Hello my name is Paul Wass I am the Project Surveyor for Dogs Trust, I have worked for the Trust for 14 years
In the summer of 2012 Dogs Trust was approached by the owners of an existing animal welfare centre in a light industrial area on the outskirts of Manchester, England.
This was out of the blue as we weren't looking specifically for a rehoming centre in this area and although we had talked about setting up rehoming centres in built up urban areas, nothing was on the cards, so this was an exciting opportunity for us to develop a design that would work in this environment.
The aim of this presentation is to look at those challenges that we faced and how we overcame them: These included: How the design could be implemented on this site whilst maintaining the highest standards of welfare for the dogs How to fit onto the site a minimum of 60 kennels and associated exercise runs How we were going to deal with rehoming in an inner city.
The existing building was used as a multi use animal welfare centre It provided veterinary, day crèche, training, boarding and show facilities to the local community, but the organisation wasn’t making a profit and they decided to close and sell the business.
The site is about 1.3 hectares. The size of this site is significantly smaller than any site we have bought in the last 15 years, we had previously thought that a site of at least double the sizev would be the minimum that we would need to fit in all of the facilities we needed at a modern rehoming centre.
A third of the site was taken up by row upon row of plastic kennels for day crèche and boarding facilities, another third with car parking and in the centre a large steel framed two storey building that homed the veterinary, indoor arena, shops and small animals. an
As you can see from this overhead photo there is hardly any external exercise areas for the dogs, only a small area in the top corner
These photos show the internal arena from the ground floor and the first floor and the external plastic kennels. We discussed whether we could keep and reuse these existing kennels but the quality of welfare for the dogs within these kennels was so poor that we decided that the best option was to dismantle them and redesign the external area completely along with a complete overhaul and rebuild within the main building.
In 2008 we had built a new kennel at our existing rehoming centre in Canterbury, and this was the first time we incorporated the viewing / rehoming kennels inside the main reception area.
The kennels were built behind a low height wall which allowed kennels to face each other without the dogs having a direct line of site of dogs in opposite kennels or dogs being brought into the reception area, but it did allow the dos to see people walking by. The walls also stops the public being able to directly access the kennel fronts and banging on them. The fronts of the kennels are glass and there is a human access door and dog flap from the dog sleep area to their outside covered run area. There is a door that staff can access through the glass fronts but this is designed as an emergency access door only. All of the every day to day activity that takes place between the canine carers and the dogs, occurs through their external run door. The effect of this is the dogs find the sleep area a safe place where they aren't having to be concerned about or protect both sides of the sleep area, so people passing by and looking into the kennels from behind the low height wall are normally just ignored by the dogs. This is of course means the dogs are being seen in their most relaxed manner and helps them to be rehomed quicker than if they were in protective mood and barking at the people looking at them.
This design has proven to provide the dogs with the least stressful kennels we have across our 21 centres and we decided that this was the best model to use for the design of the rehoming kennels at Manchester
This layout shows the plan layout of the Canterbury centre with a central reception desk, 6 kennels on each side left and right, which are behind the low height wall and offices and ancillary rooms at the top . You can see that each kennel has a sleep and run area with adjoining door and an external run gate that leads out to the external corridor. Another major benefit of this design is that all of the dogs bedding can be taken out from the sleep area through the kennel rather than being taken from the kennel into the human viewing area and the kennels can be cleaned from the outside as well. This cuts down on cleaning in the human areas as they are not being contaminated during the cleaning process.
So the design was to use the large arena to house 16 rehoming kennels, kitchen, laundry grooming rooms etc. and this shows how this was were incorporated into the new layout of the existing building in Manchester The kennels run along the bottom and left hand side The puppy unit is on the bottom right hand side and the main entrance is on the right
These next slides show in photographs the entrance to the building where there is the Welcome station and a small shop area selling dog food, treats, leads and collars and from this area you can access the offices, training hall and veterinary suite. This leads through to the main arena
Here you can see the kennels around the perimeter of the existing open arena making this area smaller but still leaving a large usable space where we have tables and chairs for the visitors and staff to discuss the rehoming process and a smaller fenced off area where dogs can be trained and the public can meet and greet the dogs they are going to rehome.
