Work Begins on S.F.’s New Animal Shelter

The city's main animal shelter is seismically unsound and falling apart — but in two years, work will wrap up on a brand-new facility half a mile from the current location.

Walk into San Francisco Animal Care and Control’s building on 15th and Harrison streets and the first thing you’ll notice (aside from any dogs in the lobby) is how dated it is. Fluorescent lights buzz overhead, the hallways are long and dark, the cages cramped. One large outdoor play area is used by all animals — from hyper bouncy pitbulls to nervous bunnies. There aren’t enough quarantine rooms for animals who are sick, or room for medical treatment. Worst of all is how seismically unsafe the building is. When the next big earthquake hits, the shelter — which is where a number of first-responders work out of — will most likely be completely unusable. 

As we saw during the Tubbs and Camp fires, animal shelters are stretched extremely thing during emergency situations, making preserving the physical structure a priority measure for any catastrophe. Its current state of demise is not a good look for a city with an $11 billion annual budget, and more dogs than children. 

But on Wednesday, ground finally broke on a brand new shelter. If all goes according to plan, it should be completed by 2021. The new shelter will have four outdoor play spaces, high-quality ventilation, spacious cages, and isolation rooms for quarantined animals. 

A rendering of the new location’s exterior. (Image: Public Works)

The building being renovated for the new facility is historic, an old SFMTA powerhouse built in 1893. It sits on the corner of Bryant and Alameda streets, kitty-corner from Sports Basement, and still close enough to the SPCA to maintain that valuable partnership. The exterior brick facade of the building will be maintained, but the interior will undergo a massive renovation into a multi-level, state of the art facility.

An interior courtyard will offer one of several places for pets to get outside. (Courtesy: Public Works)

“As we head toward our 30th anniversary we can anticipate moving into a building worthy of the city of St. Francis,” says Virginia Donohue, executive director of Animal Care and Control. 

Animal Care and Control cares for 10,000 animals each year, and have an avid crew of volunteers, who last year contributed 27,000 hours of pets, walks, and snuggles to the animals who pass through its doors. You can learn about available animals up for adoption here, and how to become a volunteer here.

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