REXBURG — The Rexburg Animal Shelter has begun construction on their new front entrance and cat viewing area.

The officer in charge of maintenance and oversight is Officer Stephen Buzzell.

The shelter was constructed in 2007 and after several years of use, they need some construction done to the outside front entrance. The shelter has a number of skilled and dedicated volunteers who help keep the shelter alive and the animals comfortable. The shelter is run by the Rexburg Police Department and the City of Rexburg.

“We want this to happen and we need this to happen. For example, if you look over at the concrete, it had all come down to a point right in front of the doors,” Officer Buzzell said. “And what would happen over the Winter is you would get water and ice underneath there and it would freeze and it would shift the concrete enough that we couldn’t open the front door. Or the other thing that would happen is that the water would go over the concrete and there would be a large ice sheet right over the door.”

Officer Buzzell has been planning this addition for quite some time and is excited to see the construction begin.

The addition to the building will be a large front room to be used as a viewing area for cats. Officer Buzzell said he believes they see a great amount of turn over in dogs because of their outdoor viewing areas. He hopes the addition will give families a chance to see the cats up front and be more likely to adopt one.

Officer Buzzell said the entire construction project costs less than 50 grand and they’re bidding out each piece of the construction. Because the project is less than 50 grand, they do not need to have a general contractor come in, making it possible for the shelter to afford the addition to their building.

He said money for the addition is coming from grants given by PetSmart Charities, the Petco Foundation, and the ASPCA Northern Tier Shelter Initiative. Officer Buzzell said that the money from Petco and PetSmart is made possible in part due to donations given by locals at the Idaho Falls locations. He said that if people weren’t donating at checkout stations, then the companies may not have been able to provide the funding needed to help the shelter.

“If you’re doing your checkout at PetSmart and Petco and they have that thing that pops up at the end that says ‘hey would you like to donate a dollar?’ that money does go back into your local community,” he said. “It doesn’t go off to Washington D.C. or something like that, it comes to your local community. And it’s great because it’s helping us to make our shelter a little bit better for our cats. It’s those type of things that are making a difference.”

Officer Buzzell said the cat viewing room will have large windows on the front of the building structure and custom made cages for the kennels. The two large kennels will be made from glass that will be five feet wide by six feet tall which can be broken down into approximately four cages three feet by three feet. He said the reason they are going for glass is because the kittens won’t be able to squeeze their way through the kennel if someone is too busy to keep an eye on them. Also patrons won’t be able to touch the felines as easily which will minimize the potential spread of illness to the felines from household pets and pet owners.

“The idea is not that we’re gonna put a lot of cats in here but we’re gonna use this as an area to showcase a few,” he said. “So we’re gonna look at our most adoptable cats and put them up there. So what we’re doing is referred to as ‘fast tracking.’ It’s where you take your animals that are most adoptable and lets get them moving through the shelter quickly. And so this becomes our fast track areas. So when we have that little white siamese kitten that comes in, that everyone wants to adopt, that’s going up front. Everyone will be able to see it and it’s gonna be gone in a hurry. Instead of sitting back in those other kennels where it may take it a minute before people see it. We’re gonna try and get it up and out in a hurry and that helps give us more room to work with more animals.”

The kennels in the front will give them more room to house animals that may take longer to adopt in their original kennels.

“Studies show that it helps to increase your live outcomes by having two different levels of animals come through,” Officer Buzzell said. “Say you have ten kennels, if you have ten kennels filled with cats that are gonna take two or three weeks to get adopted. Well that means that everybody else is put on hold while you’re waiting for those ten kennels to go. So you’re waiting on one of those adoptions to happen so you can bring another animal up. If we reserve, then in this case it will actually end up being up to eight cages that we can have up front here, it will be somewhere between two and eight. But we have the configurations set up so we can do any combination between two and eight.”

He said the kennels will have litter boxes, vertical arrangements for the animals to climb and hiding areas. The room will have its own heating and air conditioning and a coat rack.

The changes to the shelter can’t come soon enough as this year’s kitten season has hit early and hard. Usually the shelter starts to see a spike in kittens sometime between July and November but this year it started in June. In the last two weeks, the Rexburg Animal Shelter has received 49 animals with most of them being cats. Officer Buzzell said most shelters in the area are at capacity and they can’t move cats out fast enough.

People are also coming in looking for cats less due to the cost they pay at the shelter. He said what many don’t realize is when they pay for a cat, they don’t necessarily pay for the cat; they pay for the services that come with it including vaccinations, spay and neuter, being microchipped, rabies shot, city license, and a one time veterinary visit.

He said that this Friday from noon to 4 p.m. the shelter will have an offsite adoption event at Beehive Federal Credit Union where they will be selling adult cats at a discount.

The Rexburg Animal Shelter is also looking for more foster volunteers and shelter volunteers. If you are interested in and able to become a foster or shelter volunteer, please contact the Rexburg Animal Shelter at (208) 359-3005.