Fundraising efforts set in motion upgrades at Sumter County animal shelter

Upgrades are under way at the Sumter County animal shelter as a result of a fund-raising campaign that began in January.

“Improvements at the animal services facility have been due to the generosity of many people,” said Commissioner Doug Gilpin, who donated two autographed guitars to the cause.

He said the improvements will include a new driveway, fencing, lighting and air handling upgrades and a roof extension over part of a fenced area used for exercising the animals.

The fund-raising campaign did not reach its goal of $600,000 to cover all upgrades, but Gilpin said some of the contractors have offered discounts.

He suggested that the county include money in future budgets to continue the improvements, including a new building, so the department can have “an updated, modern facility.”

At their Tuesday meeting, commissioners also heard from three residents who praised a decision last month to keep the animal shelter’s open admission policy while trying to achieve a 90 percent live release rate, which is the standard of no-kill shelters.

For nearly two years, commissioners have rebuffed the demands of animal activists associated with Lost Pets of The Villages that the county designate its shelter as no-kill and allow volunteers to help care for the animals.

No-kill shelters refuse to accept animals if they are full. The Sumter County shelter will accept all animals, but may euthanize some of them to make room.

Villager Brenda Purvis said she worked with animal shelters for about 30 years.

She said euthanizing animals is “unbearable,” but not as bad as “seeing these animals spread out on a highway.”

In one case, she said, when a woman was refused admission for her five animals by a no-kill shelter, she abandoned them on a roadway.

Purvis also said she was impressed with a tour of the Sumter County shelter.

“I was very, very pleased with the care that was given to the animals,” she said.

She also praised the county’s feral cat program in which the cats are captured, sterilized and vaccinated before they are returned to their neighborhoods.

“There will be days where you can’t achieve that 90 percent (live release rate),” she said. “But that’s OK.”