Spencer, a 3-year-old Chihuahua mix, was frightened when he was came to the Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center as a stray on Feb. 26. Two days later, with the help of nurturing staff, he was comfortably gobbling up treats and excitedly licking his human admirers.
Spencer is one of many animals moving into rooms at the new $20 million Derwood shelter, which opened on Sunday.
The 49,160-square-foot facility at 7315 Muncaster Mill Road, replaces the county animal shelter on Rothgeb Drive in Rockville, which is operated by the Montgomery County Humane Society. The county contracted with the Humane Society to continue running the old shelter until the end of March, allowing for a transition time between the two centers.
In July 2010, the Montgomery County Planning Board approved the use of seven acres of a 51-acre parcel on the corner of Muncaster Mill and Airpark Roads for the new shelter, after county officials deemed the old one, which was built in 1975, overcrowded and in need of renovations. Construction on the new facility, which is more than three times the size of the Rothgeb shelter, began in January 2012.
All animals picked up by the county’s Animal Services Division from now on will come to the new shelter, according to Mary Healey, director of Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center.
“We certainly anticipate receiving many animals in the upcoming days and weeks,” she said.
As of Sunday night, Shelter Manager Kate Walker said, the center was housing 27 dogs, 30 cats, three rabbits and three turtles.
Animal services will be provided at the shelter, including adoption, neutering, licensing, training and treatment.
Equipped with 72 dog adoption dens and 98 cat cages, the shelter has several bright toy-filled visitation rooms, where residents and families can spend time with a prospective new pet.
Reptiles, birds and exotic animals have their own designated space inside the building. Out back, a barn can temporarily house cows, horses, pigs, sheep and other livestock.
To help adopters find the right cat or dog, the center offers a “Meet Your Match” service through a survey. Based upon their answers, potential adopters are matched to one of three color categories. These colors correspond to colors on each animal’s cage name plate, making it easy for adopters to see which animals are best suited for their lifestyle.
“We’re trying to make it a good fit for the animal, for the people, and just set everyone up for success,” said Beth Mullen, behavior evaluation specialist at the center.
Aside from the animals’ living quarters, the building has a variety of other spaces, including an outdoor training center, a fenced exercise area and a community room.
Katherine Zenzano, the shelter’s community outreach coordinator, said the community room might be used as a classroom to instruct pet owners or potential adopters,
“Being able to prevent people from bringing their animals here in the first place is really a much more proactive approach,” she said.
Overall, Healey said she hopes the community will come to view the center as a resource for animal care, assistance and adoption.
“Being that it’s a new building and how aesthetically pleasing it is, I hope it encourages our citizens and residents to come in and spend time here with us,” she said. “This should be a happy place and a welcoming place.”