SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Five years after a temporary facility opened, construction has begun on a permanent animal shelter for Sevier County.

Officials from Sevier County and the cities of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg held the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Sevier Animal Care Center on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 10 a.m. at the site of the new center behind the new Sevier County Archives and Records Building at 1008 Old Knoxville Highway in Sevierville.

“We started this process with the county governments and all of the city managers back in early 2020, right, at the height of the pandemic. It’s been a long time coming,” said Jim Hinton with COPE Architecture.

According to the county, the 12,000-square-foot center was designed by COPE Architecture to be a state-of-the-art facility. It will offer a safe and comfortable environment for animals in need. A variety of amenities including a spacious intake area, separate housing for dogs, cats, and other animals, and a community/training area will be included.

“Words cannot express how excited they are to begin on this project. The new shelter will feature large outdoor runs and multiple play areas, specialized kennels that allow the dogs to go outside as they wish, at patios or catios to allow visitors to interact with cats in a much more natural environment,” said Luna Brewer, Shelter Manager/Volunteer Coordinator.

The new facility was announced in 2020. The shelter has been operating out of the temporary facility since it opened on Nov. 1, 2018. The current location only holds 32 canine kennels and 38 cat kennels and it fills up quickly. In addition, there’s no medical exam room and not enough office space for staff to input records while taking in a new animal.

“The shelter will also have a lot of improvements for the humans that visit us as well. This includes the quiet lobbies for counseling and the adoption and intake areas, a large community room where we will host events and special training, and visitation rooms for adoption, and matchmaking,” said Brewer.

The cost of the new facility is $5 million. The center is still raising money for the new building. To learn more about the new building fund, click here. It is expected to be completed in Spring 2025.