Placer County’s stray animals will soon have a new home.
The Board of Supervisors last week unanimously approved a new $22.1 million state-of-the-art animal services center in north Auburn. The 36,657-square-foot facility, expected to open in 2016, will replace the county’s existing animal shelter, a small cinder- block building from 1975.
County officials say a replacement is long overdue, given the area’s significant growth in population over the past decade. The animal services staff has struggled to accommodate the surging number of critters, including dogs, bunnies and feral cats. They also take in the occasional goat or rooster.
“This facility will allow us to do more things,” said Wesley Nicks, director of environmental health, public health and animal services. “We’re looking forward to expanding some of the progressive ideas.”
Among the ideas is a concerted effort to streamline adoptions, educate the public and more humanely care for the animals. Designs for the new Placer County Animal Services Center call for a hybrid outdoor and indoor kennel – separated by a door – allowing dogs to take in the sunlight during the day. The center will also have an in-house veterinary clinic and a spacious lobby. A community room will allow staff to host schoolkids and adoption events.
The current 1970s-era shelter was conceived at a time when the county had only 90,000 residents, compared to nearly 400,000 now. The facility is showing signs of age, with chipped paint on the walls and leaky roofs. Over the years, several trailers have been added to supply office space and a veterinary clinic. Staff has also constructed kennels outdoors for use when space is tight.
Despite the shortfalls, the shelter remains strictly a no-kill operation, which means only unadoptable or untreatable animals are euthanized.
“You get creative,” said Anna Piland, the senior supervising animal control officer, pointing to makeshift kennels outside draped with white tarps to block out the sun and a small mist pipe for hot days.
Piland noted that the county shelter is required to accept all animals that are brought in, unlike private shelters run by local nonprofits. The Auburn shelter takes in an average of 2,200 animals annually and serves all of Placer County, with the exception of Roseville, Rocklin and the Lake Tahoe area. A smaller facility in Tahoe Vista handles animals in the eastern part of the county.
Roseville contracts to keep its animals at the Placer Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals facility within the city, while Rocklin partially funds a nonprofit animal shelter.
The new Placer County Animal Services Center is projected to hold more than 150,000 animals during its lifetime. The overall kennel count will increase from 91 to 161. The approval last week was 15 years in the making, with the county first identifying the need in a 1999 report by the Humane Society of the United States.
The new center will be paid for with general fund dollars and will be located across from the existing shelter in the Placer County Government Center.
Mike Winters, the animal services program manager, believes the new facility will spur a wave of adoptions. The cramped quarters of the current shelter are unappealing to the potential pet owners, he said.
During a tour of the dog kennels on Friday, the din of barking dogs filled the hall. Winters said that would be solved in the new center with soundproof panels to soften the tones. The kennels will no longer be facing each other, so the dogs don’t get intimidated or aggressive, he added.
In the adoption business, “there’s marketing involved,” Winters said. “They need to visualize themselves with this animal. ... You really can’t spend a lot of time in here.”