Gimme Shelter

gimmeshelter“Gimme Shelter” offers free professionally-designed building plans for communities to build small animal shelters.

The project was conceived through Oklahoma Alliance for Animals after our project coordinator visited a private organization that provided animal control services for a rural Oklahoma town. This group operated in a building that was not created for housing animals: the floor was flat and the building leaked badly. The organization was in arrears on their bills and the electric service had been disconnected. The flat floor, combined with rain followed by extreme cold, resulted in a live dog being frozen to the floor in a puddle, a tragedy which would have been averted by a small slope in the floor. After some effort, the dog was rescued, but the haunting vision ultimately spurred these plans forward.

Shelter on right built using Gimme Shelter plans - photo courtesy of

Shelter on right built using Gimme Shelter plans – photo courtesy of

Through funding provided to OAA for “Gimme Shelter,” a set of plans was created by Olsen-Coffey Architects in Tulsa, Oklahoma for humane holding facilities that could easily be constructed by a municipality, county or tribal government with relatively low population and constrained revenue.

The purpose is to bridge the gap between large well-funded shelters in urban areas and a complete lack of sheltering and other solutions that are common throughout many parts of our nation.

These plans are distributed by Oklahoma Alliance for Animals free-of-charge to encourage low-income communities to use good quality solutions instead of “making do,” with makeshift solutions that are inhumane and waste money over time.

The communities which we hope to serve through the development of this set of plans often struggle to provide even the most meager shelters, sometimes unintentionally creating horrible places in which animals suffer throughout their final days. With overburdened resources and not knowing where to start, many municipalities do nothing, and having no place to turn, citizens abandon animals to starve or worse. The outcome is a crime!

Actual animal shelter in  Oklahoma

Actual animal shelter in Oklahoma

Many Oklahoma shelters avoid utility costs by not using lights; dogs remain in the dark throughout the time they are in the shelter, something which can be prevented by replacing a few pieces of sheet metal with a few clear panels. A few small changes can make the difference between horrible suffering and relative comfort.

Communities with rural poverty often face declining populations and scarce revenue. Adequate funding may seem to be out of reach. However, building a facility reasonably suited to animals is “do-able,” and that is what “Gimme Shelter” is all about.

The building must be user friendly, as the staff persons that run small town, “dog pounds,” are often not trained in animal care / control and frequently are part time or have other responsibilities.

In addition to low construction costs, this building is designed to require very little maintenance to compensate for untrained staff. The design of the “Gimme Shelter” building addresses problems which we have seen or which have been reported to our organization. These shelter plans are designed with:

  • Easy straightforward design, including easy ventilation and passive lighting, can be built by a building professional or experienced lay person(s).
  • Clear panels in the upper walls to provide diurnal lighting without electricity.
  • Length can be added either to increase the size of the front office or the animal holding area (or both) without changing any slope. This enables the size to be changed without incurring additional design costs.
  • Adequate slope in the floors to prevent puddles, freezing and to help dog runs stay free of urine.
  • All utilities (wiring, exposed plumbing) are in the front office to minimize construction and maintenance costs, as well as keeping low monthly utility costs.
  • The heat in the animal holding area is heat lines within the floor. By heating the surface in direct contact with dogs, dogs stay comfortable without wasted costs of heating air over the dogs. This addresses utilities and maintenance costs, which are cited as the reasons shelters do not provide heat.
  • Small rooms within the front area to be used for in-house veterinary visits to minimize the cost of vet care, encouraging spay/neuter before release or adopting.
  • The design features the straight alignment of doors for passive ventilation to assist air transfer for cooling as well as to help reduce disease transmission.
  • Cooling is provided by the use of an attic fan and a mister can easily be added later.

The building is 24’ X 44’, it is designed to hold around 16 canines, 8 cats and has a storage space, a surgery / veterinary area and is an easy layout to add on to. 4’ wide X 8’ deep runs slope into open trench drains which are on either side of an eight foot wide central walkway. There are no underground drains to maintain. 24” block walls between each run help avoid the spread of disease by preventing runoff from one run going into the next during cleaning and also helps reduce stress between animals. The lighting is passive (clear panels in the upper walls). The heating is in the floor and is maintained in the office area. The heating line goes through only the front of each run so that heavy coated northern dogs can stay cold against the outside wall.

Animal complaints rank high among the complaints received by public officials. Yet in areas with chronic poverty and other pressing issues, the appropriate response often seems to be out of reach, and a poor quality shelter can cause as many problems as it may solve.

We hope the “Gimme Shelter” plans helps to address these issues in a way that places responsible, humane solutions within reach for more and more communities that struggle to halt animal suffering.

Oklahoma Alliance for Animals expresses our warmest thanks to the donors who made this undertaking possible and Olsen-Coffey Architects for their insight and hours of research that went into making this set of plans the best it could be.

Gimme Shelter Agreement for Receiving Agencies and Organizations