It’s dog-gone hot at county’s shelter, and public wants changes

Aug 09, 2018
Animal Behavior and Enrichment Coordinator Lana Pistocchi uses a hose to help dogs keep cool in a pool outside a dog adoption kennel at Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control in West Palm Beach Tuesday afternoon, August 7, 2018. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Residents and animal lovers are raising money and petitioning the Palm Beach County Commission to direct dollars to Animal Care and Controlto make conditions cooler for the dogs at the county-run adoption facility where the kennels are not air-conditioned.

The three dog kennels at the Belvedere Road facility have never had air conditioning because the building wasn’t built for it.

Yes, every summer is hot, said ACC director Dianne Sauve. But this year, she said, feels like the hottest of all.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that our temperatures are rising every year. The kennels were built in 1992. And even though it was hot in 1992, I’m not so sure that it was this hot,” Sauve told The Palm Beach Post.

Sauve said none of the dogs have shown any illness because of the heat, and many of the dogs that are at the facility might have never experienced air conditioning. But, she said, “that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be more comfortable.”

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Residents are concerned about the dogs’ health, their potential for adoption if they appear lethargic from the heat and if those looking to adopt will even want to spend enough time in the facility to look at the animals.

Also dealing with the heat are the staff members. Sauve said they know to dress appropriately and that every year there will be a few months that are “absolutely brutal,” she said.

Dianne Sauve

There’s no easy fix here, Sauve said.

More fans just won’t work, and having the building air-conditioned would take a total rework of the facility. Sauve said she looked into buying an air-conditioning system that would be appropriate for the building about a decade ago and it would have cost about $3 million.

Sauve is meeting with the county’s facilities department to explore what can be done in the short term. She’s also researching a ventilation system installed last summer at the Orange County Animal Services in Orlando. That facility also did not have air conditioning. The $450,000 system promotes better air circulation and cooled the kennels by a few degrees. It’s a temporary fix while a new shelter is expected to be built, said Alyssa Chandler, spokeswoman for the center.

Meanwhile, Animal Care and Control has a renovation expected to begin in 2019 or 2020. Installing air conditioning is not part of the plan.

“But what is part of it is trying to discover what can be done to cool those kennels down. I’m not going to say AC is totally out but it is something that we’re going to talk about in the renovation. To have AC you would have to redo the entire interior. The ceilings, the engineering, electrical,” Sauve said.

A large fan helps cool a kennel at Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control in West Palm Beach. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

The facility has three kennels that each have 48 cages. Some cages can have up to two dogs in them. Sauve estimates there are about 200 dogs. To help battle the heat, the windows and doors are kept open and each kennel has about eight or 10 fans. Wall-mounted fans are about three feet in diameter. They oscillate, but Sauve said she noticed a couple of them weren’t working properly Monday. They run about $900 each. There also are fans on the floor that are bigger and blow air from the open doors in the back through the open doors at the front.

But the fans aren’t fixing the problem.

“It is extremely hot out and the fans are not keeping the kennels as cool as we would like to see,” Sauve said, adding that the fans are blowing hot air.

To help keep cool, the dogs are allowed outside where they play in kiddie pools and sprinklers. Also, Sauve is having two large shade structures installed outside that should cover the length of the play areas.

That the dogs haven’t suffered heat stroke or similar illnesses shows the animals likely have acclimated to the heat, said Dr. Travis Lanaux, the service chief of Emergency Medicine & Critical Care at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Lanaux said swings and changes in temperature are more likely to cause heat stroke in dogs than when there is a constant high temperature. He said it’s important to have good air flow, keep the areas open to allow for breezes and keep the dogs out of direct sunlight.

Overhead fans circulate air at Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control in West Palm Beach. 'It is a brutal summer,' said director Dianne Sauve. 'These fans run 24/7. The kennels were never designed to have air conditioning. It takes a major overhaul for that.' (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

He said there is no temperature that is too hot for dogs.

“We see working dogs that work outside in 100-degree heat,” he said.

Heat tolerance depends on the conditions, and the dog, he added.

Breeds of flat-faced dogs such as pugs, bulldogs and Boston terriers are less heat-tolerant because of their airways. Also older golden retrievers and Labradors who have Laryngeal paralysis, and small breeds, such as Yorkies, who have collapsing trachea, are more affected by the heat.

Meanwhile, the cats are in the ACC building with air conditioning. Sauve said that’s how the building was designed.

Lake Worth resident Crystle Eggen started a fund-raising webpage where the public can buy a T-shirt that says “Adopt.” The money will go to ACC for more fans and cooling supplies, according to the page. The fundraiser was up to $280 by Wednesday afternoon.

Eggen has fostered several dogs. She goes to the kennels weekly and takes pictures and videos of dogs to promote them for adoption. Last week she posted videos and photos from her visit to the ACC on her Facebook page. She said some of the fans didn’t work or weren’t turned on. She said she spent less than 10 minutes there and was “dripping sweat.”

Crystle Young Eggen

Her post received 524 comments and 735 shares as of Wednesday afternoon.

Sauve said she’s heard people want to donate misting fans, but those might cause more harm than good. The air is already humid so the mist that blows out would just be “spreading dampness,” which could cause health problems for the dogs, some of whom may have unknown medical conditions, she said.

“Every day 50 to 60 new animals enter the shelter and we have no known medical history on them. We don’t know what diseases they’re incubating and a moist environment makes it difficult to fight diseases, especially skin diseases,” she said.

Big fans that hang from the ceiling also are not an option because baffles that absorb the dogs’ barks are up there. Air conditioning systems in the windows are also not an option. Large animal facilities like ACC’s requires a minimum of 15 air exchanges per hour, similar to a hospital’s needs.

Loxahatchee resident Arlene Moore emailed commissioners asking them to step in and give money to the ACC.

“Imagine constantly being in a sweater or coat and living in 90+ degree temperatures,” she wrote.

Boynton Beach resident Kimberly Hruda is spreading the word on Facebook, encouraging others to contact the commissioners.

“I find it odd that they would build the facility without air conditioning in the first place being in South Florida,” she told The Post on Thursday. “Seeing citizens and private business owners offering their time and resources is incredible. Hopefully the commissioners take action sooner than later because the problem isn’t going to just disappear and the animals can’t speak for themselves.”