While a new animal shelter in Rolla could allow for more room and better conditions for cats and dogs without homes, it would not be a solution to larger animals, such as horses, found in Phelps County outside the city limits.

During Tuesday’s county commission meeting, District Two County Commissioner Gary Hicks asked Sheriff Rick Lisenbe about the number of calls his department gets regarding animal cases.

Lisenbe did not know the exact amount at the time but said last year, his department dealt with an “exceptional number of calls” for large animals, like horses, that were loose or needed food or water.

Any new animal shelter would likely not have the room or proper acreage needed to handle horses or other farm animals, the sheriff said.

“I think they need a new facility,” Lisenbe said, but noted that while in the City of Rolla, most animals rescued are small like dogs or cats, but in the county, it’s a different story.

“We’re dealing with larger animals in the county,” the sheriff said.

District One Commissioner Larry Stratman agreed, saying a new shelter would likely not be a solution to large animals found in the county.

Stratman said he toured a new animal shelter in Jefferson City that cost an estimated $2.1 million and has a $600,000 annual operating budget.

At a meeting held Jan. 22, Rolla city and animal shelter officials asked county officials and other municipalities, stakeholders and entities about their interest in helping make a new animal shelter a reality.

After that meeting, Rolla City Administrator John Butz said that neither the county nor St. James had indicated they would be more proactive in animal regulations.

Hicks said Tuesday that the county enjoys its current relationship with the city in regards to animal rescues but noted that like Lisenbe, he, too, feels there is a need for a new shelter.

Hicks wanted to know which regulations and state statutes need to be met, if a new shelter is built.

Hicks said he believes it will take mostly volunteers and donations to support a new shelter.

Lisenbe said Tuesday he could not justify the county spending, for example, $300,000 for the amount of work his deputies do with animal rescues or other animal-related incidents.

In some cases, fences are not properly maintained and farm animals escape, Lisenbe noted. He said sheriff’s deputies usually try to contact the owner of the animals to address the problem, but if the issue persists, tickets are written.

He said during last summer’s drought, deputies responded to many calls of farm animals not having enough hay to eat or water to drink.

Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said the sheriff’s department could contract with somebody who has the transportation means and space for horses or other farm animals to hold for a certain period of time for incidents outside the Rolla city limits.

Rolla has acquired land near the recycling center for a new animal shelter along with public works buildings.

The property on Sharp Road, where the animal shelter is located now, has been for sale for about five years, according to Butz.

Rolla Animal Control Manager John Redshaw noted that the current facility was built in the early 1970s and often runs out of space for the animals.

The late Robert Eck, a longtime businessman and local university professor, left $441,000 to Rolla to use for an animal care shelter.

The Rolla Animal Shelter is open Mondays through Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. and can be reached at 573-364-6995.