RANCHO SANTA FE — The new and improved Helen Woodward Animal Center adoptions building opened up in mid-July to no shortage of smiles and happy tears from center volunteers and staff.
“People were really excited,” said Jessica Gercke, the center’s public relations and communications director.
The nonprofit, which provides adoptions for homeless animals as well as various educational and therapeutic programs, kicked off the $14 million project in January 2018. And after a year and a half of construction, the long-awaited building is on full display and open for adoptions.
The 31,000-square-foot facility includes two temperature-controlled kennel buildings, a newly designed and modern administrative space and shop, three play areas and a new and improved surgery center.
Gercke said building a new adoptions area became a priority about three to four years ago, when the center surpassed 3,000 adoptions per year — putting the building nearly at capacity.
So when animals would be transported to the center in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, for example, Gercke said 40 to 50 animals at a time would be lined up in kennels along the walls of the old building while staff waited to check them into what was formerly a very snug surgery area. The space was actually converted from an old storage closet.
“We had such a huge desire to help as many animals as we could, but the facility itself was starting to feel really cramped, and like we weren’t able to provide the type of growth that we wanted,” Gercke said.
The new building’s “state of the art” medical suites have two operating tables, a recovery ward, an intensive care unit, and various treatment areas. Gercke said the new medical area is nearly four times the size of the original space — that improvement alone will give the center the tools to keep growing.
“We literally could not do any more than what we were already doing while we were using the storage closet,” she said. “But now we’ve got all this gorgeous space.”
Gercke said the new building was created in such a way to minimize stress — for visitors, staff and of course, the pets. For example, the layout of the kennels helps to minimize visibility and interaction between animals, particularly for canines that might be a little more anxious.
In the process of construction, the former adoptions building was completely razed — it had served the center since 1972. Animals were moved to temporary kennels situated in the property’s critter camp area during construction.
In spite of construction, Gercke said the center didn’t stray too far off on its typical annual number of adoptions last year, due to the help of the center’s approximately 600 active foster families.
The projected was funded through the center’s Capital Campaign, which was kicked off in 2009. The campaign is meant to help fund infrastructure advancements at the center — the next step for the campaign will be fundraising for a new education center.
Photo Caption: The new and improved Helen Woodward Animal Center adoption building features three large play areas for the resident pups. Photo by Lexy Brodt.