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The Build-Out

  • Open-air kennels feature radiant-heated floors, small cubbies, and retractable roofs. City of Los Angeles/RA-DA

by Jim Baker

Status Symbol


he $9 million South Los Angeles Animal Shelter that opened in October represents the final piece of a project to upgrade the facilities of the City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services, funded by a $154 million bond approved by voters in 2000. The bond paid for the renovation of two shelters, the replacement of three, and the addition of two new facilities. In the process, the department went from only 284 kennels to more than 1,000, according to Linda Gordon, who served as the liaison between Los Angeles Animal Services and the city’s Bureau of Engineering, which is responsible for delivering capital projects. The new shelter was designed by Rania Alomar of RA-DA, an architecture firm in West Hollywood, to have a retail atmosphere that Gordon likens to an outdoor mall. A main pedestrian walkway is flanked by administrative offices and a community room on one side, and on the other side by a building with large, storefront-style windows, through which visitors can view rooms for bunnies, reptiles, and colony housing for cats. Continuing down the walkway, visitors will see open-air kennels interspersed with trees, greenery, and landscaping that create barriers so that dogs don’t look directly at each other. The kennels have radiant heating in the floors, small “cubbies” that dogs can retreat into in inclement weather, and a retractable roof that can be pulled back to let in more sunlight, or extended to block it on hot days. Open-air kennels create a healthier environment for dogs, Gordon says, because the sunlight disinfects pathogens, and noise from barking doesn’t reverberate as it would in an enclosed space. The shelter also features a spay/neuter clinic and a full medical suite. There are free-flight aviaries for rescued indigenous birds. The innovative and eye-catching new facility is a powerful symbol that elevates the status of shelter pets in the community, says Brenda Barnette, general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services. It’s also a space that was designed to invite the community to gather. “If people want to come by there at lunchtime, and hang out for a little while, and walk around and see the animals, it should be a place that they can do that,” she says. “You don’t even have to be planning to adopt. You can just come and learn about animals.” 

  • An horse in the adoption barn of the Dumb Friends League's new Harmony Equine Center. Dumb Friends League

The Neighs Have It

Thanks to a $5.3 million gift in 2011 from billionaire media magnate John Malone and his wife Leslie, the Dumb Friends League (DFL) opened its new Harmony Equine Center in June on 168 acres located near Franktown, about 30 minutes from Denver. The facility is designed to house horses, donkeys, and mules who have been impounded by law enforcement due to cruelty and neglect. The economy has increased the plight of unwanted horses, as some owners are no longer able to care for them, a situation worsened by rising hay prices, says Duane Adams, DFL’s vice president of field and equine services. “There were more and more horses that needed to be removed in order to prevent suffering, and there was just no place to take them. The rescues we work with were all at capacity,” he says. Law enforcement and the state lacked options, so the shelter decided to step up. The result is the impound facility, which can easily house 100 equines—or 200 to 300, if necessary. Much like some shelters, the center is divided into zones designed to prevent disease transmission: New arrivals are taken to a separate intake barn, then proceed to a training barn, and finally an adoption barn. The largest structure on the property is the 44,000-square-foot adoption barn, with 25 stalls and three corrals for multiple equines. The intake barn had to be newly constructed, while the training barn, which features an indoor riding arena and adjoining pastures, had to be gutted and refurbished. The adoption barn, Adams says, was in good shape, and just needed to be cleaned up. Many of the horses who will enter the facility may never have been handled before, so the intake barn had to be equipped with special chutes, so staff could medically treat them. The facility also features a new education center for the public and law enforcement. It’s a huge step forward, in terms of the care the shelter can now offer these animals. “We had one horse trailer [before]—that was our equine facility,” Adams says, laughing. n

For more pictures of these facilities, visit

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