Renderings of the Happy Dog Project from Quezada Architecture.

A new dog rescue in Santa Monica will offer visitors the opportunity to meet potential pets outside of a typical shelter environment.

The Happy Dog Project, a nonprofit organization founded by Santa Monica resident Barbara Hecht, has filed an application to build a rescue across the street from the city of Santa Monica’s animal shelter at 1639-1649 9th St. Hecht said the facility will allow patrons to interact with rescue dogs in lounges and a cafe.

“Our model is not at all that of a traditional shelter or kennel,” Hecht said. “The main feature of this state-of-the-art facility will be home-style living areas that allow dogs and people to interact and socialize in relaxed settings.”

Hecht said her organization aims to find homes for dogs who might be overlooked in typical shelter settings.

“Today, the experience of walking into a county shelter is one that many individuals and families find too overwhelming,” she said. “The constant barking, overpowering odors and terrified-looking dogs is too much for many people, so they opt to buy dogs from breeders.”

Hecht said socialized dogs will be cage-free during the day and split into three to four lounges based on their size, age and temperament. Veterinarians and full-time professional trainers will prepare the dogs for adoption, she added.

“Our goal is to have every dog socialized, and at least partially house and obedience-trained before adoption,” she said.

Hecht said the dogs will also be crate-trained.

“They will have their own crates where they will be at night and for periods of downtime throughout the day,” she said. “They will be adopted with their crate to create the smoothest transition to their new home as possible.”

The Planning Commission will review the Happy Dog Project’s construction plans at its Nov. 6 meeting. The nonprofit has submitted plans to a build a two-story, 13,000 square feet building to replace a one-story warehouse between Olympic Boulevard and Colorado Avenue, just east of Lincoln Boulevard.

Cynthia Lauren, chair of the board of directors of Friends of the Santa Monica Animal Shelter, said she thinks the Happy Dog Project opening across the city shelter will raise awareness of both organizations. But the facilities have distinct missions, she added.

“We have similar goals, but radically different approaches,” Lauren said. “Animals from rescues can be expensive because they provide more rehabilitation, veterinary services and grooming. Shelters offer animals at very low adoption fees. If a rescue and a shelter are right across the street from each other, it gives people more options.”

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