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Sasha Boyko walks a dog at the Dona Spring Animal Shelter in Berkeley on Monday Dec. 3, 2012. The new $12 million building at Aquatic Park opened in early November after 10 years of planning. (Doug Oakley/Staff)

BERKELEY -- Ten years after voters here approved a $7.2 million property tax bond measure for a new animal shelter, the new building is open at Aquatic Park with more space, less noise and happier animals.

The Dona Spring Animal Shelter, nestled in a corner between Interstate 80 and the University Avenue overpass, is named after the former City Councilwoman who died in 2008. The 12,000-square-foot, two-story shelter cost $12 million with the city kicking in an extra $5 million over what taxpayers approved.

"It's brilliant, it's very exciting," said Berkeley Animal Services Manager Kate O'Connor, who added that Crate & Barrel donated $25,000 worth of furniture for the new building.

The new building is big, bright and airy and much quieter than the dingy cement block one on Second Street the city vacated earlier this month. Dogs are already in better health because individual kennels sealed off from one another make it less noisy, O'Connor said.

The new building also has indoor cat homes and both dog and cat areas have individual heating and cooling systems to cut down on disease transmission, O'Connor said. Even better are isolation kennels for sick animals which further cut down on disease transmission.

The best part of the new building, O'Connor said, aside from the new volunteer room, a new meeting room and new staff offices, is an on-site pet hospital.

"We were contracting out all our medical services and that cost about $180,000 a year," O'Connor said. "We'll still spend money on it because we hired a part-time vet and a full-time vet technician, but we won't have to constantly transport animals."

Jill Posener, an activist who wrote the bond language that funded the new shelter and participated in the search for a site, said the project took 10 years because of city politics, fighting over where it would go and her quest for the best possible facility.

"It's been a difficult process," Posener said. "I have mixed feelings because we didn't get the site we could have."

An original plan to partner with the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society to build a shelter on their land at Ninth and Carleton streets fell through after a fight over whether to ask artists to leave a building they were renting, she said.

A second plan to have the building near Ashby Avenue next to the Urban Ore site fell apart because Posener said she opposed sharing the place with the fire department and the city clerk's office.

"Our bond campaign in 2002 was that the old site was dirty, dark and dangerous and the city should be ashamed," she said.

"Is this place perfect? No," Posener said. "But it is a better building, and we worked damn hard on it."

Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.