For years, Christina Dillon heard talk of an expansion at the DuPage County Animal Services shelter where she worked.
An expansion would bring more space to the cramped quarters. Birds and gerbils wouldn’t have to be housed in the hallways, and cats and dogs would have separate quarters.
On Tuesday, that talk became a reality as county officials broke ground on a nearly $11 million expansion project. It is the first shelter expansion in the agency’s 45-year history.
The project will add 9,750 square feet to the shelter. It will allow for a much-needed surgical unit to care for animals and give them their own recovery space. It also will provide separate rooms for cats, additional kennels for dogs, an entrance off Manchester Road, and an area for small exotics, including rabbits, birds and the occasional goat, hen or peacock.
Construction will start in August and is expected to be finished by late fall of 2024, officials said.
“This is going to help us build on what we’ve done over the last eight years or so,” said DuPage County Board member Brian Krajewski, who heads up the board’s animal services committee.
The animal services committee, Krajewski noted, was born after he and another board member met with shelter staff and volunteers to hear about space needs.
At that time, the county’s shelter had a live release rate of around 50%. In 2022, animal services took in more than 2,000 animals and had a live release rate of 89%. A strong volunteer foster program aids in the shelter’s live release rate, Krajewski said.
The expanded facility will allow animal services to help more pets.
“It’s taken nearly two decades and many designs to arrive at this day,” said Max Lecaros, president of DuPage Animal Friends, a volunteer organization that supports the shelter. “But make no mistake: Our work isn’t done.”
Lecaros and others noted the project does not rely on county general fund tax dollars. A $4.5 million anonymous donation, $308,000 in federal funds and $4.6 million set aside in reserve funds from animal services will cover the bulk of the project. DuPage Animal Friends has pledged to raise the remaining $1.5 million needed.