But, even as local officials and animal advocates lauded the promise of high-quality services for animals in San Juan County there also were uncertainties about future funding and the sheer number of stray animals in the county, including thousands of dogs believed to have migrated from the Navajo Nation.
"This is a great day," said Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts as he introduced Vincent Van Dogh, his dog, at the future shelter location on the northwest corner of Browning Parkway and the entrance to Animas Park.
"This has been a long time coming," he said. "You all have been patient — more than patient. The animal welfare advocacy community has been put off, but we're here today."
Humane Society of the Four Corners board members echoed the mayor's message in an email statement.
"The (society) is very excited about the new (shelter) and all of the opportunities it brings to the animals in our community," said Board Member Traci Fletcher in the email. "Also, we encourage everyone to visit the current shelter and see all the wonderful changes that they have made."
Funding for the new shelter appears to be secure.
The state contributed $2.7 million of the new shelter's $4 million cost. Farmington and San Juan County contributed $650,000 each.
Farmington's animal shelter has a fiscal year 2013 budget of $1.4 million, said Bob Campbell, assistant city manager. The shelter's original architect, Boulder, Colo.,-based Animal Arts, estimated that operations for the new shelter will add about $180,000 annually. Another architect took over the project
Additional money will come from funds raised by the Regional Animal and Pet Shelter Foundation.
The foundation is about $13,000 short of its $500,000 goal, said Phil Morin, co-chairman of the Regional Animal Shelter Fundraising Steering Committee.
And that money does not pay for animal control.
San Juan County is spending a little less than $800,000 per year on animal control, said Kim Carpenter, deputy county chief executive officer.
According to Carpenter's estimates, Aztec, Farmington, and San Juan County are spending a total of about $2 million per year on animal control.
"(The cost is) climbing rapidly every year," he said. "One of the highest concerns I have in regard to the ongoing cost is (that) the number of animals we get off of the (Navajo Reservation) increases each year."
That number, Carpenter said, has increased 70 percent for the county since 2010.
"We are going to try and work with the Navajo Nation to establish an agreement," he said.
Navajo Nation officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
According to Carpenter's statistics, about 56 percent of animals going into the Farmington and Aztec animal shelters come from the county.
"We have a vested interest," he said. "The single largest inflationary operation we have is (reservation) animals. I think the taxpayers ought to know."
A spay and neuter ordinance is desperately needed throughout the county, he said.
The county, however, has no control over animal control operations on the Navajo Nation, Carpenter said.
Fletcher echoed Carpenter's concerns about spay and neuter programs, and the need to address animals coming off the reservation.
"Currently, the only facility that offers low-cost spay and neuter is the Aztec Animal Shelter ... they have spayed and neutered over 8,000 animals in just 4 years, yet we still have over 10,000 healthy adoptable animals being euthanized in our two local shelters ever year," she said. "It was recently reported that over 450,000 stray dogs roam the (reservation). But, we first need to start by dealing with it in our own back yard' by implementing low-cost (spay and neuter) clinics in San Juan County."