OC Animal Care’s new $35 million facility celebrates its grand opening


If OC Animal Care’s old facility was like a roadside motel, its new $35-million campus in Tustin is a five-star resort.

Taking up more than 10 acres at the site of the former Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, the OC Animal Care campus includes a two-story, 30,000-plus square-foot building, six kennels, several fenced-in play areas for dogs and a caged outdoor play space for cats.

More than 2,000 people attended the grand opening of the shelter on March 24, and by midday March 25 — the first day the shelter processed adoptions — 86 animals found forever homes, said Sondra Berg, manager for community outreach for OC Animal Care.


At the shelter’s ribbon cutting in early March, Third District Supervisor Todd Spitzer said the shelter serves a “critical need.”

The shelter is in Spitzer’s district.

“This facility will be the hub of education, setting the standard for ethical and transparent animal care for the entire country,” Spitzer said. “The humane treatment in this facility is designed to raise live adoptability rates that currently stand at 96% for dogs and 57% for cats. The goal is 100% responsible adoption for all pets.”

The new shelter has a large reception area and signs to point visitors in the right direction.

There are separate, clearly-marked areas for adoptions, veterinary care, redemptions and animal drop-offs.

The shelter can house more than 200 cats and 200 dogs at a given time in more comfortable kennels than the old shelter. A separate kennel space houses rabbits and a barnyard area houses chickens.

“One of the things that makes it so much better is that we have dedicated areas for each section,” Berg said.

At the old shelter, which had been in operation since 1941, dog kennels were outdoors and cats were housed in cramped portable structures.

In the Tustin facility, every cage and kennel for every animal is in a sound-proof, temperature controlled room.

“All of these wings, you’ll notice how quiet it is,” Berg said. “That helps to provide for the enrichment of the animals because it (greatly) reduces their stress levels. Before the cats could hear the dogs barking. That raises the stress levels. Here, the cats are completely enclosed in this building and the dogs are in another building out on the campus.”

Large windows — not walls — between the kennels and working areas allow staff to see the animals.

The facility also has an ultramodern clinic where spaying and neutering operations will be performed, along with a grooming room where animals can be bathed and groomed.

“Sometimes we’ll get those severely neglected where we have dogs that are really matted,” Berg said. “We used to have one decrepit grooming table in an alleyway between two buildings. The volunteers are very excited to finally have a dedicated space that is safe for the animals and safe for them.”

The shelter operates with a paid staff of about 140 along with about 400 volunteers who groom pets, walk dogs, help at outreach events and work with animals with behavioral issues to prepare them for adoption.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved the new shelter in April 2016 and construction began that August.

“To put it in perspective, we were running our animal control operations out of a World War II-era building,” said First District Supervisor Andrew Do. “We could have chosen to renovate the old facility and stuck with the status quo, but instead we chose to innovate — to improve on our ability to deliver services.”

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Lou Ponsi is a contributor to Times Community News.