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Groundbreaking for animal hospital and expansion at Rancho Coastal Humane Society

Rancho Coastal Humane Society's first lobby.
Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s first lobby. The nonprofit, founded in 1960, is breaking ground on a new medical center and campus expansion.
(Courtesy of Rancho Coastal Humane Society)

Construction fences are going up and bulldozers are moving in at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas as the animal shelter, established in 1960, prepares to build a bigger animal hospital and education center

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Construction fences are going up and bulldozers are moving in at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas. The animal shelter, established in 1960, is getting ready to build a bigger animal hospital and education center. Groundbreaking is slated for Thursday, Dec. 15.

The Education Center, which used to be a barn, will be bulldozed and will make way for the more than 5,000-square-foot veterinary facility, called Charlotte’s Medical Center, on the 5-acre property at 389 Requeza St.

The medical center is slated to include a surgery area, recovery rooms, dental treatment rooms, exam rooms, doctor offices and a reception area, along with a dedicated space for the Animal Safehouse program.

A new 2,000-square-foot Humane Education Center is slated to be built that will accommodate gatherings of over 200 people. The current Education Center has a capacity of 45.

A seal was among those cared for at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society
A seal was among those cared for at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society as shown in this historical photo.
(Courtesy of Rancho Coastal Humane Society)

“This project started with the compelling need for a new medical facility, which only could be built in the place where the current Education Center stands. Everything just evolved from there,” said Judi Sanzo, president/CEO of the Rancho Coastal Humane Society.

The “Little Yellow House,” which served as the nonprofit’s headquarters for more than half a century, is being renovated and enlarged to serve as the new Welcome Center.

Rendering of Charlotte's Medical Center to be built at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society's Encinitas campus.
(Rancho Coastal Humane Society)

The animal shelter was founded in 1960 by animal lover Maria Lloyd, who bought the property, which at the time stood off a dirt road, that is now Interstate 5. At that time, the shelter was home to dogs, cats, birds, goats, sheep and a donkey named Milton Burro.

“When you drove by, you could often see the donkey’s face looking out of the stall. She was an Encinitas landmark,” said John Van Zante, longtime spokesperson for the Rancho Coastal Humane Society.

A horse and goose take a walk at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society
A horse and goose take a walk at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society when the area was more rural.
(Rancho Coastal Humane Society)

The animal shelter’s neighbors were coyotes, foxes, raccoons and other wildlife that lived on the open land that surrounded the animal shelter. Since then houses, businesses, churches and a hospital have gone up in the neighborhood.

The animal shelter has grown to serve thousands of community members and their pets through various programs ranging from adoptions to pet education, veterinarian services and a pet food bank to animal camps for kids and an Animal Safehouse program that the nonprofit created when it was a novelty.

“A community grew up around us. Now it’s our time to catch up so we can continue to serve,” said Van Zante. “Very exciting. A little scary. But long overdue.”

The campus project includes expanding the RCHS Community Pet Food Bank to 770 square feet. The Welcome Center will be expanded by 300 square feet and a 455-square-foot K-9 training office will be built.

The nonprofit expects to reach 1,500 adoptions in the first year of operation with the new facilities, and it expects to provide medical care to 2,500 animals each year in the new Medical Center. That number includes offering discounted veterinary services to companion animals who are in the care of their rescue partners. Adoptions have typically been between 900 to 1,000 per year.

The project is estimated to cost roughly $14 million and take about a year and a half to two years to finish. The nonprofit raised more than 60 percent of the projected cost and is starting the public phase of the capital campaign for the community to support the campus expansion.

The animal shelter continues to raise money through donations and proceeds from fundraisers and its thrift shop at 120 Aberdeen Drive in Cardiff.

The Rancho Coastal Humane Society is slated to remain open throughout construction. The nonprofit is
continuing its Kids Community Service after-school program and is planning to hold its Spring and Summer Animal Camps.

The groundbreaking is scheduled for 11 a.m. at 389 Requeza St. in Encinitas. For more information, visit rchumanesociety.org.


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