on the farm with their dog, with horses and their cats”.

Right now she has six volunteers – “I really want 20 – there are 20 kennels that are going to need them.”

Volunteers can email Burban at [email protected]

About Chuck Keeton

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