On the first floor there was space for us to use as well so we used the space to install Dogs Trust’s a call centre There are also offices, and overnight accommodation for staff who are on night duty, and an upstairs café area with a balcony that members of the public can go onto and look down into the exercise runs and watch the dogs at play.
Although it is always tends to be more difficult to redesign an existing building for a new use this part of the project was an easier design to incorporate than the rest of the design outside
Externally we had a lot that we had to fit in if we were going to be able to build a fully functional rehoming centre that would provide all of the facilities that we needed for the dogs.
The front of the site where the car park was situated needed to stay as a car park as we hoped that this centre was going to be extremely busy, plus we had to have parking for the canine carers and the call centre staff. So there was no point in trying to utilise this area
There was a wide planted area around the edge of the car park so we designed this area to be used as an on lead walking and meet and greet facility. But this left us with having to fit in 2 kennel blocks housing 20 kennels in each and enough off lead exercise areas for all of the dogs on site.
We needed to have separation between the Intake and Booked blocks The Intake blocks are where the new dogs arriving at the centre will initially be housed. It needs to have an enclosed drop off area so the dogs are in a controlled environment when they first arrive at the centre and so it also has to have vehicle access to it Intake must have its own dedicated exercise areas as until the dogs have fully been assessed, wormed, vaccinated etc. they shouldn’t mix with the rest of the population Within the block it also needs it own laundry, kitchens. The block also needed to be easily accessible to the Veterinary Suite so the dogs can have all of their necessary treatments.
We had plenty of experience building Intake buildings both double and single aspect, but not on such a restricted site, so it was quite a challenge to the team to be able to fit it into the area to the rear of the main building along with the Booked block.
This is the final design that we agreed upon for the Intake block and the Booked block is a mirror copy of this. The building is designed so that None of the kennels overlook each other so there is no line of sight for the dogs. This helps to reduce barking and stressful behaviour The kennels are split down into blocks of 5 separated by either an access corridor or a non dog area. There are two reasons behind this design. The first is that these are the most stressed dogs at the centre and breaking down long lines of kennels into smaller compartments helps to reduce the noise in each area and this in turn keeps the dogs in each area calmer and less stressed. And the second reason is that if there is an outbreak of a disease in any kennel we can isolate that block of 5 kennels on their own and the rest of the kennels can be carry on as normal.
Another addition to the design of our kennel buildings is an acoustic screen that runs along the outside of the kennel walkways. Here you can see the screens being used when they are closed. Canine carers can walk dogs along the rear of the kennels and the dogs can only see a human walking past. Someone they are used to seeing so they don’t react. If they could see the dog then it could all ‘kick off ‘ . These screens can be opened up during the day to allow more ventilation and light into the kennel runs and closed down at night allowing the dogs access to both their sleep and runs all through the night. If we didn’t have the screens then the dogs would have to be closed in their sleeps at nigh, as there would be to much chance of disturbances, causing the dogs to bark and become distressed.
This drawing shows how we maximised the space available to us in setting out the two kennel blocks to the rear of the main building and how we designed in the exercise areas so that each kennel block has its own dedicated areas.
And this aerial shot shows how it looks in real life. We have used as much of the space as we could to design in exercise areas and used a variety of floor finishes including , Sand , Astro Turf, Concrete and Rubber
The exercise runs wrap around the buildings and are large enough for the dogs to have a proper run off their leads, they all have trees planted in them for shade and interest and they even go up and over the buildings in order for us to maximise the space we have. On the top right photo there is a water feature that on a timer shoots a stream of water from all four corners that the dogs love to play in. Building in as much variety of environmental enrichment in the exercise areas as we can allows the dogs to have proper exercise when they are out in the runs with their canine carers. Far better than a sterile concrete run.
The centre was completed and opened in September 2014 and has proved to be a great success. It shows how we have with an innovative design, utilising all of the space available, constructed an inner city rehoming centre that is not a compromise and fulfils all of the welfare needs that we set out to achieve at the beginning of this project.
These problems could escalate quickly into chronic stress.
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