The new single story, 15,000 square foot El Cajon Animal Shelter is a state-of-the-art facility that opened to the public on June 2, 2018. It is nearly triple the size of its predecessor, built in 1950. The new facility provides animal care services for El Cajon and La Mesa, including pet adoption services, housing for dogs, cats, small mammals, and reptiles, veterinary services for sick and injured animals, grooming areas, play/interaction areas, exercise yards, retail for pet supplies, and administrative offices. It has up to 7,000 square feet of entitled expansion to accommodate future programs. The no-kill shelter was paid for by sales tax revenue under Proposition O, passed by voters in 2004.
Twenty percent of the floor plan is designated for public spaces, forty percent is dedicated to animal housing, and the remaining forty percent is used by staff and building support. The shelter has the capacity to house 218 animals, evenly split between cats and dogs with approximately five percent designated for small mammals and reptiles. Kennels are expandable to allow dogs to move freely between interior and exterior environments, offering flexibility to accommodate population spikes, and provide ease of maintenance for cleaning staff.
The building interiors integrate Fear-Free design concepts to reduce stress and anxiety among the animals. The color palette utilizes sage greens, muted blues, and violets, promoting relaxation for the animals. Matte finishes give animals a sense of grounding as they circulate the space. Separate areas are designated for cats and dogs, appropriately sized for each species and organized to avoid face-to-face contact. Separate mechanical zones minimize odor and disease transfer. Monolithic materials including resinous flooring with coved base, sheet vinyl with integral base, solid surface sills, and high-performance coatings require less harsh cleaners to disinfect and improve drying in areas that are hosed or mopped. Cleanable, moisture-resistant acoustical ceiling tile and wall panels offset hard surfaces and absorb sound. Perimeter glazing and tubular daylighting devices support the circadian rhythms of the animals and staff.
The facility leverages exterior real estate for programmed square footage, reducing the overall construction cost, operational costs, and energy use. Approximately twenty five percent of the animal housing is located in secure, covered exterior areas, equipped with radiant heaters and naturally ventilated to keep the animals comfortable throughout the year, reducing the demand for mechanically conditioned space. A 97 kW roof-mounted photovoltaic system, oriented for optimal production, is anticipated to offset eighty three percent of the facility’s annual energy use.
With a team of 20 architects, designers, artisans, and engineers, and over 600 construction managers and builders, it is a fraction of the effort compared to that of the larger community, who, with unbridled passion and compassion, believed in a common goal that made this vision a reality. This fundamentally necessary project gives animals the chance at a better life in finding their forever families. According to Dirk Epperson, City of El Cajon Director of Public Works, “The new animal shelter is 15,000 square feet of awesomeness!”