July 12, 2023

Problem Solved:  Not One Dog Pound but Two

Turns out, the answer that’s eluded us for so long has been right under our noses this whole time.  From the start we’d all assumed our existing dog pound, flood prone and past its prime, would no longer be part of the picture.  But as it proved immensely challenging to identify a suitable site elsewhere on which to construct a new facility, staff revisited that earlier assumption and realized the old facility held the key.

Our last round of discussions had focused on two possible options:  A vacant piece of land already owned by the City on the north side of town, and an industrial location outside Bellaire generously offered, together with funding, by the Rubenstein family.  Neither was deemed optimal.

The City-owned property, on N. First St., could not be developed as a dog pound under applicable zoning.  The Rubenstein property, though only about 15 minutes away on W. Bellfort, is just far enough from Bellaire to have prompted some concerns from both the public and Council.  Principally, those concerns involved the added distance residents would have to travel to retrieve their lost dogs, and the time our police officers would spend, whenever the animal control officer isn’t on duty, driving over there rather than on patrol or other police business.

Back to the drawing board, staff had clearly listened, and they thought through these issues creatively in coming up with a solution.  They returned to Council with a recommendation for a two-facility approach:  (1) Take the Rubensteins up on their offer and proceed with building a new dog pound on W. Bellfort, while (2) repurposing the existing pound on Edith St. as a temporary holding/transfer station to help mitigate the added distance.

Dogs that are picked up outside of working hours or when going to W. Bellfort is otherwise inconvenient, could simply be taken to the facility on Edith and later transferred.  Similarly, dogs could be brought back to Edith to be reunited with their owners if that’s what they prefer.  One important caveat, however—given the noted deficiencies at the old pound, it would not be used in this manner during periods of extreme weather that it’s not equipped to handle.

Council responded enthusiastically to staff’s proposal, and buoyed by favorable public input unanimously approved it.  The Rubensteins will lease their property to the City for one dollar per year, donate up to $200,000 for a modular building and certain associated improvements, and retain naming rights.  Staff estimate the remaining development costs to be paid by the City will total $100,000 or less.  Council also authorized up to $50,000 for repairs and modifications to the existing facility, including electrical upgrades, additional fans and new sunshades.

The Rubenstein family’s legendary generosity in supporting and promoting the betterment of our community is unmatched, and we are sincerely grateful for this opportunity to partner with them in doing right by our dogs and providing a higher level of service at the Bellaire Pound.  Thanks also to city staff for being so responsive to public and Council expectations in working the problem through to resolution.  And to all of the residents and other interested stakeholders, including Friends of the Bellaire Pound, whose passionate (and compassionate) advocacy directly contributed to this positive outcome, we appreciate your speaking up and helping make this happen.