FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – Fort Worth broke ground Wednesday on a new building that could save hundreds of stray animals every year.  It’s a way of treating sick animals in a crowded shelter that the city believes is groundbreaking in its concept.

“This is like moving to a new millennium in terms of running a public shelter!” exclaimed Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett.

Fort Worth Animal Control handles some 20,000 animals a year.

Inevitably, some of those animals come into the shelter with a communicable disease. Even with strict sanitary procedures, many of those sick animals have to be euthanized to protect healthy ones.

Now, the animal shelter will have a clinic to help animals on site. At least 60 potential pets can be treated at the clinic at any given time.

The facility allows for sick animals to be isolated from the healthy ones and treated until ready for adoption.

It’s the latest in an ongoing city campaign to save shelter animals that began in 2009. The campaign includes an adoption center partnership with PetSmart that has drawn national attention.

“We will save up to another 1,500 animals a year, which is just huge for us,” Bennett said.  “If you go back to 2009 we weren’t even saving 1,500 animals a year. So you add the 1,500 on to what we’re already doing and that puts us at a live release rate of about 75-percent.”

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world,” Mayor Betsy Price told the gathering of dignitaries and donors gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony outside the current animal control shelter.

One big thing that makes the facility unique, from the City of Fort Worth’s perspective, is the clinic cost taxpayers nothing to build.

The million-dollar project is funded entirely by donations, which is good from Mayor Price’s perspective since she’s a big proponent of public/private partnerships.

“This is individuals, corporations, foundations, everybody – people just have a real passion in Fort Worth, particularly for their four legged friends,” the mayor said.  “So this is a tremendous example with more than a million dollars in private dollars.”

Code compliance expects to complete construction in September of 2014. They’ll be seeking more donations to help fund the $250,000 annual operating cost of the clinic.

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