SLO County supervisors approve construction of $13.7 million animal shelter

The county animal shelter, built in the 1970s on an old Camp San Luis Obispo landfill is showing its age. Dogs await adoption in a 2015 photo.
The county animal shelter, built in the 1970s on an old Camp San Luis Obispo landfill is showing its age. Dogs await adoption in a 2015 photo. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Plans are moving forward for a new $13.7 million animal shelter that would serve all of San Luis Obispo County and replace a dilapidated 42-year-old facility that county staff says is “inconsistent with the current understanding of humane animal sheltering.”

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an agreement with seven cities and allocated funds to replace the old shelter on Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay. The split of expenses between the cities and the county will be determined by the percentage of shelter use, on average, over the past three years.

The board also approved a contract with construction management firm Kitchell to design and build a 16,000-square-foot facility to serve about 4,500 animals annually. The existing shelter is just west of the private nonprofit Woods Humane Society; the new shelter will be built just east of Woods on Oklahoma Avenue.

The seven cities are in varying stages of approving the agreement. Construction is expected to start September 2018 with a move-in date by December 2019.

“The cities have been a great partner in this,” assistant county administrative officer Guy Savage said. “I realize it’s an expensive project, but I think we all agree in the end that we end up with a better building and a better way to serve the animals.”

Supervisors voted nearly two years ago to start the process of building a new shelter rather than renovate the existing facility because of the anticipated costs of necessary fixes. At that time, county officials estimated the construction cost at $10 million.

The old shelter was built in 1975 on a former landfill used in the 1940s by the U.S. Army and Camp San Luis Obispo. It was intended for kenneling of dogs, with less than 38 square feet dedicated to housing cats. Since then, building modifications made way for dog runs, corrals for ranch animals, a small structure for cats, and other improvements.

Over time, the roof began to leak, the walls and door frames deteriorated, and the electrical and drainage systems have been overloaded. Meanwhile, a lack of heating, poor ventilation and poor layout “(promote) stress, illness, and behavioral problems in sheltered animals,” according to a county staff report.

Staff noted that industry standards and public expectations of animal shelters have shifted substantially and the current facility is inconsistent with current understanding of humane animal sheltering.

“Unfortunately, the costs to fix the existing facility are so great that it makes more sense to replace the building,” Savage said. “Now that we all agree on estimated costs and have selected a firm to manage this project, we can build a new facility that will better benefit the animals in our care and encourage more people to visit and adopt animals or reclaim their lost pets.”

The total cost of the project is $14.8 million, which includes about $1 million in other costs such as depreciation of the existing facility, demolition, and the cost of the land, which the county will absorb. Excluding those costs, the agreement between municipalities totals an estimated cost of a new shelter at $13.7 million, not to exceed $14.5 million.

Monica Vaughan: 805-781-7930, @MonicaLVaughan