by Jim Baker
Escape from Alcatraz
In February, Berkeley Animal Care Services (BACS) in California celebrated the grand opening of its long-awaited Dona Spring Municipal Animal Shelter, a nearly $12.4 million facility that replaced a much older, bare-bones facility that hadn’t been updated in decades. “Someone once referred to it as the ‘Alcatraz for animals’—chain link and cement block,” says Kate O’Connor, BACS manager. The new shelter, more than a decade in development, is located right by Aquatic Park, a recently improved lagoon off of San Francisco Bay that has gotten new plantings, seating areas, and a walking track. “My lunch hour is usually spent doing a two-and-a-half-mile loop with one of our dogs around the lake,” O’Connor says. The two-story, 11,700-square-foot shelter has a $272,000 medical suite that eliminates the need for animal control officers to transport animals out to private vets for care. The shelter provides a cleaner, quieter environment, a result of soundproofed kennels and high-end materials. It’s a nicer place for humans to hang out, too, thanks to a donation from Crate and Barrel of $24,000 worth of furniture and other items—everything the shelter needed, right down to silverware and dishes for the staff kitchen. “Fantastic,” O’Connor says of the generous gift. “We didn’t have anything in our budget for even a chair.” Cat housing is vastly improved; intake cages are made of Corian with glass fronts, and the shelter has five habitat rooms with views of the park and birds. The old facility lacked any isolation rooms, while the new shelter has separate ones for both cats and dogs. The 60 chain-link kennels at the old site did nothing to foster goodwill among pooches, but now, says O’Connor, “we can actually have play groups with our dogs now, because they don’t all hate each other.” The new shelter, built to meet LEED Silver standards, has a green roof and solar hot-water heating to cut energy costs. Berks Toma Architects in Berkeley designed the shelter; ARQ Architects of Kittery, Maine, consulted on the project.
Thanks to a $55,000 grant from the Joanie Bernard Foundation, the Animal Adoption Foundation (AAF) in Hamilton, Ohio, was able to transform two empty rooms in its shelter into a spay/neuter clinic for resident cats—enabling AAF, eventually, to offer low-cost spay/neuter services for owned cats, as well as stray and feral kitties in managed colonies. Dogs, too, will benefit later on, but since the foundation was established to reduce the number of cats being euthanized in the Cincinnati area, the AAF has initially focused its efforts on cats, says Jennifer Karpanty, assistant director. Renovation work began in summer 2012 and finished last November, turning the space into an operating room and an adjoining recovery room with about 30 stainless-steel cages for post-op cats. AAF already offers a low-cost spay/neuter program in cooperation with the UCAN Clinic in Cincinnati, transporting about 50 owned pets each month to the clinic—about a half-hour’s drive away—then picking them up, and bringing them back to AAF the next day. The onsite clinic will allow AAF to expand this program, operating on some pets at its own facility. Much of the renovation was done by David and Leslie Markesbery, longtime AAF supporters, and Gary Higgs, a former board member and the shelter’s go-to handyman. Their volunteer labor, and the Markesberys’ donation of about half of the building materials, reduced the project’s cost by thousands of dollars. “They especially love cats,” Karpanty says of the couple. “[David] likes to build things, so all of our cat rooms, he’s built ledges for them, he’s painted them. His wife’s always getting good deals on cat trees, and replenishing them.” There’s still about $20,000 of grant money left, and the shelter plans to use it to hire a vet tech to schedule surgeries and handle paperwork; local veterinarians Jodi Duff, Steve Sawdai, and Brady Hall have been donating their services. The shelter is writing another grant proposal, in hopes of receiving funding to build an addition to the facility and to hire its own veterinarian. “I just feel like the more animals that are spayed and neutered, the less that will end up in shelters,” Karpanty says. “We’re going to be able to help out a lot more, and be able to afford it, because of the grant money.”
Read the rest of this issue from Animal Sheltering magazine