In Their Charge: Animal Shelter Renovations Improve Quality of Life for Future Pets

Grass Valley Animal Control Officer Caralyn Figone interacts with one of six cats now using the new outdoor/indoor “catio” made possible with the help of Rational Animal. The space has been remodeled from some kennels and includes perches and areas for cats to sit or explore.
Photo: Elias Funez

Housing can be hard to come by for humans in Nevada County, but recovered animals lost or disowned in the care of Grass Valley-Nevada City Animal Shelter staff have just improved their quality of life.

The shelter — at 556 Freeman Lane No. B — currently houses five cats and 10 dogs, animal control officer Caralyn Figone said.

“It’s pretty light for us,” she said, adding that during her tenure the shelter has taken in up to 30 dogs and 25-30 cats.

According to Figone, $7,000 in enhancements was raised for the agency by Susan Brandt of Rational Animal. The shelter’s new signage has already made a marked difference in public awareness and level of interest.

Jessica Patrick, kennel technician and office assistant at Grass Valley Animal Shelter, holds one of the cats available for adoption at the shelter’s Freeman Lane location, where an indoor/outdoor ‘catio’ has been constructed.
Photo: Elias Funez

Brandt, who spearheaded the renovation project through grass valley police department fundraising and outreach efforts, said that aside from the new sign, she was excited about the new “catio” in the refuge.

The “catio” — complete with hammocks, scratching posts and towers — increases the vertical capacity of the shelter, Figone said, and gives cats a place to hang out and rest in the natural sun.

Brandt said she, alongside two other volunteers, halved the PVC pipe that lines the outside walls of the shelter so the cats could do things with the cats, and turned the cutting boards into shelves for nap cats.

Brandt said the funds were also used to renovate the dog enclosure, where potential donors still have the option to support the beautification project by paying $100 to have a picture of their pet on the shelter’s wall. .

Figone said she hopes volunteers with open minds and a reliable work ethic will enjoy working with the animals in their new living quarters. The shelter is largely run by paid employees, but is meant to serve and be supported by the community.


Brandt said that long before she first volunteered at the shelter, she started Rational Animal in 2002 as a charity for at-risk animals. She always noted how secretive the shelter was, as it operated next to a water treatment plant.

Susan Brandt of Rational Animal shows off some of the cat hammocks that were designed to hang from the fence of the old dog kennels the new “catio” has been transformed into. Cats available for adoption at the animal shelter can now spend time indoors and outdoors while awaiting adoption.
Photo: Elias Funez

Brandt and his public partners in the project said they are proud of the quality of life offered to shelter animals.

“It smells outside because of the sewage treatment plant,” Figone said. “Our animals are very well cared for.

Figone said the shelter only euthanizes for behavioral issues and makes full use of the behaviorist who comes in weekly and spends one-on-one time with each dog under his direction.

“We’ve had a big pit bull here for 239 days,” Figone said, adding – proudly – that the unlikely pet candidate was recently adopted.

Figone has worked for the department for six years and reports to Grass Valley Police Lt. Joe Matteoni. Figone said his department had been operating since 1953.

Grass Valley Police Lt. Joe Matteoni, from left, Susan Brandt of Rational Animal, and Jessica Patrick and Caralyn Figone of the Grass Valley Animal Shelter, stand next to the “catio” finisher at the animal shelter, made possible through the fundraising efforts of Rational Animal.
Photo: Elias Funez

The refuge has been a temporary refuge for rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

“We had 26 snakes from one cabin at one time,” Matteoni said.

Kennel technician and office assistant Jessica Patrick said she remembers the shelter once being home to centipedes.

In special cases, the shelter uses specialized groups to rehabilitate or care for rarer pets and, in many cases, wild animals.

Although the shelter only operates within the Grass Valley and Nevada City limits, Figone said she has already taken in 20 to 30 cats from Sammie’s Friends to help ease the pressure on Animal Control.

One of the many cats available for adoption wakes up from her cat nap last week at the Freeman Lane shelter.
Photo: Elias Funez

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at [email protected]

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