Loudoun County's animal shelter, which once housed mostly dogs and cats and an occasional chicken, will now be able to accept larger animals such as cows and horses.

"City folks come out here and buy a 10-acre plot and put some horses, cows or goats on it and then don't put up adequate fencing or know how to care for them properly and we get them," said shelter manager Vera Preddy.

A variety of animals, including pigs, goats, geese and sheep, have been brought to the shelter in recent years, some found wandering on the roads, some brought in because of complaints by neighbors who thought the animals were not well cared for.

But because the county lacked adequate facilities to keep them, the animals were boarded at nearby farms until owners could be found, Preddy said. "Once we had a pig that loved jelly doughnuts," she said. "It really looked forward to our coffee breaks." Often, shelter employes took an animal home because there was no place to put it.

The improvements to the shelter, which will cost the county about $8,500, include fencing for an eight-acre pasture, a paddock and a shed. The county also will provide more than $15,000 for an additional shelter employe and $2,000 annually to pay for the care and boarding of the large animals for the first 10 days of their stay. Currently, if the owner cannot be found and an animal is adopted, the new owner pays for the food it ate during its stay, Preddy said.

Fairfax officials said that because there are few farms in Fairfax, the problem of large animals ending up in a shelter is an old one. "We average 20 a month in here, and for the same reasons Loudoun is now experiencing the problem," said Fairfax shelter manager John Amity.

Inadequate fences are the most common reason animals stray, he said. Fairfax charges a $15 redemption fee plus $4 a day board when an owner claims an animal. People wishing to adopt an unclaimed animal pay nothing, needing only to prove that a good home can be provided, Amity said.