The Calaveras Humane Society now has its very own shelter. After a year of renovations and permitting, the highly-anticipated facility near Angels Camp opened its doors for pet surrenders and adoptions on June 19.
The Barbara Brooks Adoption Center is named after one of the founders of the society, who left her estate to the organization as seed money for the project.
“We’re just real excited,” humane society Executive Director Dee Dee Drake told the Enterprise on June 25. “This is something that has been in the works for a long time, and we’re very, very pleased and proud to offer this to the residents of Calaveras County.”
The building, situated beside Highway 49, which is believed by Drake to have been built as a 1920s farmhouse, served as a restaurant and night spot, a veterinary clinic, chiropractor office and a vodka distillery before the society purchased it in December of 2017.
“We had a lot of work to do to make it habitable for us,” Drake said.
Including purchase price and extensive renovations by Dean Morris Construction, the entire project cost approximately $1 million, according to Drake, and was entirely funded by donations and bequests.
Amid the bold and bright mid-century modern decor, handpicked by Drake, there are thoughtful details promoting the cleanliness and happiness of the animals staying at the shelter – from hidden cat boxes to catwalks, and half-doors allowing an open flow from room to room.
“Being able to offer the public a place that they find warm and welcoming is exciting to us,” Drake said. “A place that they feel will take good care of their pet if they need to give it up, and a place that really celebrates adoptions. We’ll work hard to make sure that people adopt an animal that’s a good fit for them and will be a good match for life.”
The new facility includes accommodations for seven dogs, 22 cats and a number of small animals. Dogs are housed in top-of-the-line suites with access to the outdoors, and friendly adult cats enjoy the home-like environment of the “Cat Lounge” and “Catio.”
The shining new facility is a departure from an earlier agreement between the humane society and county-funded Animal Services to collaborate on a shelter, which was planned to be built by the humane society on seven acres of county land. That agreement fell through in November of 2017 when negotiations stalled, partially due to Animal Services budget concerns.
“(It) just wasn’t looking like a realistic project,” Drake said. “We decided the best way we could make an impact in the county and do it much, much sooner, was to build our own shelter.”
The Animal Services shelter in San Andreas has been described as “inundated with cats” and has been found by past grand jury reports to be “aging and obsolete.”
According to Drake, the humane society shelter will work with Animal Services and other municipal shelters to identify and take in adoptable surrendered animals, while referring strays to the county-run shelter.
“We are not able to accept strays. Legally, that is a function of Calaveras County Animal Services,” Drake said.
Outside of the rare occurrence of a very sick or dangerous animal, the humane society shelter is a no-kill facility, according to Drake. The shelter has already begun to take in surrendered cats, dogs and small animals that are friendly, safe and in reasonable health – space permitting.
“Our space is extremely limited,” Drake said. “It’s a small shelter. It’s exactly what we are able to afford and operate, and we think it will make a huge difference in this area. But we don’t have unlimited space.”
Those who are seeking to surrender and re-home their pet must make an appointment to have the animal evaluated before it is taken into the shelter. Due to the “very different emotions” of surrendering and adopting a pet, the two processes are designated to separate wings of the building.
For prospective adopters, a scheduled appointment yields an open tour through the facility and the chance to meet with potential pets in the play rooms. The organization’s emphasis on adoption counseling provides a pseudo-matchmaking experience for those ready to adopt.
The “open adoption program” is not restrictive, according to Drake.
“It’s very much about treating pet adopters like the adults that they are and understanding that they know their own capabilities,” Drake said. “We try to know as much as we can about every animal in our care so that we can tell people, and they can make good choices.”
Due to limited parking space, the shelter will not have a grand opening, but will likely host a weekend-long open house later in the summer.
Currently, the shelter’s 25 volunteers have been working tirelessly to get the facility up and running while nearly at full capacity. In the coming weeks, the organization will be looking for approximately 30 additional cat cuddlers, dog walkers and office volunteers.
The society will continue to provide all of its pre-existing services, including the Feral Feline Program, spay and neuter vouchers, free pets for veterans and veterinary assistance for seniors. Cat adoptions at the Calaveras Humane Society Thrift Store in Arnold will also continue.
The new shelter is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m to 5 p.m. For more information, visit calaverashumane.org.