KENNEWICK -- If an injured or stray dog is found in rural Benton County, there currently is no place for residents to take the animal.
But that won't be an issue beginning next year, when the county's new animal control facility is open.
"This facility is very much needed in the county," said Jim Beaver, Benton County Commission chairman, Wednesday at the facility's ground breaking ceremony.
A 3,200-square-foot building, which will house 36 kennels, a quarantine area and a sterile medical room, is being constructed at 1116 Grant Place, just off Canal Drive behind Meyers Auto Tech in Kennewick.
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G2 Construction of Kennewick was awarded the $815,640 contract to build the dog shelter.
The animal control facility is expected to be completed by December and fully operational by January, said Benton County Sheriff Larry Taylor.
"This is a very exciting time because now we're actually moving dirt" said Taylor, who is retiring at the end of the year and will run the new animal control service. "We'll be providing a service Benton County citizens have asked for for many years."
Residents will be able to take stray or abandoned dogs found in unincorporated parts of the county to the shelter, where they will stay until they can be adopted.
It also will be a place deputies can take dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs.
Officials have spent years debating how to fix the animal control problems in the county, until last year when Taylor stepped up and said the sheriff's office would take the lead.
In April, he took another step forward when he decided he would turn in his gun and badge at the end of the year to lead the new animal control service.
His annual salary will be $72,000.
Beaver said the facility is an answer to the prayers of county residents and credited Taylor for finding a solution to the issue.
"He's changed his career to change this problem," Beaver said. "That's amazing."
Taylor said he is grateful for the support from county officials and others in the community who have helped guide him and offered to volunteer once the shelter is open.
"There's going to be a lot of volunteer work needed," he said. "We're going to do the best we can with what we've got."
Floyd Johnson, who spent 17 years as the county coroner and retired as a major with the sheriff's office after 25 years, and retired Undersheriff Don Smith already are in line to be volunteers.
Both said they remember the years they spent dealing with the animal control issues in the county and said the new animal control facility is "long overdue."
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org