A fresh start for Animal Shelter

A new bridge takes visitors across the freshly paved parking lot and onto the landscaped yard in front of the doors to the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter.

The shelter reopened to the public Monday, revealing a newly updated facility. The shelter had been closed for eight months, after the December floods caused $800,000 in damage.

"If you'd seen it before, you would know it's a 300% improvement," said Jim Beres, civilian supervisor for Laguna Beach who oversees the shelter.

The funds for the remodel — which includes a new "cattery" that boards felines, viewing room, office space and a state-of-the-art kennel — came from the city's capital-improvement account, insurance money, FEMA funding, and Jo Hannah Sisson and Marjorie Nelson, who left donations to the shelter in their wills.

The shelter is now compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The expanded lobby will greet visitors with a TV playing videos of the shelter's animals.

The kennels, which once were separated by a chain-link fence, are now constructed from stainless steel. The kennels are spacious, and the dogs seem comfortable on the new heated flooring.

Barking is at a minimum, Beres said, due to the kennels' constant air circulation and installed skylights, which help keep the animals calm. Each kennel also has a doggy door that leads outside to a public viewing area, where people can meet the dogs.

The facility is a no-kill shelter, Beres said, which means they don't euthanize except for medical reasons. All animals are kept until they're donated.

Volunteers and trainers also work with animals that come in with behavioral problems, manager Nancy Goodwin said.

The shelter only takes animals from Laguna Beach and Laguna Woods, and can hold about 15 cats and 20 dogs. Since the floods, the animals were held at a temporary facility on Laguna Canyon Road.

The newly improved shelter added a quarantine room, which used to be a place most staff didn't want to venture into, due to rats and dirt, Beres said.

Now the room has stainless-steel kennels to hold animals until they're introduced to the population.

They also attempted to make the shelter as green as possible. Installed were skylights that use compact fluorescent light bulbs and a doggy toilet that flushes waste and eliminates trash.

"If we have the same flood event, the water would go around the building," Beres said, pointing at the new 5-foot walls in the public viewing area. "It would not come in [the shelter]."

Goodwin has been with the shelter since 1978. She started as a volunteer and then was hired by the city in 1980.

She is no stranger to flooding. Goodwin, along with Kathleen Sherwood and Laura Dunaway, worked with contractors to come up with the necessary improvements.

"Nancy, Laura and Kathleen are responsible for the finest shelter around," Beres said. "The city is very fortunate."

Beres said the facility is 98% done with renovations and should be finished in the next couple months.


Animal Shelter

Address: 20612 Laguna Canyon Road

Phone: (949) 497-3552

Online: lbas.org

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