A remodeling project at the Story County Animal Shelter in Nevada is nearing completion.

Last week, as Shelter Director Sue McCaskey walked through the facility — which now takes up the entire building at 975 W Lincoln Hwy., in Nevada — it was clear that the over 25-year employee of the shelter is passionate about the work, and how important the much-improved conditions will be for the animals once the remodel is completed.

The remodel includes the following:

♦ an expanded cat room in the northeast corner of the building, a space that became available after the county purchased the entire building several years ago from Alan and Jill McHose, who had operated their business on the east side of the building while renting the west side to the shelter.

“Cats are our biggest (population) animal at the shelter,” McCaskey said. “We can’t seem to get it through to everyone to spay and neuter them, and therefore our cat population spikes at certain times of the year.”

The cat room will include a closed-off small visitation room, where people can sit and interact with prospective pets, and where cats can be let out of their kennels to exercise.

The previous cat room will become an “intake room” as animals are received at the shelter.

♦ a new HVAC system. “Improved ventilation for customers, employees and most importantly for the animals was very much needed,” McCaskey said.

♦ bringing the building up to code, especially when it comes to handicap accessibility.

♦ new lighting throughout the shelter. One notices this right away if they’ve been in the shelter before. The new lighting, which has been installed, really brightens up the place.

♦ soundproofing of the dog room, which will remain in the same place inside the shelter. The remodel also includes the addition of a dog visitation room in the main visitor area of the shelter, where people can sit and interact with potential dog adoptees.

The entire remodel has a price tag of $360,000, and McCaskey explained that this is a very reasonable amount. “The HVAC and code requirements were the most costly parts of the remodel,” she said. “But shelters of this size being built new can cost a million dollars or more.” And McCaskey said the Story County Animal Shelter, especially taking over the entire building it’s in, is a great size for a shelter in a good, centralized county location.

“This is such a great location. It’s easy for people to find. We have trails out here (for dog walking) and we have new kennel runs.” The shelter also has an outdoor space and shelter for livestock.

Livestock? Yes, McCaskey said, they do get calls when an unclaimed horse, cow or another type of farm animal is roaming around the county. The goal with livestock calls, she said, is to try to find the owner or, if that doesn’t happen, to find a farmer who will take the animal.

Cost of the shelter’s remodel was split between Story County, which paid half the cost, and the animal shelter’s own donation fund.

While McCaskey is grateful there were donated funds to help make this much-needed project a reality, she said it does make her nervous when the donation fund is depleted as it now has been.

“The donation fund helps us with animal supplies, like food and litter, and with medical costs to help many of the animals,” she said. Even though the county has line items in the budget for these things, McCaskey said it always takes more, especially when the shelter’s goal is adoption. “We have a 99 percent adoption rate and the reason that’s so high is that we can do so much more with the donations we receive to give animals whatever they need until they’re adopted.”

She’d like to make a gentle request to everyone in the county who loves animals to make a donation to help replenish the shelter’s donation fund before the end of the year; it is a tax-deductible donation and one that will help many animals on their way to finding a forever home.

The Story County Animal Shelter remodel is projected to be done by the end of this month. McCaskey encourages people to “like” the shelter page on Facebook to see updates and to see an announcement for an open house that will be held in February or March 2019.

While we are in the holiday season and the official first day of winter (Dec. 21) looms, Story County Animal Shelter Director Sue McCaskey wants to share a few words of advice concerning pets.

First, buying animals as a gift for someone is most often not a good idea. Many people, she said, come in and think, “my grandma needs a cat; she would love this cat.” But choosing a pet is a very personal undertaking, McCaskey said. And there’s nothing worse than buying a pet for someone who really doesn’t want one and will either return the pet or dump it after the gift-giving time has passed.

The better option, which the shelter now offers, McCaskey said, is pet gift certificates. Anyone can come in and purchase a pet gift certificate, which pays for the routine shots and care needed for animals before they are adopted. If you give that certificate to a person for Christmas, they can come in and choose the pet they feel is best suited to them. Or, if they really don’t want a pet, they can donate the gift card purchase to the shelter’s donation fund, which is very important in providing the care needed for all animals until they’re adopted.

McCaskey wants to be sure people understand that gift certificates are a great idea, but there are no refunds for shelter gift certificates.

Second, if you truly want to bring a new pet into your home at this time of year, support your local shelter. “Don’t go to breeders and spend more than you have to … these (shelter) animals need homes.”

Third, don’t leave animals outside, chained up with no shelter building when it’s cold. “If you’re cold, they’re cold. Give them shelter and heat if they’re outside.” Also, she said, some short-haired dogs, even though they may be basically outdoor dogs, really need an indoor or heated option as temperatures drop.

Fourth, be extremely cautious about how much and what your pets eat during the holidays. “Don’t feed your pets all that treat kind of stuff that you get over the holidays, especially chocolate, which is really bad for pets,” she said. Also, be very cautious about having poinsettias where the pets can reach them. “Poinsettia leaves are poisonous to animals.”

Fifth, make sure your animals have water that is not frozen. This goes back to the outdoor scenario and the cold, she said. “Pets being kept outside need ample food and water, and they cannot get their hydration by licking frozen water. Food and water are insulators for them; be sure they have enough of both.”

Sixth, be even more watchful for illness with your pets during wintertime.

Seventh, understand that the animal shelter is not a “dumping ground” for people who decide that they no longer want an animal because it’s getting older or is in failing health. “When you adopt an animal, they are your responsibility for life. You take on that pet for its entire life. Keep up with their veterinary care, and if you must face the difficult decision of putting a pet down, do it responsibly.”

McCaskey offers advice to people to start a pet care fund and put away a little bit of your income into that fund every month. “That way you’ll have some money up front to get that animal in to see a vet when needed.”

Finally, nothing breaks her heart more, McCaskey said, then to see people bring an older, frailer pet to the shelter, thinking it’s time to trade that pet in for a younger, healthier one. Sadly, she’s seen people attempt to do this too many times.

“Have a merry Christmas and cherish your pets for as long as you have them. And remember, a tax-deductible donation to the animal shelter is a wonderful way to support the well-being of many animals this year.”