After operating a Pacific Grove veterinary practice for more than 30 years, Dr. Ted Hollister understands the role that good facilities play in animal care. As he discusses the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) for Monterey County’s adoption center, the capstone of a building project that spanned nearly six years, he can’t help but evaluate its design and layout. From flexible accommodations for dogs and cats, to natural light and smart air circulation systems, to piano music specially engineered to keep animals calm, the facility gets a glowing review. “It’s just spectacular. It’s truly state-of-the-art,” says Hollister. “They’ve spent their money wisely and have been good stewards of what people have donated.”
The Monterey County SPCA opened its new adoption center in January 2012, after completing a comprehensive upgrade to buildings constructed when the organization moved to its current Highway 68 location in 1968. As part of the renovation, the nonprofit also replaced its wildlife facility, rebuilt its veterinary hospital, constructed a new barn and demolished several outdated buildings. Because the agency is independent— no parent organization connects or funds the SPCAs operating in different regions—financial backing for the project came, in large part, from community donors.
In addition to supplying dollars, community members continue supporting the SPCA by adopting animals at the new center. More than 1,700 dogs and cats found new homes in 2012 alone. The SPCA also places rabbits, horses, guinea pigs, birds, mice and more. Both animals and the people adopting them benefit from the updated facility.
In the past, one lobby served all clients. Now, families adopt animals in one area, and a separate lobby provides privacy for those going through the difficult experience of giving up pets. SPCA staff members meet with individuals and families looking to adopt in new counseling rooms; nearby, separate “get-acquainted rooms” provide a place for families to interact with pets before taking them home. Elsewhere, rows of cages have been replaced by a series of rooms lining spacious corridors, and visitors can watch animals play through large windows. Many dogs have private rooms with beds and toys, while cats enjoy extra climbing towers and perches. In some rooms, stackable boxes can be easily reconfigured to accommodate the SPCA’s ever-changing population of small animals. Several spaces have outdoor access, as well, and sunlight streams through windows even in those without.
“There are no cages and no bars. We have lots of glass, so things are bright and comfortable and quiet. There’s no longer a loud hallway to walk down when you’re checking animals out, which also saves them from stress,” explains Beth Brookhouser, director of community outreach for the Monterey County SPCA.
In a separate building, new kennels have large doors that can be rolled up on warm days. Outside, dogs run circles in a synthetic grass courtyard designed for easy cleaning. In fact, all the new facilities stand up to frequent washing and sanitizing measures.
“We worked with architects who only design shelters, pet hospitals and boarding facilities, because our use is very specialized,” says SPCA for Monterey County Executive Director Gary Tiscornia. “[We told them] that we wanted a building that was affordable to build and to operate for 20 years, so that we aren’t eaten up by maintenance costs in five, 10 or 15 years.”
The adoption center and adjacent buildings are set on more than 200 acres maintained by the organization. In addition to sheltering animals in need, other SPCA efforts include wildlife rescue and rehabilitation services, equestrian care, spay and neuter services, vaccinations and outreach. Staff members take educational programming to local schools and civic groups, and as many as 350 individuals volunteer there each month. Last year, those people committed 47,100 hours to the organization.
Dr. Hollister and his wife, Georgia, have been SPCA volunteers and donors for more than three decades. He served on the board of directors for seven years, and performed animal surgeries at an SPCA-affiliated clinic in southern Monterey County for four. During that time, Georgia also volunteered as a veterinarian’s assistant. She still works at the SPCA Benefit Shop near Carmel’s Barnyard Shopping Village.
“It breaks my heart to see these poor animals who, through no fault of their own, are homeless, mistreated or abused. When there is anything I can do to help them, I certainly will,” she says.
That same willingness to help has sustained the SPCA for Monterey County since it was founded in 1905. Founders started meeting in the former Methodist-Episcopal Church in Pacific Grove. By 1908, the then allvolunteer organization was offering humane education programs in local schools. Twenty years later, leaders opened a small shelter on David Avenue, which was the far edge of Monterey at the time. In the following decades, initiatives addressed concerns ranging from rabies to horse abuse to disaster evacuation for animals, as well as basic sheltering and care. As Monterey and Pacific Grove grew, noise at the David Avenue facility became an issue with neighbors. Supporters provided money that positioned SPCA to purchase a nine-acre parcel between Monterey and Salinas, and additional acres were closed upon soon after. A few years after settling into its new home, donations by local benefactress Claude, the Countess of Kinnoull, and the Grover Hermann family helped the organization secure an adjacent 197 acres.
“The countess wanted to be sure that no one was going to complain about barking dogs again,” says Tiscornia, “and it’s also a fabulous place for releasing wildlife.”
Maintaining these types of solid community connections is key to SPCA’s success. The organization employs about 70 people, and draws some funding from service fees and adoption fees. Donations, however, are a major source of revenue, and that means the SPCA stays focused on the services that local citizens see as important.
“We can only provide programs that the community will support. If they don’t like what we’re doing, they will pull their support and we simply won’t be able to accomplish things,” Tiscornia says.
In recent years, economic instability has impacted people’s ability to donate. It has also forced more families to give up dogs, cats, horses and other pets that they can no longer afford. While under the SPCA’s care, animals receive training, medical checks and other services, and there is no cap on how long they will be housed. The SPCA promotes adoptable animals through its website, social media, in-school animal clubs, local media outlets and other avenues. On average, dogs and cats are adopted within about three weeks. Horses, birds and exotic pets sometimes stay for a year or more before being placed in new homes.
Still, despite the challenges, SPCA continues to grow, serving more animals each year and strengthening local ties in the process.
“The organization is a huge presence in this county,” says Dr. Hollister. “I consider it one of the very best humane organizations, for its size, in the whole country. I think it’s right at the top of the list, given the variety of services it provides and the place in the community that it has and the respect that people have for it.”
To volunteer for, donate to, or adopt a pet from the SPCA for Monterey County, visitwww.spcamc.org or call 831/373-2631.