SPCA confirms end of animal control services for Fresno County
The Central California Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will end animal control contracts with the city of Fresno and Fresno County on Oct. 1 as previously announced, shelter officials said Tuesday.
The county and city had sought a three-month extension, but SPCA executive director Linda Van Kirk said that would delay the nonprofit from moving out of the animal control business — corralling strays, overseeing licensing and public safety and tracking animal bites.
Van Kirk said the SPCA will focus more on low-cost spaying and neutering, education and pet adoption — its traditional mission.
“Animal control is a government service,” she said. “We have not been sufficiently funded, and we subsidize animal control services with our donor funds.”
SPCA officials estimate they used more than $1 million of their own funds each year to cover animal control costs. The city and county pay the SPCA about $3.2 million under their contracts; the SPCA’s annual costs totaled about $4.5 million, said Vivian Vidoli, the SPCA’s board president.
Now the city and county will need to find a way to handle animal control beginning in October.
Dave Pomaville, Fresno County’s environmental health director, said the county can undertake licensing and tracking animal bites to comply with state law.
But other animal control services would have to be contracted out. Only one proposal, from Clovis veterinarian Charles Wilkins, was submitted this summer when the city and county asked for bids.
One possibility being considered is to stop picking up stray animals, and only to pick up those that are sick, injured or dead, city and county officials say.
The SPCA decided in March to end animal control contracts after criticism by animal rescue groups and some city and county officials of its practices, euthanasia rates and lack of transparency. In the meantime, a city and county committee has tried to find solutions, a replacement and a contract extension.
Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier, who headed the committee, said the SPCA’s announcement came as local officials hoped for at least a temporary resolution.
He said the SPCA made “no effort to inform city and county officials other than through a letter sent by certified mail” on Tuesday.
An agreement for an extension was in the works, said Bruce Rudd, Fresno’s assistant city manager. City and county officials had said they would pay the SPCA’s costs for the extension period. So he, too, was surprised by the SPCA’s announcement.
“To say we are disappointed is an understatement considering how hard we have been working to put this thing together,” Rudd said.
The city hired the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program to improve the relationship between the SPCA, local rescues and government agencies and design a shelter that would be used after the contract with the SPCA ends.
That time is coming sooner than city and county officials expected.
“I thought we were looking at continuing some kind of relationship with the SPCA,” Rudd said. “We felt we were at a point where we could have a constructive discussion.”
But Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea said he didn’t think an agreement could be reached.
“I never expected an extension from the SPCA and instead focused on both city and county staff doing what is necessary to be operational by the drop dead date,” he said. “That is still my expectation.”
For the long term, Perea and Derrel Ridenour, who runs Derrel’s mini-storage and funded the HOPE Animal Foundation, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in northwest Fresno, are pushing for a tax measure to help fund animal care.
With the county and city taking on animal control tasks, there will be far fewer animals coming into the SPCA’s southwest Fresno shelter. The shelter took in more than 40,000 animals last year — 32,000 strays and 8,000 owner-surrendered animals. The SPCA will accept owner surrenders and continue to conduct investigations of animal abuse.
Owner-surrender animals often are eligible for adoption and foster care, SPCA officials said.
Van Kirk said no healthy adoptable animals will be euthanized under SPCA’s new arrangement.
By Marc Benjamin