After years of planning, Peninsula animal advocates have something to look forward to as ground broke on a 40,000-square-foot San Mateo County animal shelter at Coyote Point in San Mateo Tuesday.
By July 2019, officials hope the new facility will be ready to replace the existing facility, which is more than 60 years old, on the same parcel at 12 Airport Blvd. The current facility will remain operational during construction of the new space to facilitate the transition.
County Supervisor Carole Groom acknowledged the many months of coordination between the county’s 20 cities and the county to create a plan for a facility that will help house animals coming through the county’s animal control, shelter and adoption services.
“You can hear the dogs barking, you know this is a busy place,” she said. “In a year or so, those barking dogs will be so much happier and they’ll have more space.”
Ken White, president of the Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA, commended cities and the county for making way for an updated facility and said he and others at PHS were thrilled to be able to design the new space.
Though White acknowledged the new facility will be smaller than the existing one, he said it will help facilitate an ongoing shift of the nonprofit’s charitable services, which includes animal adoption, to the Tom Lantos Center for Compassion, a Burlingame facility it opened in 2011. With fewer services to accommodate at the San Mateo location, White said the new space will be designed specifically to house stray animals and provide better care for them using updated tools and technologies.
“What you gain in that is a great deal of efficiencies,” he said.
Since 1951, the county has managed animal control and sheltering for all cities in the county and since 1952 has hired the Peninsula Humane Society to shelter stray animals, enforce animal control laws, remove dead wildlife and provide veterinary treatment to animals in its care, among other state-mandated animal licensing and control services, according to a press release.
Cassius Lockett, county director of Public Health, expects the new facility to allow the county to keep pace in delivering services — everything from keeping stray animals off the streets to immunization clinics — needed to curb the spread of disease among the county’s animals and residents.
“We’re going to definitely have healthier and safer animals to reduce any potential disease outbreaks or spread in the community,” he said.
County Manager John Maltbie expressed relief the project was finally getting off the ground after incorporating several logistic and financial factors in the plans. Managing a transition between facilities on a rare site accessible to animal control staff and the public and designing the new facility so that it works in tandem with the nonprofit’s Burlingame facility has been no small task, said Maltbie. He credited the county’s 20 cities and PHS for partnering with the county to make the new facility possible.
“Getting everybody on the same page and moving in the same direction sometimes takes a little while,” he said.
Assistant County Manager Mike Callagy said officials are working to keep the total cost of the project at the $20 million mark, acknowledging the rising cost of construction and any unforeseen updates could play a role in the final cost of the project. He said cities would contribute to the cost of the facility over time based in part on the level of service they receive from animal control staff.
White estimated some 6,000 animals’ lives have been saved at the county’s current shelter, where he said a spay and neuter clinic and education programs, among other services, have offered pet owners and residents ways to provide good care for the county’s animals. He expressed gratitude to the estimated 1,400 volunteers, 120 staff members and city and county officials he said have supported the shelter in the past. He said he looked forward to seeing a new facility, an idea he said has been in the works since he joined the Peninsula Humane Society in 2002, finally take shape.
“I really am excited about what the future generations of staff and volunteers in this next building will be able to do to help us all help the animals,” he said.
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