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Denver Animal Shelter's new headquarters upgrades the experience of going to the dogs

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The massive Better Denver bonds project that voters approved in 2007 has resulted in one much better Denver Animal Shelter, replacing an almost forty-year-old pound that was definitely a dog. And when it celebrates its official opening tomorrow, it will also celebrate one of the city's great animal lovers: Carla Madison. City staffers and volunteers moved all the animals out of the old facility last weekend, taking them home to a spanking-new shelter at 1241 West Bayaud Avenue that will hold its grand opening tomorrow.

And this shelter is definitely grand, with separate areas for people who have lost animals and those who want to adopt dogs or cats -- including rooms where they can get to know prospective pets. One of the display areas, currently featuring a dog named Max, will be named for Carla Madison, the animal-loving Denver City Council member who passed away in April.

There's room for over 300 animals in the new shelter, as well as a barn out back in case the city gets a larger animal, like a horse or a steer. Once they even had a wallaby, remembers Doug Kelley, director of of Animal Care & Control. And who could forget that sixteen-foot-long albino python....

There's an unlocked side room where unwanted animals, or those picked up after hours by control officers, can be sheltered in separate quarters until morning, as well as quarantine areas, grooming rooms, interview rooms, even an operating room with windows so that people can watch surgical procedures.

The building cost $10.5 million, with the entire project running $17 million; it's already achieved gold certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is on its way to reaching platinum LEED certification.

The shelter is just a few blocks away from the old pound, but it's a world away in amenities, both for its fifty employees and its tenants, with outdoor exercise areas for animals, as well as a spot where people can introduce possible pets to other animals already in the family -- with a view of the South Platte River flowing in the distance.

Tomorrow's festivities run from 10:30 a.m.to 6 p.m., and will include tours and reduced adoption fees.

The pit-bull protest planned for the area in front is not part of the official celebration.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Chris Romer: Could big dog have transformed into underdog to win Denver mayor's race?"

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