Animal Center Operations Manager Jeremy Selbach (left) and Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman spend time with Chapo, a pit bull terrier mix who is up for adoption at the Animal Services Center in San Martin. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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Since 1978, the Santa Clara County Animal Services Center operated out of a donated, 1930s-era converted home in San Martin that was woefully undersized for the 4,000 animals that passed through it annually.

From the outside, no passersby would look at the hodgepodge of modular buildings and know that the shelter has consistently achieved a 95 percent live release rate, ranking it at the top among public facilities in California, according to Animal Services Program Manager Lisa Jenkins.

With the doors of its new 37,000-square-foot facility now open, animal services staff have now set a goal to save all animals, even as its capacity is doubling to 8,000 animals.

County officials celebrated the completion of the $35 million facility at 12425 Monterey Road in San Martin on Feb. 19, after an 18-month construction period that didn’t slow down despite a pandemic and wildfire smoke over the past year.

“For so many years we have operated from a building that belied the great work that we do,” Jenkins said. “Despite taking every orphaned, broken, sick, injured and abandoned animal that came to us, we still maintained one of the greatest save rates in the nation. We worked hard for it. At every step of the way, our building made it very difficult for us.”

The new facility now complements the work done by staff, she added.

“Our building is no longer an antagonist in our story,” Jenkins said.

The animal-centric campus features a landscaped open-air courtyard that functions as a central meet-and-greet location for adoptable dogs. It also includes sound-absorbent dog kennels, free-roaming cat condos, a small animal area and several outdoor rehabilitative spaces to support neglected animals.

The facility includes a medical expansion for advanced veterinary care clinics with exam rooms, radiology, surgery and recovery suites.

A 2,500-square-foot barn with 10 stalls and pastures is also a part of the campus, which could also serve as an evacuation point for livestock in the event of a wildfire, officials noted.

In addition, an indoor/outdoor community meeting space for up to 300 people will provide a much-needed place for South County residents to host meetings and workshops, Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman said.

“There is nothing like this in South County,” he said.

Wasserman, who has adopted rescue animals for years, called the opening of the new facility “one of the proudest days of my life.”

“It was 10 years ago this month that I got my first tour of the prior animal services center,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, Santa Clara County can do better.’ I saw a 70-year-old building that was bursting at the seams, held together only by the benevolent willpower of the staff and volunteers. I vowed then and there that we would build a new facility.”

The facility was constructed by Milpitas-based XL Construction and designed by Dreyfuss & Blackford Architecture. Designed to meet LEED Silver Standards, the facility features an angled roof line that is meant to mimic the Santa Cruz Mountains that can be seen in the distance.

According to Casey Grossen of XL Construction, construction had only shut down for two days during the initial Covid-19 shelter-in-place order in March 2020. New safety protocols that were enacted at the site resulted in no cases of the virus among the crew, Grossen said.

The Animal Services Center is open seven days a week and serves unincorporated Santa Clara County, along with the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Any member of the public is encouraged to adopt from the center.

The center is also looking for donations, whether through volunteer time or financial contributions. For information, visit

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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