By SCOTT PESZNECKER
Even before the release of a Calaveras County Grand Jury report critical of the county's animal shelter, volunteers took it upon themselves to overhaul the shelter.
Members of Wag n' Walk a volunteer group that hosts an annual parade featuring dog owners and their canines spent about $13,000 on improvements between August and late June.
"We've tried to make the place more user-friendly,' said Pauline Iwata, chairman of this year's Wag n' Walk committee, which has donated $18,000 to the shelter over three years.
When the Grand Jury report was released two weeks ago, the findings were based on a visit back in August. Recommendations in the unflattering evaluation included building a new shelter, toward which very little progress had been made, the report said.
But animal Control Director Jearl Howard responded at the time that the project would take three to five years to complete, that his department has been working with an architect but that little money was available to help.
Nevertheless, volunteers have been working on the shelter since August. Among the improvements are 12 new "cat condominiums," large enough to hold a cat and her kittens, a 40-foot storage unit behind the shelter and a livestock holding pen outside.
Those upgrades cost about $13,000 and were installed between August and late June.
To show off the results of their work, committee members and county animal control officials gathered at the shelter Wednesday for a two-hour open house.
About 30 county residents including county supervisors Tom Tryon, Merita Callaway and Lucy Thein came to see the improvements.
"I think this looks nice," said Nancy Paar of Railroad Flat, who visited the shelter with her family. "They've put in a lot of effort here, and a lot of hours."
"A lot of this was done before the report was issued, and I was disappointed that there was only minor recognition of the work done here," said Howard, also director of agriculture.