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OC Register: New county animal shelter breaks ground as officials promise better animal care

by Jordan Graham

TUSTIN – The county broke ground Friday on a new animal shelter that will serve 14 cities, replace its current 75-year-old facility and allow for the adoption of more modern and humane animal care.

The facility, to be built on 10 acres at the former Tustin Marine Corps Air Station, will cost nearly $30 million to construct, with $5 million coming from the county and the remainder from the cities it will serve. It is set to open by the end of 2017.

Attendees of the groundbreaking got a first glimpse of the shelter’s design via architectural renderings, and OC Animal Care Director Jennifer Hawkins listed some of the features that will allow for better animal treatment. They include climate-controlled buildings, more space for bathing and grooming, more surgery suites and recovery areas, larger cat kennels, dog runs that span indoors and outside, more outdoor space and better natural light.

“It is time for a new facility that will allow us to adopt more modern shelter practices and ensure the safety of our animals, staff and visitors,” Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said. “The layout will also ensure that our animals are more comfortable and at ease in their temporary home.”

In recent years, animal activists have criticized the county’s animal shelter as being poorly run. In June 2015, the Orange County grand jury released two scathing reports about OC Animal Care, saying the county’s “lack of commitment to animal care” had produced poor protocols and lead to a shelter in such “utter disrepair” that it posed “serious risks to human as well as animal health.”

On Friday, Supervisor Todd Spitzer echoed calls from local activists, imploring OC Animal Care to improve its policies to match the new facility it will soon inhabit, saying that one without the other will not suffice.

Hawkins admitted that the old shelter was not built with animal welfare in mind.

The county began planning a new shelter in 1995 when the board committed $5 million to build a facility at the former air station, but the Navy’s lengthy cleanup of the land stalled plans. In April, the Board of Supervisors jump-started the process by approving a deal to swap its land for a nearby parcel owned by South Orange County Community College District, allowing construction to finally begin.

In May and June, county officials asked 18 cities to sign contracts committing to fund the new shelter’s construction and contract with the facility for the next decade. Four cities declined: Garden Grove and Stanton to save money, and Rancho Santa Margarita and Laguna Hills citing the shelter’s unflattering track record.

The new shelter will serve Anaheim, Brea, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Lake Forest, Orange, Placentia, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Tustin, Villa Park, Yorba Linda and unincorporated county land.

Contact the writer: or 714-796-7960