With more and more people moving into Baldwin County, it’s not just the human population experiencing growth. The animal population in the county has expanded as well, both pet and stray. With the Baldwin County Animal Shelter staying at max capacity, the cities of Foley, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach have been approached concerning a potential Tri-City Shelter to be used and maintained by the three entities.
“The idea would be to build a facility that would be kind of midway between the three cities, and all three cities would bring their animals to it,” said Foley City Administrator Mike Thompson. “The county could also bring unincorporated Baldwin County animals to it, which would help them at the county shelter.”
The issue facing all three cities is funding, as the Baldwin County Animal Shelter’s operating costs are approximately $900,000 annually. Thompson stated that without a funding mechanism it would be difficult to advance the idea forward. While the county receives a human services tax yearly that goes towards the animal shelter, municipalities do not receive any definite source of funding that could be put towards such an effort.
“This would be a big issue for the cities,” said Thompson. “We’re not necessarily opposed to doing this, everybody wants to be supportive of needs of our animals, but the funding will have to be created to support it.”
To determine possible costs related to a Tri-City Shelter, Foley, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Baldwin County have committed to putting in $5,000 each towards a study that would identify the capacity a shelter of this nature would need to be to handle the three cities, the expected construction costs, the expected annual operating costs, and the potential maintenance costs. If the Tri-City Shelter sees fruition, the county is not committed to anything beyond funding for the study.
One possibility is to have the shelter set up as a foundation, opening possible grants to help funding in the future. Another item in discussion is including Auburn’s Veterinary School into the mix, having the vet students work at the Tri-City Shelter as interns, covering a lot of vet costs incurred when running shelters. The Auburn Vet Clinic is located near the intersection of County Road 10 and the Foley Beach Express, which Thompson believes is a good location for a shelter where all three cities meet.
Exactly what the Tri-City Shelter will be like comes down to money and the ability to obtain funding sources between the entities.
“We all desire to take good care of and help society take care of our animals; it shows how we are,” said Foley councilman Ralph Hellmich. “My understanding is this would potentially be some kind of no-kill shelter that would function in conjunction with the current county animal shelter; we would not do away with that one, this one would be strictly handling the south end of the county and would function through an independent board, and would help take off some of the load from the county. First we have to determine what sort of funding we’re looking at before finalizing the details. By funding the study, it shows we’re all willing to cooperate to find the best solution.”