New Westminster celebrates official opening of new animal shelter

Grand opening of $10.32-million animal shelter and tow yard on Feb. 1

New Westminster’s new animal shelter is offering spiffy new digs to a variety of animals until they find their forever homes.

The shelter has 15 dog kennels and housing for about 20 cats and a few small animals. Like its predecessor, the new shelter is in Queensborough – but that’s where the similarities end.

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“Comparing the previous facility and the new one is like night and day,” said Aaron Hilgerdenaar, superintendent of street use enforcement, parking and animal services. “We are so happy to be able to have much more room for the animals, as well as a bright, welcoming space for the public. We have multiple cat rooms to help them acclimatize to their surroundings upon arrival, recover from surgeries if necessary and meet their adoring public when they’re ready for adoption. Dogs have much larger kennels, larger outside kennel runs and large play yards. We have a dedicated ‘meet and greet’ room where potential adopters can spend time with a prospective new furry family member.”

Smaller animals, like rabbits and guinea pigs, finally have their own quiet space away from other species, Hilgerdenaarsaid.

“The previous location was small, outdated, and not conducive to behavioral rehabilitation, disease containment and proper housing for the animals we care for,” hesaid.  “It was also located in an area that transitioned from light-industrial to residential. Additionally, the space and the layout of the previous animal shelter was designed for a time when animals did not stay in shelters long-term; therefore, it was not suitable for current best practices for animal welfare.”

The new shelter, which opened in November, has been designed with the animals’ wellbeing in mind.

“Previously, dog kennels faced each other, which is often stressful for dogs,” Hilgerdenaarsaid. “The kennels and cages were small, there was no proper isolation area for ill animals, there was not enough separation for different species’ housing and there was no dedicated space for small animals like rabbits, rats and guinea pigs.”

Hilgerdenaarsaid the former shelter didn’t have much space, if any, for adopters to relax and interact with the animals. He said storage space was almost non-existent, which meant the city often had to turn away donated items because of storage constraints.

“The best part of the new shelter is the benefits to the animals. The living spaces are larger, quieter and less stressful,” Hilgerdenaar said. “This floor space growth decreases chances of illness by providing avenues and different areas for infection control; it also increases the chance of an animal being adopted.”

Community members are invited to attend the grand opening of the city’s new $10.32-million animal shelter on Saturday, Feb. 1 from 1 to 3 p.m. at 420 Boyne St.  Celebrations begin at 1 p.m., with the official ribbon-cutting taking place at 1:30 p.m.

“Join us for an afternoon of fun activities for the whole family including self-guided tours of the new facility, adoption and volunteer information sessions, local pet service exhibitors, children’s activities, crafts and photo booth fun,” Hilgerdenaarsaid. “Animal services staff will be on site to answer any questions about what we do in the community and our new facility. The city’s concessions team will be set up serving hot dog, chip and pop combos, so come hungry! Vegetarian options will also be available.”

Fourteen animals currently call the New Westminster Animal Shelter home – five dogs, five cats, two bunnies and two rats. The city’s adoption process strives to place animals in well-matched homes to set them up for success and prevent them from becoming homeless again.

“Our goal is to ensure that every adopted pet will receive everything they need for their entire lifetime. This includes safety, mental, physical and emotional wellbeing,” Hilgerdenaar said.

Adoption and animal viewing hours at the animal shelter are from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday to Sunday, excluding statutory holidays.

“We are so grateful to our community for their support and donations. It warms our hearts to know others share our compassion for animals,” Hilgerdenaar said. “New Westminster residents have shown themselves to be very supportive of the work that we do.”

In addition to the animal shelter, the new facility also houses the city’s tow yard.

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