Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter Expansion Finally Paves The Way

The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter (SCCAS) has ushered in a large, phased expansion of its main campus in Santa Cruz.

The project was originally scheduled to start in 2020, but the pandemic halted construction for more than a year as the shelter faced closures, restrictions and an influx of animals during the fires at the CZU Lightning complex. Last week, work finally began on the first phase of the project, which includes increasing the size of the shelter’s on-site sterilization / sterilization clinic, expanding the rabbit room and adding more a community cat room at the front of the facility, where there is unused landscaping space.

Pam Lowry, SCCAS Foundation board secretary and longtime volunteer, says she looks forward to seeing the area used in a way that won’t seem overwhelming to locals.

“The good thing is that people on the outside are not going to realize that this has been such a big change,” Lowry says. “They designed it to fit in really well, with the same roof angle and everything, which is important. It’s not that big thing that’s going to change the look of the neighborhood.

However, according to SCCAS program and development manager Erika Smart, the interior will be very different.

“We’re going to have a lot more space, a lot more natural light coming in,” says Smart. “Cats especially like hanging out in windows in the sun. They like to look outside and see what’s going on. It’s going to be awesome.”

The community cat room will serve as additional space for future owners to meet cats in a more relaxed and open atmosphere, similar to cat cafes that appear in large cities.

“Instead of people coming in and looking at a cat in a cage, they can sit on a sofa, they can play with the animals,” explains Melanie Sobel, CEO of the shelter and chair of the foundation’s board of directors. . “It will be wonderful, to have an open space, for these cats who thrive in this type of environment.”

Sobel adds that this will also allow their adoptable rabbits to have a larger surface area.

“We can set up more pens so they can move around, that will be great for them,” she said.

Plans to expand the refuge have been underway for years. As the organization continued to grow, staff and volunteers found they needed more space, especially in the clinic.

“Our clinic is very small,” says Sobel. “There isn’t a lot of room to move around. Cats and dogs sometimes have to be housed together after recovering from surgery, which is not ideal. With [the expansion], the operating room will more than double in size, with more operating tables. This will speed up the process and spread things out. “

SCCAS offers the only low cost sterilization / sterilization program for cats, rabbits and dogs in Santa Cruz County, which since 1994 has made sterilization / sterilization procedures mandatory for pets.

“The problem is… it doesn’t make sense to have a mandate if you don’t have a resource that the public can afford,” Sobel says. “It’s not fair to those who can’t afford it.”

In 2011, SCCAS launched Planned Pethood, which offers residents low prices on procedures. Smart says they’ve never had to advertise the program – they constantly get people asking for their services.

“We have around 150 animals waiting at any time for surgery,” says Smart. “It’s definitely a need. Having more space means we can do more.

Lowry says the expansion will be better for animals, more accessible to the public, and improve things administratively.

“Right now we have a room for staff meetings, training and volunteer meetings… plus it’s the break room,” she says. “It will also help this problem. When you have more admin space, you can do more.

The second and third phases of the SCCAS expansion are still underway, but there are plans to include a remodel of the shelter annex next door and a new training and education center on site.

Lowry says that so far neighboring residents and other businesses have been very supportive of the project.

“It’s great to know that this community supports what we do,” she says. “And we want that to support them, in turn. ”

Learn more about the shelter plans at