The city animal shelter's new administration building opened to the public Tuesday not with a bang but to barks, yips, wagging tails -- and maybe just a whimper or two.
Adoptions and the surrenders of strays began immediately at the nearly 2,500-square-foot metal and cinderblock facility framed by young Chinese Pistache and Oklahoma Redbud trees, drought-resistant plants and a grass patch for pets to frolic.
In contrast to previously cramped quarters elsewhere -- where adoptions and surrenders occurred in one combined area -- the new building divides the two functions, giving each much needed space.
It's part of an ongoing remodel of the old South Mount Vernon Avenue county shelter that could cost the city as much as $879,000.
"I don't really know what was here before, but it's nice and everybody seems very happy," said Bakersfield mom Brittany Fox as she toted away daughter Audrinna, nine months, and the family's newest addition, Jasper, a long-haired Chihuahua mix adopted last week.
The shelter's executive director said the redo of the City of Bakersfield Animal Care Center means dogs and cats will get better care, particularly when old administrative offices are converted into a surgery suite in coming months.
"That is where we will be doing all our spay-neuter surgeries," said SPCA Executive Director Julie Johnson, who also runs the city shelter. "That is where we hopefully one day will be able to provide services to the public like vaccines and hopefully one day spays and neuters to, you know, get this population down in Kern County. That's the goal."
Assistant to the City Manager Steve Teglia, who led the remodeling, agreed.
"I would echo Julie's sentiments and say that longterm with licensing, spay-neuter, Critters Without Litters, our hope is that down the road we have many more people bring animals home than bring animals to us," Teglia said.
Resealing the shelter's five kennels, creating a new parking lot on the southwestern corner of its lot, and buying and installing the new building has cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars since it reopened the shelter on Oct. 1.
City officials had $602,000 set aside to pay for the project -- much of that budgeted for improvements when the city owned the building but Kern County ran it, Teglia said. Nearly $310,000 paid for the new administration building. Later this year, Kennel D will reopen with new kennels, and the surgical suite will open.
During a mid-fiscal year budget adjustment last month, the Bakersfield City Council approved allocating an additional $215,866 toward redoing the shelter. The remaining funds will come from adoption, licensing and redemption fees that have reached $70,000 in fewer than five months.
Southwest Bakersfield resident Ana Hernandez-Gomez said she approved of the results, as she surrendered a stray short-haired Chihuahua mix she found rambling down Panama Road.
"I was afraid he'd get run over. My daughter and I are always getting dogs and bringing them in," Hernandez-Gomez said. "I'm ready to be a volunteer to promote the spay-neuter (program) and I wish they had something like that to go door-to-door."