A collision with a deer last week has sidelined the minivan used by the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center to transport as many 80 to 90 adoptable dogs a month to potential new families in metropolitan areas.

“Fortunately, the driver wasn’t injured,” animal center board president Dave Olhausen said. “But the van isn’t safe to drive as it is, and the estimated cost of repairs is more than the van is worth.”

The animal center has lots of needs, but what Olhausen hopes most for Santa to bring this week is a replacement van or the funds to buy one. The center carries only liability insurance on the 11-year-old vehicle.

The van hit a deer on the highway between Zephyr and Early as the volunteer driver, Bob Manigold, was returning from Fort Worth after a delivery of adoptable dogs, Olhausen said. Although the 1998 model minivan is drivable, its left front headlamp assembly was destroyed, and the left front sidepanel around the wheelwell was crunched enough to prevent the driver’s door from opening.

In addition, the impact with the deer was powerful enough to deploy both front seat air bags.

“Just getting those (air bags) fixed would be $900 or so,” Olhausen said.

The van has been used extensively since it was purchased for $3,000. It was driven mostly to the Dallas and Fort Worth areas delivering dogs left at the Brownwood animal shelter or picked up by local animal control.

“Bob volunteers to do this, and he buys his own gas and oil,” Olhausen said. “It’s really a great thing that he does. But he won’t be able to go until we have a van for him to drive.”

The van is equipped with cages that allow the transport of up to 20 dogs each trip. In some months, four or more trips to other cities are made.

The Brownwood area doesn’t have a large enough population to generate owners for all the dogs left at or brought to the center, but potential owners seem to abound in bigger cities, Olhausen said. Taking the dogs that are adoptable to animal shelters and Humane Society chapters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area prevents overcrowding at the Brownwood center, minimizes the need for euthansia of good pets and finds the animals suitable homes more quickly.

“Fortunately, (Bob) was coming home after delivering some dogs in Fort Worth,” Olhausen said, “so we have a few days. But the dogs keep coming in.”

The center may have also caught a break with the timing of the accident.

“People seem to adopt more pets around Christmas,” Olhausen said. “But it’s not up a great deal, maybe 10 or 15 percent.”

Still, that could mean the dog population at the center won’t rise quite as fast, giving officials a few more days to replace the van.

Donors continue to support the recent expansion of the animal center and help offset its operational costs. Olhausen cited an unexpected $1,100 gift received last week from Wal-Mart as an example. But, he added, a sign erected on the front of the center recently cost almost that much.

“I guess that money is already spent,” Olhausen said of the grant.

Anyone interested in helping the center with donations toward a replacement van, or in any other program, may call the center at 646-0617. The facility, located at 3016 Milam Dr., is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.