Jennifer Bidwell and Christine Wilson presented their proposal to the Walker County Commission on Monday. Both women were involved with the local Community Emergency Response Teams that operated an Animals in Disaster Unit after the April 27 tornadoes.
Wilson said despite its appearance, the facility is in sound condition and could be revamped relatively quickly.
She added that the building is triple the size of the current animal shelter on Birmingham Avenue in Jasper, which was turned over to the county and City of Jasper earlier this year when the Walker County Humane Society executed a quitclaim deed to surrender its share of the facility.
Wilson made several suggestions for how some of the extra space could be used.
For example, she recommended that the front of the facility be turned into a boutique called "Pawsitively Purrfect."
"We have spoken to a lot of craftspeople who do animal-related gifts. They would love to showcase what they do and would be willing to pay us a commission to have it there," Wilson said.
She said that another part of the building could be used by local veterinarians for pet care workshops or an after-hours clinic that would provide spay/neuter services.
Wilson said that a pet photography studio would also be part of the shelter, adding that professional photos greatly increase an animal's chances of being adopted.
Wilson also showed the commissioners photos of outdoor kennels that could be purchased for the shelter. The estimated cost is $7,200 per unit. "We can do it. We have construction people on board. We have churches that want to be involved. We have lots of labor," Wilson said.
Wilson said animal advocates are already thinking of fundraisers to help make the new shelter a reality. Some of the ideas mentioned include a doghouse building competiton, an athletic competition for cats and a pet-themed festival of trees.
She estimated that it would take at least a year to make all of the necessary improvements to the building, but that the new shelter could be functional in three months.
"Every animal in Walker County deserves a loving, quality home. With this building, we could move it forward," Wilson said.
Bidwell gave the commissioners an update on the current shelter, which is now open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 1-4 p.m.
Bidwell said several volunteers have signed up to help and that people are coming in to look at the animals available for adoption.
Bidwell said she is hopeful that the commission will consider the proposal they were presented on Monday for a new shelter.
"This could be what Walker County citizens see in their animal shelter and what they should see," Bidwell said after the meeting.