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Fresno Animal Group Has Plan To Make County Shelter 'No-Kill'

Fresno County has a huge animal overpopulation problem. Very soon, the county could have a new animal control shelter and a new company running it. That group, The Animal Compassion Team, has been one of the biggest critics of the county’s animal kill rate.

Now, they says they have a plan to euthanize fewer animals.

"it's sad on one level to say we are still in the parking lot of the morgue but that is where we are at," Supervisor Henry Perea

At the Animal Compassion Team’s south Fresno shelter dogs bark and jump in a pen.

The group, which currently runs a no kill shelter, is likely to win the contract to take over animal control for the entire county later this year.

“The need came up and we decided we couldn’t put it off any more. So we put together a proposal and here we are today,”

That’s Brenda Mitchell who runs the Animal Compassion Team.

She has been working for several years to get her no-kill shelter on its feet and be in position to provide animal control if the opportunity came up.

A key difference between the two shelters is that the county facility will continue to euthanize animals.

Mitchell thinks the kill rate at the existing shelter is too high and that over time, and with a new building, Fresno could become a ‘no kill’ county.

Brenda Mitchell, ACT president

“Obviously, it is going to be educating our community and slowing the number of animals coming into our facility. Because at the end of the day that is how you get no-kill numbers is you have got to lower the number of animals coming into your doors that need help,” Mitchell said.

But she acknowledges that they won’t be able to stop euthanizing the animals right away and killings will continue even if ACT is awarded the contract when the supervisors’ vote later this month.

“it’s sad on one level to say we are still in the parking lot of the morgue but that is where we are at,”

County Supervisor Henry Perea has been at the forefront of the struggle to care for the sick, injured or abandoned animals and finding a permanent home for a new shelter.

For years, the Central California SPCA had handled animal control.

"Every single day you start out with one simply goal. And that is; we are not going to kill anything today," Brenda Mitchell

A conflict in 2012 between the county and the SPCA forced the county to scramble to find another vendor.

But earlier this year that company went bankrupt and the County is again in the position of hurrying to find another group to take over.

Perea thinks the location and a lack of a permanent shelter played a role in the company’s bankruptcy.

“I have to say. I think the fact we had them in the parking lot for so many years probably created a lot of the issues they had. It is a very tough thing to take care of sick and injured animals when your resources are minimal,” Perea said.

ACT has been given the early approval but the supervisors still need to cast a final vote on the contract.

Perea says the county intends to work closely with ACT on the design and construction of a new shelter.

“We have about a 12-million dollar windfall from the state of California and we are going to have to decide where we spend that money. And on that list is an animal control shelter. I am looking to get about 2-to-4-million dollars for that,” Perea said.

The county is still deciding where to put the facility.

It could be placed on property currently owned by the County in southwest Fresno and a local storage company has also offered to donate land in Northwest Fresno.

Perea says the rescue community will need to show some patience with the building process and not expect the county to be ‘no-kill’ overnight.

“There is a lot of passion out there and they want things done yesterday. And when ACT comes in, and what I want to make sure they understand it, yes hopefully you are going to be working even more closely with the rescue community. But you have to understand that you are going to be pushing that button too on animals that just aren’t going to make it,” Perea said.

Supervisor Perea says in a perfect world the shelter could be open within the next two years.

Back ACT, Brenda Mitchell says she knows the process will take time but a well-designed facility that is inviting to people and humane to the animals can make it as easy as possible to save lives.

“It is our ultimate goal. Every area can accomplish no kill. They just have to put every foot forward and they have to do their very best. Our personal goal to start off with, and we understand the challenges more than most. Every single day you start out with one simply goal. And that is; we are not going to kill anything today,” Mitchells said.

Currently, there is no firm timeline on when or if the county will break ground on a new shelter.

Jeffrey Hess is a reporter and Morning Edition news host for Valley Public Radio. Jeffrey was born and raised in a small town in rural southeast Ohio. After graduating from Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio with a communications degree, Jeffrey embarked on a radio career. After brief stops at stations in Ohio and Texas, and not so brief stops in Florida and Mississippi, Jeffrey and his new wife Shivon are happy to be part Valley Public Radio.