The following is a story by the Foothills Sentry newspaper, a Voice of OC media partner covering Orange, Villa Park, Orange Park Acres, Anaheim Hills, North Tustin, Silverado Canyon, and Modjeska Canyon.
This story was published in the Sentry’s June 2016 edition
The cities of Orange, Villa Park and Tustin renewed their service contracts with OC Animal Care and agreed to pay a proportional share of the costs to build a new animal shelter on the former Marine Corps Base. Under the agreements, Orange will pay $2.467 million; Villa Park, $46,000; and Tustin, $791,000. The cities’ shares of the $30 million facility were determined by historic usage and services provided. Orange County is supplying $5 million and 10 acres of land. The remaining costs will be borne by the 14 OC cities that have agreed to contribute, and signed 10-year service agreements.
The county set aside the $5 million for the new shelter in 1995, but was unable to proceed because it had no place to put it. When the Marine base in Tustin closed in 1999, the county cast its eye on 10 acres there, but the U.S. Navy has not relinquished that property. The South Orange County Community College District managed to procure a portion of the acreage, and agreed to swap its in-hand parcel for the land the county will eventually be allowed to buy from the Navy. The county will lease the college district parcel for $1 per year in the short term.
With the land issue settled, the county is now on fast forward to get the overdue shelter completed. It has entered into a design and build contract with Snyder Langston LP, and ground is expected to be broken in July. “It’s not going to be a ceremonial groundbreaking,” Animal Shelter Director Dr. Jennifer Hawkins reports. “We will have plans in place and begin construction right away.”
“The Board of Supervisors has made the replacement of the shelter one of our top priorities,” said County Executive Officer Frank Kim. “I am pleased at the work Dr. Jennifer Hawkins and Community Resources Director Steve Franks have put in to get us to a place where we can begin moving forward.”
Part of the urgency was spurred by two Orange County Grand Jury reports that assailed the state of the facility, the level of animal care, poor management and the county’s overall disregard for substandard conditions that it has known about for years.
Hawkins disagrees with many of the grand jury findings, noting that every animal that comes in receives compassionate care, and that the shelter’s primary goal is to place unwanted pets – dogs, cats, rabbits, even turtles and chickens – into permanent homes. “We have a comprehensive community outreach program, and work with 180 rescue groups to get these animals adopted. We have a 94 percent live release rate for dogs.”
The 74-year-old shelter is indeed in ramshackle condition, but it is clean and its charges are groomed, well fed and exercised. (see Animal Shelter, page 18).
The county is working closely with its contract cities and rescue organizations to design and scale the new shelter to meet current and projected needs of the communities, and ensure the physical health and social well-being of the animals that transition through its doors.
The new shelter is expected to open in 2017.