The $70,000 in physical improvements made since last summer include the addition of new outdoor dog run areas, an outdoor cat enclosure, an animal grooming station and raised beds for all animals. The outdoor kennels, an indoor cat room, the administrative offices and the restrooms have been remodeled.
In addition, kennel cleaning and animal procedures have been updated and city officials are working to make the shelter a no-kill facility.
The upgrade stems from allegations by animal advocates last summer that animals were being kept in kennels without outdoor access, not being treated in some cases for broken limbs and festering wounds and subjected to cruel euthanization practices.
In response to the complaints, St. George placed then-director David Vane on leave and formed an Animal Review Board made up of volunteers and city employees.
The panel cleared Vane of criminal wrongdoing but said conditions needed to improve. Vane was reassigned as an animal control officer and the St. George Police Department took over operation of the shelter.
The city and community then joined forces to upgrade the shelter. City employees developed plans for the facility and community volunteers and animal advocacy groups provided funding for bedding and toys for the animals.
The shelter continues to partner with Best Friends Animal Society, H.A.R.T. (Homeless Animal Rescue Team), P.A.W.S. (Providing Animals With Support), Because Animals Matter, One More Chance and local veterinarians to provide services and find permanent homes for animals.
Animal rights advocate Randy Fields praised St. George officials for showing "remarkable" leadership by taking quick action to improve the shelter.
"What drove them wasn't the political pressure," Fields said, "but the recognition that this is the right thing to do."