By Katy Tomasulo

Step into the dog wing of the Seattle Animal Shelter and your eyes and ears will immediately notice a difference. Gone are the chain-link gates in front of and between the kennels. The walls, floors and ceiling are bright and refreshed. And the volume of barking is markedly quieter.

In late 2013, the Shelter completed a four-week renovation of the dog kennels to replace the unwelcoming metal with aesthetically pleasing, sound-attenuating glass enclosures. Along with reducing noise, the new enclosures help lessen the stress on animals and limit the temptation for little fingers to reach in.

The success of the project wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation (SASF) donors. Half of the funding for the $160,000 kennel renovation came from a grant from SASF. The Shelter’s own Help the Animals Fund covered $68,000, and the City of Seattle’s facility maintenance funding made up the rest.

Dog kennel area before… SAS_Kennel_Before1


Dog kennel area after.SAS_Kennel_After4

SAS_Kennel_After1A solution not just for dogs, but for people too

“The new kennels make our dogs much more approachable, and the facility feels much less institutional,” says Kara Main-Hester, Ph.D., manager of volunteer programs, fundraising, and outreach for the Shelter. “We are hearing raves from our volunteers and adopters about how much nicer and inviting the Shelter is.”

Further contributing to the environment are the varying transparency levels for the glass doors: Toward the front of the room, enclosures are fully see-through for easy viewing of adoptable dogs; for the rest of the runs, the lower half of the doors are frosted, which helps reduce stress on dogs who are more sensitive to the commotion or are reactive to other dogs walking by, or to shield dogs that aren’t yet available to the public.

Along with the day-to-day benefits to the dogs, improvements such as these better represent the work and mission of the Shelter, says Don Baxter, manager of animal care and volunteers: “The old dog kennel area was dark, dreary and unwelcoming, and the difference is like night and day as that area is now bright, cheerful and inviting. I believe as people see the improvements in that one area they will be excited about the potential to improve the other areas of the Shelter and be willing to help us achieve those goals with their generous donations.”

SAS_Kennel_After3In addition to conveying gratitude toward generous donors and the SASF organization, Baxter and Main-Hester express their appreciation of the project team—project manager Eric Esparza; architectural firm SHKS; Newton Construction; and Forrest Sound Products, which donated many of the sound baffles—for their work in developing and implementing a solution that satisfies the needs of canines and people alike. They also acknowledge the help of the Shelter’s foster parents, who helped house all of the animals during renovations, and the volunteers for their help and support.

“We wanted to make the Shelter a better place for the animals, the adopters, and our volunteers and staff,” says Main-Hester. “We know that we will be in this building for the foreseeable future, and our dog kennels were built in an era where concern for animal welfare and stress was not as informed as it is now. SAS has always sought to be a progressive shelter with progressive programs. This is our first step in creating a better quality environment for all of our shelter animals.”

Photos by Michelle Reindal