April 2018

New OC animal shelter opens

The new Orange County Animal Shelter opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony March 7.  Animal care volunteers shared in the revelry with Director Jennifer Hawkins (middle), Supervisors Lisa Bartlett, Michelle Steel, Todd Spitzer and . . . puppies.  Photos by Tony Richards​​

Villa Park City Manager Steve Franks was recognized for his role in the shelter development process. VP Councilwoman Diana Fascenelli holds on to the facility’s reason for being.

By Tina Richards

Orange County’s new state-of-the-art Animal Care facility opened to the public March 24, two and a half weeks after an official ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the individuals who helped make the long-dreamed-of facility happen, and provided a preview of its pet and people-friendly accoutrements. 

Commanding 10 acres next to the blimp hangars in Tustin, the 30,000-sq.-ft. main building and six stand-alone dog kennels feature climate and sound-controlled housing units, outdoor play areas for dogs, indoor “catios” for felines, surgical suites, grooming areas and private consultation rooms for people dropping off or adopting pets.  Volunteers who worked out of a storage shed at the old shelter were overwhelmed when they saw their new break room with lockers, tables, chairs and a small kitchen. 

In addition to accommodations for up to 200 cats and 200 dogs, the shelter is equipped to care for birds, reptiles, rabbits, farm animals (primarily chickens) and exotics.  Each area is isolated from the others to reduce stress for its temporary inhabitants.  Nonprofit groups that work with the shelter will continue to run a kitten bottle-feeding program, trap-neuter-release for feral cats, rehabilitation for aggressive dogs, and a partnership with local vets for emergency surgery. 

The $35 million shelter was made possible by a supportive Board of Supervisors, dedicated Public Works and Animal Care staff, volunteer organizations and 14 contract cities.  Those called out for recognition at the ribbon-cutting ceremony included Animal Care Director Dr. Jennifer Hawkins, Supervisors Todd Spitzer, Lisa Bartlett, Andrew Do, Michelle Steel, Shawn Nelson (not in attendance) and former Director of OC Community Services Steve Franks.  Franks, now city manager for Villa Park, was an instrumental player during the facility’s early stages of development.

Cities that contract with the county for animal services, including Anaheim, Villa Park, Orange and Tustin, contributed to the cost, based on the level of service provided to them.  Several cities that formerly contracted with the county opted out when asked to help pay for the new shelter.  Cities that refused to help with costs will be unable to re-up for at least two years.

The new facility at 1639 Victory Road replaces the former shelter on The City Drive in Orange that was built in 1941.  That building was originally intended as a clearinghouse for rabid animals, and never intended to serve as an adoption center or home for unwanted or neglected pets.  The county set aside money for a replacement shelter in 1995, but got bogged down in property negotiations with the owner of the former airbase, the U.S. Navy.  The future of the former shelter is undetermined.

The new shelter is spacious, landscaped, easy to navigate and promises a positive experience for visitors.  Its primary intent, however, is to keep its animal population healthy, happy and well cared for.  “A well-groomed, happy and socialized animal is much more adoptable,” says Director Jennifer Hawkins.  “And adoption is the goal here.  We don’t want to house animals, we want to find homes for them – all of them.”