Purr-suit of happiness: SF SPCA aims to save more lives with its new adoption center

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Last year, the SF SPCA assisted with 5,084 cat and dog adoptions. With its new adoption center near Bryant and 16th Streets, which opened June 13, it aims to increase capacity by 20 percent — saving 1,000 more furry lives in the process.

"When our old adoption center opened in 1998, it was the first shelter in the country to house animals in condominium-style rooms instead of cages," SF SPCA co-president Jason Walthall said in a June press release. The upgraded shelter continues this tradition — and continues to offer dog training classes, volunteer programs for youth, and other community-service activities — but with even more enhancements for the animals. Each glassed-in enclosure features a touch screen pad that provides more information about the pet inside, with an emphasis on personality type ("social butterfly," "busy bee," "delicate flower") over breed — a more efficient way of linking animals with potential new families. 

For dogs, there's a small indoor park that's used to make introductions (especially important if the potential new owner already owns a dog — gotta make sure the new pooch gets along with the pack), while the cats, housed in a separate section of the building, get to scamper across SF-themed cat condos. (So far, there's a Golden Gate Bridge, a Transamerica Pyramid, a cable car, the Sutro Tower, and the SF Giants logo; a Castro Theatre design is in the works.) These improvements make the shelter life more comfortable for the animals — though most dogs only stay two weeks; cats, just slightly longer — but they also help entice visitors.

"We want to make it a fun, happy experience," says SF SPCA media relations associate Krista Maloney, pointing out that the shelter — which was founded in 1868, has an attached vet hospital (providing free and sliding-scale spay-neuter procedures, among other services), and is a nonprofit funded by donations — competes with pet stores and breeders to place animals in homes. Earlier this year, it joined forces with fellow nonprofit Pets Unlimited, which is located in Pacific Heights, to further its mission: "to save and protect animals, provide care and treatment, advocate for their welfare and enhance the human-animal bond."

But wait! You're a San Francisco renter! The words "NO PETS ALLOWED" haunt your nightmares! How can visiting an animal shelter be anything but depressing? SF SPCA's website has an entire section offering advice for landlords and tenants (one tip: create a "pet resume" to include with your rental application) on the subject of pet-friendly housing. And if the landlord won't consent to a dog, the SF SPCA just might be able to help out anyway. Coming soon to the new facility: adoptable small mammals, including rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs.

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