With more than 200 people in attendance, Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly on Oct. 12 cut a large ribbon to mark the grand opening of the city’s $17.6 million animal shelter.

The shelter, which is located at the corner of Iron Rock and Union Park ways, is the first of its kind in Elk Grove.

The city of Elk Grove previously had a contract with the Sacramento County Animal Shelter on Bradshaw Road.

The Elk Grove Animal Shelter, which is operated by the city police department’s animal services team, has been in operation since its Sept. 28 soft opening.

The facility includes space for housing 56 cats and 66 dogs, and additional space for other small animals, including rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds and reptiles. Other features of the shelter include dog and cat adoption hallways, animals play yards, and a multipurpose room for community events, volunteer activities and training classes with animals.

Enhancing the new facility is a variety of artworks created by Gale Hart, Robert Ortbal and Susan Silvester. The Elk Grove Art Commission recommended the pieces, which were approved by the City Council last March.

Prior to the ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony, Ly addressed the crowd.

“Today is the first of many great days at this facility,” he said.

Among the people the mayor recognized in his speech was June LaVine, who was the original force behind the drive to have an animal shelter built in Elk Grove.

“She’s the founder of the Friends of (Elk Grove) Animal Shelter,” he said. “Her tireless advocacy and encouragement of others like June got our attention to help bring this project to fruition.”

LaVine, who referred to the shelter as the “best thing that ever happened to Elk Grove,” described her first visit to the shelter.

“Walking in the first time was, for me, surreal,” she said. “It was way beyond my dreams. I knew it was going to be spectacular, but I think every area that I went into I started crying. It was truly a dream come true.”

Among the youngest attendees at the grand opening was 10-year-old Stone Lake Elementary School student Clover Nelson.

“I think (the shelter) is really nice,” she said. “I like all the dogs. I have one dog at home. His name is Mickey.”

Nelson’s friend, Amber Trice, who is also a 10-year-old Stone Lake Elementary student, told the Citizen that she is very impressed by the shelter.

“It’s way over my expectations,” she said. “I have been wanting to (adopt an animal from an Elk Grove shelter) so much that it has been my wish since I was 5.”

Elk Grove resident Brenda Walker said that she also anxiously awaited the opening of the shelter.

“I went to the council meetings and things like that, and kind of helped with the focus groups,” she said. “It’s really quite beautiful to see how it’s come to fruition. It’s really amazing. They’ve really outdone themselves.”

While standing inside the animal shelter, Elk Grove City Manager Jason Behrmann said that he heard many positive comments about this new facility.

“The comments we’re getting from members of the community are amazing,” he said. “They’re really proud of the facility, they’re proud of the city that they live in, and that we have such a great home for these animals to be able to find new homes or potentially reunite with their own family.”

Behrmann added that although he already has two dogs and two cats, his wife was present that day to search for another animal to add to the family.

City spokesperson Kristyn Nelson told the Citizen that, thus far, two city employees have adopted animals, with one employee taking home a cat and another adopting a dog.

Elk Grove Vice Mayor Pat Hume, who attended the grand opening with his wife, Lisa, and his dog, Diego, said that he supports adoptions of rescued pets.

“I believe in rescuing (pets) that are already out there, rather than supporting maybe unethical breeding practices,” he said.

Sarah Humlie, the shelter’s director, mentioned that the facility will continuously have dogs and cats available for adoption.

“(The number of available animals) changes every day,” she said. “Since the soft opening, which has really only been about two weeks, I would say (there have been) maybe 20 to 30 (animals) that we have adopted out.”

Twelve animals were adopted during the shelter’s grand opening, according to the city staff.  The first animal adopted during the grand opening was a dog named Cherry.

Gao Jian Wang said that, although he and his family dropped Cherry off at the shelter after finding him as a stray in Elk Grove, they later decided they wanted to own him.

“We brought him in, (but) we really wanted him back,” he said.

Another animal that was adopted from the shelter that day was a cat named Toasty Marshmallow. He was the first animal to physically leave the facility that day and head to a new home.

Travis Davidson and Miranda Karathanos, the cat’s new owners, said that they returned to adopt the animal after falling in love with him during their previous visits to the shelter.

Hemlie noted that the facility was built with room for future growth, and that the place currently has a staff of 22 full-time employees. Plans are in the works to eventually add four additional full-time workers.

Hemlie added that the facility offers low-cost spay and neutering, and free licensing and microchipping for animals of Elk Grove residents on Wednesdays. This service requires appointments.

The center also offers free, quarterly vaccination events. The next vaccination day for dogs and cats at this facility will be held on Dec. 7.

For additional information about the animal shelter and its currently housed animals, visit the city’s website, www.ElkGroveCity.org.