The doors to the new South Bend animal shelter officially opened Wednesday morning.
A room full of people turned out to tour the facility and hear from those that made the project come to fruition.
"The building that we were formerly in certainly worked for a while, but we've proven so successful that we have outgrown it," said Catherine Toppel, from South Bend Code Enforcement.
Though the staff was all smiles, it has been a long road to the new shelter. For years, they had to deal with an outdated location where space was limited and there were not enough kennels to meet the community's needs. Space was so tight that some animals had to be housed in the shelter bathroom.
"We were really cramped in the old building," Manager Gary Libbey said. "We were tripping over each other. It was hard to separate the animals from the public coming in. We had a huge liability where the aggressive animals were in with the adoptable animals, so the potential for someone getting bit was great."
A quick look around the new shelter, located at 521 Eclipse Place, shows that South Bend Animal Care and Control is ready to start a new chapter.
"People that have been through the old building can't believe how nice this building is," Libbey said.
The spacious lobby is a stark comparison to the cramped entryway at the old facility.
The total number of kennels is up to 45. And, the cats are in a separate area away from the sounds of dog barking that would rattle them at the other location.
"The animals seem less stressed," Libbey said.
It took years of planning to get the new shelter built, but staff members say seeing the final product makes it all worth it.
"This is about taking care of animals, but it is also about taking care of people," said South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg. "The quality of life in our neighborhoods improves when we have the best possible animal care and control."