Newly-opened El Cajon animal shelter is the cat’s meow

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WEBA pit bull at the new El Cajon Animal Shelter gets some loving attention from 3-year-old Ryker Wittmayer, photo by Cynthia Robertson.jpg

Last Saturday, June 2, the sun shone brightly–a welcome reprieve from the May Gray hanging around for a month. It was a good day to celebrate the Grand Opening of the brand-new El Cajon Animal Shelter, a state-of-the-art $10 million building of 15,000 square feet.

The shelter had been approved by a vote of the people for Proposition O in 2004. The old facility was 61 years old.

“It was literally crumbling,” said Jill Jones, manager of the shelter. “The people of El Cajon really deserved this new facility.”

Last Saturday, June 2, the sun shone brightly–a welcome reprieve from the May Gray hanging around for a month. It was a good day to celebrate the Grand Opening of the brand-new El Cajon Animal Shelter, a state-of-the-art $10 million building of 15,000 square feet.

The shelter had been approved by a vote of the people for Proposition O in 2004. The old facility was 61 years old.

“It was literally crumbling,” said Jill Jones, manager of the shelter. “The people of El Cajon really deserved this new facility.”

Everything, from kittens and puppies to full-grown cats and dogs, made an appearance at the shelter at the Grand Opening. Even a Russian tortoise had its own special enclosure. The event featured adoptions for only five dollars. 

“We are very excited to have such a nice shelter for animals of all shapes, sizes and kinds,” said Dirk Epperson, director of Public Works. “All animals are welcome here.”

The shelter has been under construction for a year, under the direction of Public Works.

“The old one was very small, and now we have dog kennels and even cat condos,” Epperson said.

Any healthy animal is eligible for adoption, Epperson said. The shelter is a no-kill facility and has a fully equipped medical center for the animals, including a surgery room for spaying and neutering and other health needs of the animals.

“We keep the recovery rooms separate for the animals, otherwise, they’ll fight like cats and dogs,” Epperson said, grinning at his own joke. 

People lined up for nearly half an hour to wait their turn for a walk-through of the shelter, but nobody seemed to mind. They were rewarded with up-close looks at the cats and dogs.

A group of black kitten siblings peered out from their kennel, their bluish eyes blinking in unison.

In the cat room, several adult cats, including a gorgeous Siamese, stretched and preened in their condos.

“It smells so clean in here,” said Meagan Conner, visiting from Alpine.

The dog kennels were the most popular, with the line of people stopping for several minutes to talk and whistle to the dogs. Buddy, an 8-year-old Puggle in one of the Real Life Rooms with expanded space and several toys, had been left behind by his former owner because Buddy was not good with other dogs.

“He’ll be your BFF,” said the sign above Buddy.

A couple of pit bulls got some loving attention from 3-year-old Ryker Wittmayer.

“If it were up to my kids, we’d adopt every animal they wanted,” Wittmayer’s father said, laughing.

A few people did adopt at the Grand Opening event. Amanda Richie and her boyfriend William Sutton fell for a Lab mix named Luke. Animal Care Attendant Diane Hutchings took Luke out of his kennel and introduced him to the hopeful owners-to-be. Just half an hour later, it was love all around.

“I like that he’s a little shy,” said Richie, “and I just love labs.”

Adoption of the animals at the shelter includes vaccinations, spaying or neutering and microchip placement. The new shelter serves the cities of El Cajon and La Mesa and will be open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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