Laguna couple offers adoption center for senior and disabled dogs
By Daniel Langhorne, special for the independent
Laguna Beach residents Amy and Julian Mack were living in Chicago when they adopted a three-legged pug named Carlo. The charismatic canine suffered a serious injury to one of his legs before being rescued from the street and had to undergo an amputation.
Carlo would live with the Macks for 10 more years until his death.
“What was so shocking was that he was the happiest dog,” Amy Mack said. “He didn’t know he was missing a leg. He just brought joy to everyone we met.
As owners of four elderly and disabled dogs, the Macks felt compelled to do something to help dogs in this demographic languish in local animal shelters.
The couple pitched their concept to the Laguna Beach Planning Commission on Wednesday for a hardcore adoption center for senior and special dogs at 20522 Laguna Canyon Road, which previously housed Coastal Kennels.
Animal shelters generally have a harder time finding homes for dogs 8 years and older. Unconditional wants to find homes for these dogs, raise awareness of their plight, and serve as a replicable model for other cities, according to a staff report.
The Macks’ plan is to demolish the existing 5,000 square foot building on the property and construct a new three-story 7,7000 square foot building. The new construction includes a lobby, dog-related retail store, kitchen, grooming, medical care, kennels, multi-purpose meeting room and two dog lounges.
Unconditional would house up to 40 dogs at a time, compared to 100 dogs and cats allowed in the old coastal kennels.
Julian Mack said the lack of public interest in adopting older and disabled dogs is the latest unresolved issue in pet adoption.
“People give up their dog when they want a new dog, they go on vacation and they move house,” he said.
Part of the problem is that the “youth-obsessed culture” of the United States makes it more attractive for people to adopt puppies, said Julian Mack. Even though the neuter and neuter campaign was successful in increasing the number of non-senior dogs sitting in shelters across the country by 35%, the number of senior dogs increased by 20%.
In their review of the Macks’ proposal, planning commissioners supported the proposed use of the Laguna Canyon property, saying it would complement the adjacent Laguna Beach Animal Sanctuary and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
Most of the questions from the city’s personnel commissioners centered on whether the adoption center would be sufficiently parked with 24 spaces. After reviewing parking standards for kennels and animal shelters in Orange County and across the country, city employees agreed there was more than enough on-site parking since only six eight people would work at Unconditional.
Commissioner Sue Kempf recommended that the Macks factory landscaping along the property line be shared with the animal sanctuary to try and stop the dogs barking at each other.
“My dog can find a line of sight for any dog in my neighborhood at any time, so I think the better it is to protect himself from other dogs,” she said.
The Macks plan to partner with local breed-specific rescue networks that are currently the best bet for many senior and disabled dogs. These organizations will be asked to hold events to showcase some of their dogs and the rescue work they do, Julian Mack said.
Although the Macks declined to share how much they planned to spend on the adoption center, they said it was funded by donations from like-minded friends in Laguna Beach and other towns.
Ideally, Unconditional will serve as a model for finding homes for senior and disabled dogs that can be replicated in other cities, said Amy Mack.
“It just seems wrong, we can’t give them a chance,” she said.
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