The public is invited to see the result of months of improving the Barry County Animal Shelter on Industrial Park Drive in Hastings at an open house this Saturday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 1p.m.
Cotton candy and popcorn go with tours of the facility, and meeting Director Ken Kirsch, staff, volunteers and animals will be part of the day.
The event is sponsored by the Barry County Animal Shelter Advisory Board, suggested by board member Tim McGavin. Area vets contributed gifts and prizes that will be given out during the event; McGavin added his talent for woodworking by making bird houses and shadow boxes to be given away.
Visitors will see many changes made in the nine months since Kirsch was hired.
Kirsch said he is happy and excited about the progress he and others have made at the shelter so far, “but, we’ve got a ways to go; we’re still working on it.”
He started with a new set of policies and protocols, a reflection of his years in the U.S. Army. Everything is super organized, put in its place and labeled. Space has been maximized, there is no clutter, the building and outside area is fresh and clean smelling.
Some of the changes include a meet and greet area for adopters and the pets they may adopt to get acquainted; a remodeled kitchen area, new isolation area for dogs, a new ventilation and venting system and cooling in cat’s cages with separate areas for eating and litter boxes, a vet room for all shots and micro chippings for dogs and cats.
A new bathing and grooming station lets volunteers keep animals clean and presentable.
“Biweekly, we do a grooming clinic. We clean their ears, clip their nails and groom them. We may do a dozen dogs and cats the same day.”
There is no euthanasia available at the shelter, the few animal that must be euthanized are taken to a vet.
In the area behind the shelter, the barn has been emptied, cleaned and organized with storage space and classroom area for teaching programs.
The trees and overgrown shrubs encroaching on the property were pushed back six feet, the area reseeded and several dog runs added.
The City of Hastings donated 22 yards of wood chips that cover the runs and a small pen and a larger puppy pen. Benches and chairs are scattered around the area.
With the runs, the dogs can be out of their pens from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. “It looks like a park, now,” Kirsch said. He has a $12,000 grant for insulation and windows for the barn and a donated furnace to be installed for heat this winter.
The shelter has more than 100 volunteers who wear shirts with a small heart and Barry County logo; volunteers wear blue; staff wears green. The new motto for the facility is: “A Small County Shelter with a Big Heart.”
An upgraded outside drop off is for Barry County Animal Control use only; others who want to surrender an animal come inside and provide proof of ownership.
Kirsch is proud of the training classes he and wife Peggy present together. They give advice about dogs, including canine communication, learning, body language, resistance, motivation, breaking, packing theory and leadership. Fifty eight people have already taken the training. He hopes to offer a dog obedience class yet this summer.
Kirsch has 30 years’ experience in hands-on and management positions with America’s VetDogs in New York, Paws with a Cause in Wayland, Canine Companions for Independence, Woodland Veterinary Clinic in Grand Rapids, and as a kennel master/canine instructor while an MP in the U.S. Army.
Photos, from top:
Staff and volunteers handle the shelter’s office duties. From left, Brooke Daniels, Marcia Martin and Kim Lynch share a laugh.
In the cattery, from left, advisory board member Tim McGavin, volunteer Brooke Daniels, and Director Ken Kirsch hold adoptable cats, Magnus, Brook and Sam I am.
The new cattery has cages with more room and ventilation for cats.
Shelter volunteers play with new puppies Dorie and Pugsley in the puppy cage.
Barry County Animal Shelter Advisory Board member Tim McGavin shows a shadow box he made that will be given away at the open house.
Shelter Director Ken Kirsch and advisory board member Tim McGavin stand in the garage, now with room for training classes.
One of several dog runs at the shelter that let dogs stay out of their cages from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The view of the garage from the back door of the shelter.
Shelter Director Ken Kirsch shows items that the shelter can’t use, so offer it free to the public.