Animal Services opens new surgical suite

By Jody Conrad | Special to the Press Gazette

A mere five years ago the Santa Rosa County Animal Services was a different, well, animal. 

According to head vet Dr. Megan Arevalo, five years ago the center was mainly a “kill” shelter, as facilities and space to care for animals were severely limited.

Head vet Dr. Megan Arevalo shows off the new surgery center at Santa Rosa County Animal Services.

“The shelter today is a totally different place,” Arevalo said. “Five years ago we went through a huge assessment to plan how to give more animals a chance to live.”

One result of the assessment is the addition of a brand new surgical center.

“What few surgeries we performed here were done in a storage closet that we converted,” Arevalo said. “All other surgeries that we did required us to transport animals from here to another facility, like the Humane Society in Pensacola and several local vets who kindly shared their facilities with us.”

Not having a surgery center was a key reason that euthanasia rates were high at the county shelter. But since the assessment, the Santa Rosa County Animal Services facility has become a "no-kill’ shelter.

Megan Arevalo, Dora Thomason, Dave Piech, Colton Wright, Joel Williams, and Taylor Wilson cut the ribbon.

“With the support of the community and our county commissioners, we are able to give over 90 percent of the animals brought to us a chance to live,” Arevalo said.

The new surgical suite is an excellent example of the local option sales tax making a positive impact on the community, with $220,000 sales tax dollars allocated for this project. The completed project came in at just under $200,000.

“This surgical suite will help save lives of animals here in Santa Rosa County," said County Commissioner Board Chair Dave Piech, who emceed the recent ribbon cutting event. "The center’s next goal is the creation of a cat surgical recovery room and an X-ray machine. The public can get on board with this project by donating to the center online at”

Vet tech Taylor Williams (left) and shelter director Dora Thomason pose for a photo at the recent ribbon cutting event for the new surgical suite.

Arevalo explained that the center currently has 230 animals in their care awaiting adoption.

“We have around 70 cats and the same number of dogs here on the site, and another 70 or so pets in the care of foster families,” she said. “By adopting one animal from our shelter you can save two lives because when you take a forever pet home with you, you free up room for us to take in another homeless animal.”