Orange County celebrated a truly momentous occasion this week with the official groundbreaking for our new Animal Shelter at the former Tustin Marine base. 


It was so heartening to see the smiles in the crowd as we were finally able to commemorate the start of something that we’ve planned for and anticipated for decades—a process unfortunately stymied by difficulties in obtaining land at the base, which closed in 1999.

All that is behind us now as we look forward to opening a truly contemporary facility that will provide a superior space for the animals in our care and for our dedicated staff, our hard-working adoption partners and the public eager to find new family members.

Therapy dogs, volunteers, former and current county staff all join in the celebration.
Therapy dogs, volunteers, former/current county staff all join in the celebration.

Our Director of OC Animal Care, Dr. Jennifer Hawkins, put it best when she characterized our current shelter and the new one as comparing apples to oranges. There is so much we have wanted to do but haven’t been able to at our current facility in Orange. We’ve done the best we could with an aging, outdated and cramped facility—thanks to our caring and creative staff whose love for animals is evident every day.

Here are some of the things we’re excited about offering in the new facility, which at 10 acres is more than twice the size of our current shelter:

– A large lobby and customer greeting space for staff and volunteers

– Indoor climate controlled bathing and grooming areas

– A volunteer resource center, public information classrooms and meeting facilities with capacity for up to 200 people

– Indoor/outdoor dog kennels in climate-controlled buildings with sound dampening systems to reduce stress

– Enhanced cat condos, featuring natural light and larger kennels; two large group cat housing areas with “catios” or outdoor patios to reduce stress

– Multiple dog exercise areas

– Three surgical suites and multiple pre-operative and post-operative recovery areas

– Animal intake, redemption and adoption areas split into separate areas for increased efficiency

– Segregated examination areas in the veterinary clinic for cats and dogs

OC Public Works and our builder, Snyder Langston LP, are working cooperatively to expedite design and construction of the facility to open as quickly as possible. A design review board is advising us on what’s needed, including representatives from our 14 contract cities, rescue groups, the shelter’s Community Outreach Committee, OC Animal Care staff and the veterinary community.

We also will be hosting public forums to obtain further input from interested members of the community. If you’d like to be notified of the forums, please send an email to OC Animal Care Assistant Director Katie Ingram at Katie.Ingram@occr.ocgov.com.


None of the celebrating would have been possible this soon without exemplary collaboration between OC Animal Care, OC Public Works, the City of Tustin, our partner cities and the South Orange County Community College District, which facilitated a land swap at the base so we could get started sooner on the project.

It’s also worth noting how far we’ve come: The shelter in Orange opened 75 years ago as a “dog pound” with 25 kennels. It was run by the County Pound Master who lived on the top floor of the current administration building. The County has invested millions of dollars over the past 75 years to improve the facilities there, drive more visitors to the shelter, increase the speed and efficiency of adoptions and licensing, and save more underage animals.

In 2015, more than 9,000 animals were adopted from OC Animal Care and more than 3,200 pets were reunited with their owners.

We will continue to focus our efforts on the care, adoption and reunification of orphaned, injured and lost animals, as well as investigation of animal cruelty cases, protection of public health against animal diseases, pet licensing, and public education and outreach.

As we celebrate this historic achievement in Orange County, it’s with the knowledge that quality stewardship of animals is our responsibility and continuing mission.

Frank Kim is CEO for the County of Orange. 

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org

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