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A new animal services center in California reflects current care trends

Government Buildings

A new animal services center in California reflects current care trends

The Center includes the region’s only place set up to shelter and rehab large livestock.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | March 4, 2021
The entrance to the Santa Clara Animal Services Center in California

The Santa Clara (Calif.) Animal Services Center, which has one of the highest levels of all-intake shelters in the state, has moved into a new, larger facility that will double its annual capacity. Images: County of Santa Clara

Animal shelters have come a long way from the days when, for many cats, dogs, and other animals, they were little more than waystations to euthanasia.

Case in point: the 37,000-sf County of Santa Clara Animal Services Center, which opened last month on eight acres in San Martin. Calif., represents the current era’s more humane approach to caring for abandoned or in-need creatures.

Designed by Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture in collaboration with the Florida-based animal care designer Bacon Group, and constructed by XL Construction, the Center allows the county’s animal care team to double, to 8,000, the number of pets it can care for annually. The building features advanced medical clinics, cat “condos” and dog “dorms,” specialized outdoor rehab space, and emergency shelter capacity for community pets.



The Center is the only shelter in the county that takes in livestock. Its history of care includes adoption and volunteer programs.


The County’s previous animal shelter in San Martin was in an expanded, repurposed farmhouse built 40 years ago. But even the older shelter had a 95% live release rate, ranking it at the top among public shelters in California. With its new Animal Services Center, the County is committed to saving all animals, even when the shelter is full. The Center is “open admission,” meaning all animals are accepted from County service areas, regardless of temperament and condition.

The County and its Building Team have been planning and working on this project for more than a decade. The county’s board of supervisors approved the contract with Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture in February 2017. In June 2018, the board awarded a $31,452,406 CM at Risk contract to XL Construction with 240 calendar days of preconstruction and 580 days of construction. The County subsequently increased the guaranteed maximum price of the project by $3,917,669, and the construction phase was completed in 18 months.



The Center's design took its cue from a number of certification programs.

The Center's design was informed by principles for healthier buildings, energy efficiency, and minimizing animal anxiety.


The design of the new Center in San Martin draws from WELL Building principles, LEED green building standards, and Fear Free anti-anxiety concepts for pets. The facility includes a medical expansion for advanced veterinary care clinics with exam rooms, radiology, surgery, and recovery suites. Its amenities include a 2,500-sf barn with 10 stalls and extensive pastures that are among the few facilities in the region outfitted to shelter and rehabilitate large livestock. An indoor/outdoor community meeting space can accommodate up to 300 people for events.

XL’s contributions to this project included the application of advanced safety and disease control methods such as zoned air flow and sophisticated trench drain and chemical washdown systems. XL built with durable specialty materials—such as polished and sealed concrete and epoxy-coated floors, structural glazed tile and block walls, plastic toilet partitions, and Caesarstone countertops—that require little maintenance outside of regular topical cleaning.

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