By Kathryn Doorey

Homeless animals can finally get excited about the dog pound.

A new and improved animal shelter will be built in Live Oak and open for pet adoption by next year. The facility will be an upgrade from the former Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) shelter in the same location.

With a budget of $5.8 million, the construction includes demolishing the current structure and complete redevelopment from the ground up.

“The idea is to make it a great place for the animals, and a great place [for the people] to come and adopt them,” said Susan Pearlman, project manager for Santa Cruz County. “We want to feel good about the whole adoption process.”

The site of the shelter, at 7th Avenue and Rodriguez Street, is located in the middle of a residential area. This led to problems with neighbors, who complained about noise.

“The old shelter was pretty ramshackle,” said Jan Beautz, of the Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors. “There were complaints about the noise. And the layout was such that all the dogs could see each other, so that when one would bark they would all bark.”

The SPCA’s attempts to improve the facility were inadequate, which pushed the county to take over. The new facility is completely county-founded and funded.

In an e-mail to City on a Hill Press, Pearlman described the design for the new facility. “[It’s] a one-story, California Ranch-style building of about 13,150 square feet with indoor/outdoor kennels, visitor areas, a veterinary suite, an automatic water system, animal greeting area, and animal exercise areas,” she wrote. “The building will accommodate about 60 dogs, 90 cats, and spaces for other small animals, such as rabbits.”

Lisa Carter is the executive director of the SPCA. “I’m excited about working side-by-side with the county and continuing to help out with adoptions,” she said. “Santa Cruz is really progressive [with animal needs].”

She explained that since the Santa Cruz County Spay and Neuter Bill in 1995, the county has seen a decline in the demand for animal shelters. The bill made it a law to spay and neuter animals within six months of ownership.

Carter added, “Los Angeles county doesn’t have a spay and neuter bill, and their facilities are 200 percent larger, just to accommodate the number of animals.”

She added that Santa Cruz is fortunate because funding goes to the quality of the facility, instead of having to build bigger facilities.

The animals are currently staying at a temporary shelter in Scotts Valley, but will travel to the new facility when it is finished in fall 2008.