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Humane Society Opens ‘Green’ Animal Community Center

The HSSV celebrated California’s first regional Animal Community Center with an open house.

Humane Society Silicon Valley open house.

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Humane Society Silicon Valley in Milpitas, Calif., held an open house March 28 to celebrate the opening of what it says is California’s first regional Animal Community Center.

The $25 million center, funded through donations, is expected to be the first Animal Community Center in the U.S. to earn Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Planning for the 48,000-square-foot center, which is situated on nearly five acres, began about 12 years ago.

The building is designed to be much more than an animal shelter. It’s a destination for the community, said Christine Benninger, president of the HSSV.

“Those words—Animal Community Center—were chosen specifically (to reflect that),” Benninger said.

For example, the center incorporates:

• An animal adoption program.
• A community dog park and training center.
• A spay/neuter medical center.
• A veterinary hospital and public viewing room.
• Doggie day care, boarding and grooming.
• A pet store.
• An education center offering programs for children, teens and families.
• A community events room.
• A pet-friendly café.

The cage-less habitats for dogs, cats and rabbits simulate home environments, complete with beds and species-specific toys. The arrangement reduces animal stress and behavioral issues created by traditional shelter designs, according to the HSSV. The center can accommodate about 10,000 animal adoptions a year, up from 4,000.

The number of spay/neuter procedures is expected to increase from about 30 a day to about 45 a day, according to Julia Lewis, DVM, director of the veterinary facility.

Special features of the hospital include digital equipment, natural lighting and more space to accommodate additional prep and surgery tables. The hospital also will focus on education. The public can watch selected surgeries in the Medical Center Learning Alcove.

“I’m especially excited about the amount of room we have and the increased level of care that we can provide,” Dr. Lewis said.

The HSSV selected A Dog’s Life to provide the doggie day care, boarding, grooming and training services.

Dogs, which will receive round-the-clock supervision, not only will have fun, but they will pick up good habits, said Keith Uchida, owner of A Dog’s Life, which has locations in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale.

“Our goal is to make things easy and beneficial for owners, as well as make the bond between the owner and their pet stronger,” Uchida said.

In addition to animal care, the HSSV wanted an environmentally sustainable campus. Some of the money-saving green building features include:

• A solar system expected to generate 40 percent of the center’s energy needs from renewable sources.
• An efficient kennel-cleansing system to ensure proper disinfecting and reduce water use.
• A reflective “cool” roof to reduce energy costs.
• Stained concrete flooring to reduce the chemicals and water needed for cleaning and lower energy bills.
• On-site bioswales to clean rainwater runoff before water enters the sewage system.
• Artificial turf and native plants in the dog park to lower the demand for irrigation.

“Our sustainable, environmentally friendly Animal Community Center not only promotes animals but showcases the ease and beauty of water savings, energy efficiency and building in harmony with nature,” Benninger said. “We believe our new center will be an inspiring model of humane care, community involvement and green building design for shelters and nonprofits nationwide.”

Benninger said all the new features and services will help change the way the public thinks about animal shelters.

“The old facility, full of cages, gave the message of throw-away pets,” she said. “The Animal Community Center raises the level of respect in the community and the pets in our lives.”

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