Georgia to open shelter to house animals in disasters, other emergencies

FORT VALLEY, Ga. — Fort Valley State University will soon celebrate the opening of a unique new animal facility.


The 7,800-square-foot State Animal Facility for Emergencies, or SAFE, is the only one like it in the state, according to Dr. George McCommon, an associate professor of veterinary science who secured funding.

The facility is geared toward housing animals in emergency situations, such as natural disasters or animal abuse cases.

He said the need arose because the school was regularly asked to house animals on a temporary basis, such as animals confiscated in neglect cases.

The school would typically have to scramble to find the right housing, so a move began to have a facility dedicated for the purpose.

The facility, which includes an enclosed building and a livestock barn, cost $750,000. It was paid for by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Board of Regents, McCommon said.

Its operation will be funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

It can house up to 105 dogs, 80 cats and 30 horses, although McCommon said it could house many other types of animals.

Use of the facility will be limited to emergencies. It would not be a facility for local animal shelters to use for overflow or if a shelter has to be closed. The aim is to keep it available for its intended purpose, McCommon said.

“If you are full all the time, then you are not available when needed,” he said. “That’s kind of our philosophy. We want to be there when the big disaster happens.”

Many people will not evacuate without taking their pets, McCommon said.

The facility includes a pasture for livestock. On Tuesday several horses were grazing, but McCommon said those were university animals, not rescued horses.

Cases of horse neglect are common, he said, yet local shelters typically wouldn’t have the ability to house a horse, so there is a need for the Department of Agriculture to have such a facility.

It is aimed at keeping animals only for about three days, not long-term.

He said the facility can give students some real-world experience working with animals that might be injured and need care. He expects the facility will be used at least several times a year.

The school is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 12 at 10:30 a.m.