Selma residents howl opposition to Fowler animal services contract

Resident frustration over Selma animal services continues as Selma City Council narrowly votes to provide shelter services to Fowler

(Serena Bettis)
Serena Bettis
Published July 7, 2024  • 
9:00 am

SELMA – Six months after forming a city-run department, Selma is slowly reinstating animal services once offered by nonprofit Second Chance Animal Shelter — except, residents say, regularly responding to calls about stray pets in the city itself.

On a 3-2 vote, the Selma City Council approved an agreement with the city of Fowler for animal sheltering services at its July 1 meeting; Mayor Scott Robertson and Councilmember Sarah Guerra voted against the contract. Robertson, Guerra and multiple residents opposed the contract because they want the city to put more focus on animal control operations, a concern that also came up when the city contracted with Kingsburg.

“I just think that we really need to focus on taking care of our own backyard before we can really take on other cities,” Guerra said. “I get it, we took on Kingsburg, … but the fact that we see animals running all over the place, it’s not a good sight … and we really need to take care of our own city before we can take on other cities.”

Robertson pulled the contract from the consent calendar, which allowed for discussion and a separate vote on the item. He and Guerra, who in December voted against ending the city’s contract with Second Chance, said they want the city to get “more of a handle” on its own animal services before entering into these contracts. 

Residents who spoke on the item said they often have a hard time getting ahold of the shelter even during its operating hours, which they also took issue with. The shelter is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, which residents said leaves them hanging when they encounter stray dogs after hours and don’t want to just leave them in the streets, especially when the temperature reaches more than 100 degrees.

Nidya Juarez, who works with Second Chance, said she receives calls from other residents about stray dogs that she has then gone out to find and reunite with their owners because no one from the city’s animal shelter has been around reachable. 

“Second Chance Animal Shelter provided services seven days a week, and was on-call after hours, for 13 years,” Juarez said. “So why is it that when the city of Selma took over services, we can’t get the same service? We’re paying well over $500,000 a year for salaries for our new shelter, and their excuse was, ‘we’re going to provide better services to the city of Selma,’ yet I’m not seeing that.”

City Manager Fernando Santillan has said in the past that contracting with other cities in the area is beneficial for Selma because it provides an additional revenue source for the shelter and can help the shelter qualify for grant funding. Additionally, the city is trying to take on a big-picture approach to animal services, which includes providing services on a regional level rather than being isolated to the Selma city limits. For many small cities, it is more cost-effective to partner up on these kinds of services.

According to the contract with Fowler, Selma will provide animal shelter services including basic and emergency care, quarantine holds and grooming, along with basic training to Fowler personnel and six community events for a one-year term. Selma will charge a fixed amount of $18,000, billed quarterly. 

A report prepared by city staff said Fowler paid Second Chance $12,000 annually when it contracted with the nonprofit. Based on the size of Fowler and the fact that the city does not place as much of an emphasis on picking up strays as Kingsburg does, for example, Selma city staff said they feel that $18,000 will be sufficient. 

Santillan said the amount was determined based on the costs associated with caring for the animals and an estimate of how many animals from Fowler the city will take in over the course of a year. Selma will receive the same amount of money from Fowler each quarter regardless of how many animals it shelters, Santillan said. 

This differs from agreements between other cities in the region. For example, in Tulare County, Dinuba, contracts with Visalia for animal sheltering services. The city of Dinuba pays Visalia a fixed amount for a certain number of animals; if they go over that, they pay for the additional costs associated with caring for each animal. 

Selma city staff have said they have limited historical data from the 10 years when Second Chance ran the shelter, making it difficult to project exactly how many animals per year they are likely to take in from both Fowler and Kingsburg. With this in mind, there is an understanding that, if the contracts are renewed, the pricing could change if Selma shelters more animals than initially anticipated. 

The contract stipulates that Fowler must have city ordinances relating to animal control that are consistent with Selma’s ordinances, such as a regulation that outlines the length of time the shelter will hold a stray pet. Selma will not provide animal control services to Fowler.

Similar to the contract with Kingsburg, the cities will reevaluate the terms, including costs associated with the services provided, at least three months before the contract is set to expire.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter