Animal shelter smashed by mudslide

Just as renovation was to begin in January, flood destroyed most of the 50-year-old structure and its contents. Three animals perished as waters rose, but no dogs or cats died.

December 30, 2010|By Barbara Diamond,
  • Steve Geise, left, and Ignacio Camacho shovel mud from animal pens at the City of Laguna Beach Animal Shelter on Wednesday. The shelter suffered extensive damage due to flooding from last week's storms.
Steve Geise, left, and Ignacio Camacho shovel mud from… (KENT TREPTOW, Coastline…)

Mud cascaded through the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter on Dec. 22, wiping out the contents and severely, maybe irreparably, damaging the complex, which was scheduled for renovation in early 2011.

An assessment of the structural damage is under way, civilian shelter supervisor Jim Beres said Wednesday. Walls are still standing, but for how long or if they should be, is being evaluated.

"Right now we urgently need to get in there and do some assessment," Beres said. "A civil engineer is out there today and was out there yesterday and the day before.

"Considering what happened, it could have been worse."

All the animals except two chickens and a rabbit — which perished — were evacuated and are being cared for in the Mission Viejo shelter, Jim Beres said. The animals' return to Laguna depends on how soon the temporary shelter, to which they were to be relocated during the renovation, can be up and running.


"The animals are all safe and sound, but we would like to get them back in Laguna," said Laura Dunaway, interim shelter manager. "Right now we are in limbo."

Shelter volunteers and staff had the foresight to put stools in the kennels "just in case" before they left the shelter the day preceding the mudslide, police Lt. Jason Kravetz said Wednesday.

"The dogs were all on the stools when they came back," Kravetz said. "We will get temporary runs from Home Depot for the dogs, we hope today."

Eight dogs were safely evacuated. A rumor that two died is untrue, Beres said.

Some cats went home with volunteers, others are at Bluebelle, a nonprofit shelter for cats.

"Any new strays the police pick up will go to the shelter in Irvine," Beres said. "Pet owners may call the police department."

For information about a missing pet, owners may call (949) 497-0701, and hit 1 on the dial to bypass the recorded message.

The city's animal control program has two components: special officers and the shelter. Some shelter functions will be delayed due to the loss of equipment and records.

Ordinarily the shelter would be in the midst of preparing to renew or issue new licenses, but that has been put on hold, Beres said. He may ask the city to allow pet owners a month's grace while shelter records and files destroyed in the mudslide are recovered from off-site storage.

Early estimates put the damage to the shelter and contents at $800,000 and that is before a structural engineer has evaluated what, if any, of the buildings can be salvaged, Kravetz said.

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