WARRENTON, N.C. — North Carolina's animal shelters are flooded with more than 250,000 animals every year, and the state also has the third-highest kill rate in the country.
In Wake County last year, three-quarters of the cats brought to the county's animal shelter were euthanized, along with nearly half of the abandoned dogs.
In Warren County, the problem is even worse. Only six of more than 800 dogs were adopted. For years, Warren County's animal shelter was criticized for its treatment and care of unwanted pets. But a new state-of-the art facility is being touted as one of the best in the state.
With a snip of the scissors on Thursday, Warren County opened its new haven for pets and unwanted animals. Named the Animal Ark, the facility is a major step forward in comparison with where strays used to go.
For decades, Warren County has used a facility at the county's landfill for stray or unwanted animals. The walls were made of tarp, the roof leaked, and there was no heating or air conditioning.
New state and federal laws have ordered counties to improve animal care. Warren County is the first in the state to open a new facility that will also serve as a regional animal rescue center during severe storms.
"It is possible that animals that are evacuated from the coast could be brought to this facility inland," said Bill Gentry with UNC's School of Public Health.
Warren County isn't alone when it comes to pet population problems. This new building will help other counties move forward to help four-legged friends.
"We wanted to see what they were doing, and I think help us decide what improvements we need in Nash County," said Robert Hunt with Nash Environmental Health.
"Learning from them and the mistakes they may have made, and learning from them so we won't make the same mistakes and taking the knowledge they have gained, you help us in that effort," said Franklin County Commission Chairman Sidney Dunston.
The new shelter is a $600,000 hit to Warren County taxpayers, but has finished at nearly $95,000 under budget. Donors have equipped the shelters, and volunteers have worked tirelessly to make the animal shelter a reality.
"I'm humbled by it, but I always look at it as a team work effort," said volunteer June Gibbs.
"So it's a great day for the county and a great day for people who love pets and service animals," said Warren County Commissioner Luke Lucas.