A pudgy and sweet pit bull mix roamed around Smith County’s new animal shelter, soaking up all the pets and rubs the pup could get.
On Monday, Smith County officially cut the ribbon on it new shelter, 322 E. Ferguson St. in downtown Tyler, but the star of the morning was a rescued gray face named Muffin.
The event included a ribbon cutting and tours of the facility.
Muffin is the unofficial door greeter and mascot at the shelter. The new facility even has a small dog bed built in for her under the front counter.
“There’s never strangers - she will get in your lap if you’re sitting down,” said Sabrina Sinclair, the county’s adoption rescue coordinator and Muffin’s caretaker. “She’s our personal greeter. All the puppies we get, she comes and watches them. She’s the nanny dog.”
The staff described Muffin as a love bug, who personally greets each of the animal control staff each morning.
The rest of the pack will be brought into the shelter on Tuesday. The shelter will quadruple, allowing the county to hold 322 percent more animals, from 40 in the former Owentown facility to 169 in the downtown facility.
The public can visit the downtown facility to adopt an animal.
Photos of the dogs at the shelter also can be found on the Smith County Animal Control and Shelter Facebook page. The county also works with various nonprofit groups to help foster and adopt out the animals.
Ms. Sinclair said there is a need for more foster parents. Those interested in fostering should call 903-266-4303.
The facility is in a building that was once Crescent Laundry, one of the first dry cleaning providers in the city.
The animal shelter is one of four buildings in the laundry complex and once held all of the heavy equipment for the cleaner, including steamers, washers and rotary clothes hangers.
Crescent Laundry was constructed in the late 1920s. Tyler architect Roy T. Nunamaker designed the one-story, domed Moorish Revival-style dry cleaning building with its crescent moon tile detail in 1928. The business closed in 2000.
The county purchased it in 2008 for $455,000. The purchase also included what are now the Precinct 1 Constable Office, Elections Administration offices and the R.B. Hubbard Center.
The animal shelter was the last to be renovated and was stripped down to its bones and rebuilt.
The county spent just less than $1 million on the transformation. Some of the work was done with contracts and some was done in-house. The county slated another $75,000 on the second phase this budget year, which is used for storage. The animal shelter can operate without the space.
The county does not pick up cats, so all of the space will be used for dogs. The multicolored cages are constructed in long rows inside the facility. They connect together and can be cleaned easily using a water hose.
The individual cage cells have two compartments connected by a closeable metal sliding door. They can either house two animals, or a single larger pet in the space. An animal can also be moved to the opposing side of the cage while workers clean it out. The space also is 251 percent larger than the current facility in Owentown, from about 2,500 square feet to 8,972 square feet. That does not include the second phase’s available square footage.
It also has a washing station for the dogs and isolation cages at the back to help prevent the spread of diseases. A fence encloses the back of the building, so dogs cannot escape into the surrounding neighborhood.
There’s also a meet and greet room where potential pet owners can interact with their new furry friend prior to taking them home.