Renovations are underway at Alexandria's animal shelter after plans to build a new facility in the west end of town were postponed last month by the City Council.

Instead of spending $1.5 million on a new building, the council voted to spend $91,325 on repairs to the existing shelter at 910 S. Payne St. City officials said in August that renovating the current shelter would not be cost-effective.

But because of revenue shortfalls and cuts in state funding, the council decided that the city could not afford to build another facility.

Construction has been postponed for at least two years. The funds to revamp the shelter will correct violations of state regulations that were reported in May after inspection of the site by state veterinarian Barry Dawkins.

In its present state, the 40-year-old shelter fails to meet state codes regarding the conditions of the kennel walls and floors, the separation between healthy and sick animals and problems with air ventilation.

A primary infraction noted in Dawkins's report described the floors and walls in the dog runs as "being porous and irregular, creating surfaces which accumulate dirt, feces and urine." Shelter director Brenda Purvis said an epoxy coating will be applied to the surfaces to resist moisture and chemical damage as part of the renovation.

The report stated that the dog isolation areas do not effectively isolate ill animals from one another or from healthy animals. Within the isolation area, chain link fences are the only barriers between ill animals.

The fences do not stop animals from touching noses or prevent vicious or aggressive dogs from attempting to attack others through the fence.

Purvis said solid walls will be built to replace the chain link fences within the area and between sick and healthy dogs.

Dawkins also observed during the inspection that ventilation needed to be improved in the cat and dog holding areas for adequate odor and disease control. A temporary heating system recently was installed in the building, Purvis said.

The report also said that the building does not have acceptable fire warning systems to insure staff and animal protection after normal business hours. Purvis said a fire monitoring system will be installed that will automatically call a fire rescue squad when the building is closed.

The renovations, which will be completed by early March, should address the major problems at the shelter, Purvis said. "But we're certainly dismayed about {construction postponement} because we desperately need a new shelter. The building is just too small, but we'll have to make do," she said.

Dawkins, who said that he was glad the city was acting so promptly to correct the violations, will review the repairs and make another assessment of the facility.