November 19, 2009 – By ChaNae Bradley, public information specialist Agricultural Communications Department
Excitement filled the cool November air during the official groundbreaking of the SAFE – State Animal Facility for Emergencies- Center at Fort Valley State University on Thursday. The groundbreaking drew a crowd of more than 50 guests including state and federal representatives and FVSU faculty, staff and students.
When construction is completed adjacent to the Otis O’Neal Veterinary Science building, the SAFE Center will house large and small animals during natural and manmade disasters. It will also serve as a facility that cares for neglected and abandoned animals apprehended by the state.
The center was initially funded with $750,000 from the state of Georgia. The size of the facility has not been determined, but ideally it will be expanded and eventually be able to house up to 100 dogs, 100 cats and 100 horses, said Dr. George McCommon, a FVSU associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Science.
McCommon, who’s also overseeing the construction of the facility, said there’s a crucial need for a facility to house animals during disasters.
“FVSU always took animals in during natural disasters, but with the new facility we won’t have to set up make-shift shelters. It would be great to have the facility up and running before 2010 hurricane season,” McCommon said. In addition, FVSU’s central location in the state provides easy access from multiple interstates in the event of an evacuation.
Dr. Larry E. Rivers, president of FVSU, said it’s a fantastic feeling to know that FVSU is meeting the needs of Georgians.
“Few states have places to take animals during natural disasters, and I’m proud to see two state agencies collaborate and address a serious matter,” Rivers said, referring to the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents.
Terry Coleman, the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s deputy commissioner, said the SAFE Center is a unique facility because it will simultaneously help Georgians while providing experience to students in the veterinary programs at FVSU. “We saw a need for a facility, but didn’t have the equipment. Once we collaborated with the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents and FVSU, the project came together quite easy,” Coleman said.
The projected completion date of the SAFE Center is July 2010, said Jim Ingram, architect of the SAFE Center. He says there is no facility quite like this one. “I’m proud to see the fulfillment of all the efforts that have brought us to the groundbreaking stage. I look even more forward to the dedication of the building once it’s completed,” said Ingram of the Valdosta-based IPG Incorporated Architects and Planners