President of volunteers Denise Fleck

President of volunteers Denise Fleck plays with Mojo in the new pet play area that has new concrete, a blue tarp cover and new paint at the Burbank Animal Shelter at the shelter in Burbank on Thursday, July 21, 2011. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

A year ago, the Warner Bros. facilities department was looking for a pet project to give back to the community. The Burbank Animal Shelter fit the bill.

“We went over with them all the things we needed, and they were able to do a lot,” said Denise Fleck, president of the Volunteers of the Burbank Animal Shelter.

One of the major improvements the studio department made, Fleck said, was pouring a concrete slab in the dogs’ play area and covering the area with a shade cloth. The space is also used for meet-and-greets when family members and their dogs are introduced to a prospective pet.

The 1,100-square-foot area remained unused for several months after Parvovirus was discovered in the soil. Now shelter staff can clean the concrete with bleach, something you can’t do with dirt, Fleck said.

Another update the facilities department made was adding shelving on a wall in the lobby and a flat-screen TV monitor that flashes information like adoption rates. Prior to the flat screen, adoption rates and other shelter information were displayed on a magnetic board the staff had to manually change.

“Warner Bros. moved us into the 21st century,” Fleck said.

The studio’s facilities department chose to partner with the Volunteers of the Burbank Animal Shelter because department officials had heard from fellow employees about what a dedicated group it is, said Jon Gilbert, president of the department.

“Many of us are animal lovers who feel for the plight of abandoned pets, especially during times of economic hardship when many pets have been separated from their owners,” he said.

The facilities department oversees the operations of the main Burbank studio and the Burbank Ranch, including its production and post-production departments. It has made about $40,000 worth of improvements to the shelter, he said. Several studio vendors, such as California Paving, also contributed at the department’s request.

Facilities employees installed electrical access for an X-ray machine donated by the Feline Conservation Center in Rosamond, Calif. They also replaced a metal roof with a canvas shade cover and added a row of mist machines over the cages in the rabbit compound.

They provided shelving for the shelter’s laundry room to store towels and blankets and a backdrop for the shelter’s “Adopt-a-Pet Show” that is taped at the shelter and broadcast on Burbank’s cable Channel 6. The backdrop is a picture of Johnny Carson Park on one side and a living room setting on the other, Fleck said.

Warner employees painted the walls of the hallway leading to the kennels in the next building. A sign tells visitors to follow the white paw prints to check out the animals waiting for adoption.

Both walls are decorated with educational materials, such as a chart describing the breeds of dogs. Shelter employees work with owners on choosing the dog that would work best with their lifestyle and housing accommodations.

“So if a family wants to adopt a Jack Russell terrier and they live in an apartment, we educate them that their choice is known to dig and is better suited for a home with access to the outdoors,” Fleck said.

Shelter volunteers attend community events and give talks at local libraries, Fleck said, to educate the public about animals’ needs, encourage donations and build community partnerships.

“Securing community partnerships allows us to put donor dollars directly to the animals’ medical needs and adoption services,” Fleck said.

Fleck wants to partner with local veterinarians and the L.A. Zoo in hopes of acquiring secondhand diagnostic equipment, like the X-ray machine, she said.

Having the technology at the shelter allows quicker response to injuries, she said, speeding up the recovery time and quicker home placement.

The gifts from the Warner Bros. facilities department have inspired staff and volunteers, said Brenda Castaneda, animal shelter superintendent.

“They have not only provided things we need, but have instilled a renewed pride in the facility and inspired staff and volunteers to continue to beautify the shelter,” she said.

The physical changes also boost the shelter’s credibility in the eyes of the public, Fleck added.

“If people see a well-maintained facility, they say ‘I want to adopt a pet here,’ and they do,” she said.