Springfield’s current animal shelter, which was built in the 1930s. (Photo by Jack McGee)

To all the local pet owners who will one day rely on animal control to reunite them with their dog or cat (or pony?), rest assured they could soon be found in a new and improved animal shelter.

Springfield City Council will vote Sept. 19 on a bill authorizing the city to accept $1.45 million from Greene County to put toward a new animal shelter. In total, the shelter is expected to cost $4.8 million to build.

Why is a new shelter being built?

The original animal shelter — located at 4002 N. Farmer in Springfield — was constructed in the 1930s. While it underwent routine maintenance and upgrades (seeing additions to the facility in the 1940s, 1970s, and early 2000s), the necessary upgrades require a new facility altogether. 

The current operations reside on a floodplain, where it experiences flooding during heavy rainfall, according to the council bill (2022-233). This compromises a “clean, safe and effective operating environment.”

Springfield’s current animal shelter, which was built in the 1930s. (Photo by Jack McGee)

“The City intends to construct a new shelter to address these issues and provide improved community services,” the council bill reads, in part.

Brooke Pawling, the public health information specialist for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said the new shelter will allow all the animals to be housed under the same roof, rather than in multiple buildings, in addition to being able to handle a higher capacity of animals. Also, with the modern equipment the new structure will be constructed with, it can provide an extra layer of safety for both the staff and the impounded animals. 

“The new shelter will introduce a lot of great problem solving to issues currently faced by the animal control team like introducing more public accessibility and providing a more efficient, streamlined handling process for animal control staff,” Pawling said.

How much will it cost and where will it be?

When plans to build the shelter were initially established in 2017, the county provided $50,000 of their $1.5 million commitment.

As a part of the agreement, the City of Springfield will allow other jurisdictions and unincorporated communities in Greene County to use the shelter at no additional cost. The city will be responsible for providing the remaining funds of the estimated $4.8 million, in addition to day-to-day operations. The city will be able to pay for this project via the reestablished Level Property Tax.

Property that the new animal shelter will be built on has already been purchased, with a lot earmarked by the city at 3303 W. Division St.

Springfield’s new animal shelter site plan exhibit. It is estimated to begin construction in 2023. (Photo: City of Springfield)

“This is going to be a huge improvement to what the animal shelter used to be…this is like the Taj Mahal,” councilman Abe McGull said at the September 6 city council meeting.

In the same meeting, Mayor Ken McClure, councilman Richard Ollis and the director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, Katie Towns, praised the work of animal control and acknowledged that their jobs aren’t often appreciated enough.

Towns also shared that last year, animal control helped reunite nearly 200 cats, 460 dogs, and yes, one pony with their owners, in addition to working with local partners to make about 500 dogs available for adoption. 

“They are the face of what you all are considering tonight,” Towns said. “We have had a tremendous amount of support to move towards this shelter being built, and we are very fortunate for that.”

Deputy City Manager Collin Quigley estimates that construction on the new animal shelter will begin next summer.

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is a general assignment reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen, with a focus on regional politics. McGee most recently worked at Carbon Trace Productions, a documentary film company, as a producer. He’s a Missouri State University graduate and former reporter at student-led newspaper The Standard. More by Jack McGee