Larger space, cleaner kennels and hopefully more adoptions – that seems to be the winning formula for the new Aiken County Animal Shelter on Wire Road.

The new shelter is expected to open Monday after about a year of work and nearly a decade of calls for an upgraded facility.

The improved space represents a needed and refreshing change, especially since first impressions are key in animal adoptions. Perhaps the best feature in the building will be the installation of new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units that will allow the animals to breathe clean air. This will be particularly beneficial for ill animals brought to the shelter. Currently, the facility is only equipped with fans, which can’t filter dirty air.

Couny Councilwoman Kathy Rawls explained that with added space and an improved indoor environment, foster pets and those looking to adopt will have a much better experience.

“The old building was musky and overcrowded, so I think this is going to be tremendous,” Rawls said. “It’s been a good 10 years since we’ve known that the shelter we have had was not adequate.”

Bobby Arthurs, the county’s chief animal control officer, pointed to the help of volunteers to get the new shelter up and going, especially the work of Friends of the Animal Shelter.

“It’s great to have a wonderful group like that. We’ve received a lot of donations over the years,” Arthurs said. “When people donate to us, those go to Friends of the Animal Shelter and whatever our needs are, they will make it happen through the generosity of the donors.”

County Councilwoman LaWana McKenzie noted that the transition marks a needed shift for the community and its animal population.

“Sometimes you have to realize where you are before you can appreciate the improvements,” McKenzie said. “I think it truly shows that there is a concern for other living things.”

She also noted that it will bring to the forefront the need to curb the amount of euthanized animals.

The County shelter took in 4,794 animals in 2013, with about 3,200 being euthanized.

“I think more animals will be adoptable,” McKenzie said. “It will also make people stop and think. When you give those numbers to people, their eyes just show that ‘well, I knew you had to put dogs and cats down, but I had no idea it was that many.’ I think it puts a realization to it.”

The old shelter has done its job and served its purpose. But the County has certainly grown in recent years, while the shelter really hasn’t. It was time to step up, and officials and volunteers who pursued the upgrade to the facility should be applauded. The shelter gets almost 5,000 animals a year, and at this point, the old facility is simply too small.

There are likely a lot of folks in Aiken County excited about moving into the new shelter, and rightfully so. While animals can’t always be the number one priority of our community, especially with growing infrastructure and social needs, we should still value animals.

This change will almost certainly be positive and make it a better place for people to adopt a new member of their family.