A gray kitten ran across the floor, stopping to attack another kitten busy licking its paws. Meanwhile, a plump cat in a tuxedo slept in a nearby cupboard, curled up and oblivious to the kitten’s stunts.
The cats live at the new San Luis Obispo County Animal Services shelter, which opened to the public on Friday, September 9.
The $20.4 million building is located at 865 Oklahoma Ave. – on the road to the old shelter which was built in the 1970s.
The sanctuary includes two cat rooms with outdoor screened patios, individual accommodation for dogs next to a grassy yard where they can play, and rooms for reptiles and other small animals.
The 20,000-square-foot building can house about 50 dogs and 130 cats depending on their size, according to San Luis Obispo animal services director Dr. Eric Anderson.
“It’s not an increase in the amount of pet houses, it’s really a qualitative improvement,” Anderson said. “The old place was really creepy to the point where people didn’t want to come in.”
The new shelter is “comfortable and inviting,” Anderson said, which will attract more potential pet parents and hopefully increase adoption rates, he said.
Cats and dogs have a new place to play
At the old shelter, the cats lived in individual cages until they were adopted.
The new shelter, however, includes two large rooms where the cats live in community. Rooms connect to outdoor screened patios and are filled to the brim with toys and nooks and crannies where cats can curl up for a nap.
“It gives them more natural activity for climbing, playing – allows for social activity,” Anderson said.
The room also allows future pet owners to play with the cats and get a glimpse of their personalities, “(as opposed to) interacting through a set of cage bars,” Anderson said. “We try to immerse you in this animal experience.”
Down the hall, the shelter also has a space dedicated to housing feral cats, where cats are held in individual enclosures for six days before moving to community cat rooms.
“Having all these different rooms allows us to be flexible,” Anderson said. “I can turn this wildcat room into a mommy and kitten room.”
Dogs also have a new housing situation.
In the old shelter, they lived in a large enclosed barn, which had five rows that could hold about 45 dogs in total. The dogs were close together – so if one dog started barking, they all started barking.
“A dog in a row starts barking, it sets off the whole place,” Anderson said. This constant agitation was not good for their mental health, he noted.
Now each dog has their own stall with indoor and outdoor access. Dogs have more space and privacy, which lessens their anxiety, Anderson said. There is also a fenced outdoor yard where dogs can play and meet future owners.
Anderson said he was excited about the shelter’s new amenities, which provide the animals with a better quality of life.
“The physical and mental health of animals, I’m really excited that we can provide that,” he said.
The shelter also includes a room for small animals, such as guinea pigs, rabbits and even two chinchillas. On the other side of the shelter, the reptiles are held in temperature-controlled enclosures, a significant improvement over the last shelter, where they kept the snakes in buckets with hot rocks and heat lamps.
The shelter also plans to build a barn with four to six stalls by next summer. They currently house cattle in an open field, he said, and they usually have a few horses each year. In 2018, they seized 37 horses from a North County ranch, seeing a total of 55-57 horses that year.
“You never know what you’re going to get,” Anderson said. “If you get a few cows, you can’t quite put them in a tupperware or someone’s desk.”
Shelter layout improves workflow
The shelter receives animals in two ways: county residents drop off animals they can no longer care for or that they have found on the street, or animal services pick up strays from the grounds, he said. he declares.
Once an animal enters the shelter, it is vaccinated, photographed for the website, microchipped and transferred to housing awaiting adoption. The building is designed with this workflow in mind, with the animal admission room leading directly into a room where vaccinations are administered. Down the hall there is a medical room, quarantine rooms, grooming room and more.
As a general rule, dogs stay at the shelter for 10 days and cats for 18 to 20 days. Stray animals are held for five days until they can be adopted, while animals abandoned by owners can be adopted immediately, Anderson said.
The new shelter also has a room for animal euthanasia, which is done when animals are sick or aggressive, according to Anderson. Animals taken to the shelter have a 93% survival rate, which means 9 out of 10 animals are adopted, he said.
“As long as an animal is physically sound and sound in temperament, we will keep it until we find a home for it,” Anderson said.
At the old shelter, euthanasia was done in a general work room which was also used for folding laundry and washing dishes.
“It was really a dismal area,” Anderson said. “It presents a psychological depression for the animals and the staff.”
The new room is quiet, well-lit and dedicated to euthanasia to create a comfortable experience for animals and staff, Anderson said.
The shelter also has its own medical center, equipped to provide shelter animals with minor procedures like dental work or treating an abscess, Anderson said. The shelter will still send animals next door to the Woods Humane Society to neuter and neuter them, and will rely on veterinarians for more intense procedures like repairing broken legs, he said.
Down the hall, the shelter offers visitation rooms where people can meet potential pets one-on-one.
The refuge is open to the public every day from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. People can visit the animals during business hours or call 805-781-4400 to schedule appointments with individual animals, Anderson said.
Cats can be adopted for $81, dogs for $148, small pets and birds for $5, and exotic animals or livestock for $75, according to the Animal Services website.