It used to look like a cinderblock. Now it looks like home.

On Friday, the extensively renovated Westport Animal Control headquarters on Elaine Road opened its doors. The chilly drafts, drab exterior and unwelcoming décor of the old building is gone. New siding, a real office and a host of new equipment all aim to make the building a bit more habitable for the staff, and of course, for the dogs.

"We're for real now," said Joseph Saponare, assistant animal control officer.

Not that they weren't for real before, of course. The department, a division of the police, has two animal control officers, a part-time clerk and a group of devoted volunteers who do everything from walking the dogs to remedying behavior problems through training. The dogs are kept and cared for on-site.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff cut the ribbon -- in this case it was a dog leash -- to re-open the town-owned shelter. He quipped that the place is so attractive now that people might want to move in.

"For years [Westport Animal Control staff] had to deal with what could gracefully be called `substandard conditions' but they persevered," Joseloff said.

Things were so barebones that the only computer in the offices was one that the clerk, Kathleen Suchy, brought in herself. With the renovations, the situation has drastically improved. While the footprint of the building remains the same, everything inside looks and feels brand new.

There's a washing machine and dryer, which is a great help since volunteers used to wash dog-related materials at their own home.

There are also new doors for the kennels and soon there will be outdoor runs so any visiting dog will have easy access to some fresh air. For the people, there are now extra computers and even a small break room.

Last year, a new $750,000 building was proposed that would entail the demolition of the old building, which was built in 1975. That idea never got much traction due to budgetary constraints, but an alternative $95,000 renovation was approved. The building wouldn't be demolished, but in the end it would look almost unrecognizable to when it used to be known as the "Gray Bar Hotel" by Peter D'Amico, animal control officer.

He's been working out of the old building for 18 years and isn't sad to see it go.

"I don't want to retire. That's how much I appreciate it," D'Amico said. "I never wanted to retire before, but now I really don't want to."

In the old building, the insulation was essentially gone due to all the mice. Already, D'Amico has noticed things are much warmer.

"It's snuggie in here now," he said. "We're really enjoying it."

To help offset some of the costs, the organization Westport Animal Shelter Advocates raised $2,800. The nonprofit organization, headed by animal control volunteers, plans to keep on raising money for future additions to the site.

Westport Animal Control never euthanizes animals and on Friday one dog was present at the headquarters. Loretta, an 8-year-old Staffordshire mix, was sitting in the kennel as onlookers buzzed in and outside of the building. She was taken out of the cage by a volunteer and was noticeably excited. She walked along the freshly-painted floors, which used to be harsh unpainted cement, and soon sat down.

It was an exciting day for her. It was an exciting day for everyone who had been waiting for animal control headquarters to receive a facelift.