Selma council hears overdue animal shelter assessment

Selma’s animal services department focuses on its future, addressing questions and concerns from the city council

Extra kennels sit behind a shed at the Second Chance Animal Shelter in Selma Dec. 12, 2023. The shelter has been over capacity for many months, as it often has more than 100 dogs at one time. (Serena Bettis)
Serena Bettis
Published March 20, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

SELMA – The newly-formed Animal Services Department within the city of Selma is working to put its best foot — or paw — forward as it continues to establish policies and procedures and introduce new programming.

Looking toward the future is what Selma Police Chief Rudy Alcaraz is focused on when it comes to guiding the development of the city’s animal services, he told the Selma City Council on March 18. Per requests from the council and public, Alcaraz and Special Projects Manager Teri Rockhold presented an assessment of the animal shelter facility after the city took it over in January. 

“(Rockhold) is our special projects manager that oversees our Selma Animal Services program, and more importantly, Teri’s expertise is — it’s too much to mention,” Alcaraz said. “But what I’ll say is a large part of Teri being here is not our service today, but what our service will be in 10, in 20, in 30 years, and preparing for that growth and what that service looks like.” 

While animal control has always been under the police chief’s authority, Selma took over operations of all services at the beginning of the year after the city did not renew its contract with nonprofit Second Chance Animal Shelter. 

The city gained access to the shelter facility on Front Street — which Second Chance ran but is leased to the city by CalWater — on Jan. 1, Alcaraz said, and since then animal services, police department and public works staff have worked to clean and update the facility.

During the presentation, Rockhold described the conditions that the city found the facility in and explained what staff did to bring it “up to operational standards.” 

Rockhold said they encountered an “enormous amount” of trash throughout the facility, as well as “an enormous amount of feces accumulation in all the outdoor play yards.” The presentation showed pictures of kennel walls and drains covered in debris, which staff power washed and sprayed with a hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant, Rockhold said. 

City staff gutted the animal intake room, which had insulation soaked with urine from rodents, repaired the roof in the intake room and repainted the office and bathroom walls. Staff also cleaned up the landscaping around the shelter, trimming trees and bushes and repairing the sprinkler system, Rockhold said. 

Alcaraz said the department spent approximately $22,000 on the facility. 

Resident Santiago Oceguera, who spoke on the item, reminded the council that the assessment was supposed to be presented in January, and questioned why the improvements made to the facility did not happen sooner.

“My question is, for God’s sake, where was all this help back then?” Oceguera said. “Didn’t you guys own the building back then? The roof repairs, the road and stuff, all that stuff, where was that before? It seems to me like you were setting them (Second Chance) up to fail.” 

Oceguera and Mayor Scott Robertson said the city should recognize Second Chance for the 10 years of work it did taking care of the city’s animals. 

“A lot of good people provided the foundation for the shelter and we should honor those good people who provided that foundation, and we should honor these people who are carrying on the mission and are doing it in a very professional way,” Robertson said. 

Moving forward

To set the animal services department up for success, Rockhold said the city consulted with Dr. Denae Wagner of the University of California, Davis, to assess and structure the shelter’s animal intake room “to maximize the efficiency and comfort for the animals.” Wagner works as a shelter design consultation veterinarian for UC Davis. 

“Dr. Wagner also advised staff on shelter flow and made suggestions to retro-fit the current kennels that we have,” Rockhold said. 

Programs started by the department so far include an animal enrichment program, free microchipping days for Selma residents and low-cost spay and neuter services.

Rockhold said the department is looking for different funding sources and has so far received two grants — one for $5,000 and one for $10,500 — from UC Davis and California for All Animals, a grant and shelter support network program provided through the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program. 

The shelter is currently focusing on spay and neuter services for owned cats, because “the spring is the time to get ahead of that,” Rockhold said. A next step is to work on a trap and release program for stray cats, which abound in Selma. 

“A handful of people have come in and basically given us locations (of cat populations), just in hearsay, which also is a bit difficult when we don’t have any historical data; we’re creating our own,” Rockhold said. “So targeting these areas of issues, bits, cat problems, running at large, that type of thing, will just come, and then we’ll have to react to that.” 

Rockhold also noted that adoption fees are currently waived and are being subsidized by the city as the animal services team works on addressing and updating the city’s fee schedule.

Alcaraz emphasized to the council that the city is taking a methodical approach to address all animal control issues prevalent in Selma — which are the same issues communities at large are facing. 

“Running a program like this is extremely difficult, there’s no doubt about that, and … rescues as shelters have to make difficult decisions to keep a population that is sustainable, not only for today but to be able to serve animals in the future, cause you just never know how many animals will come in from day to day, so you really always have to have the ability to accept those animals,” Alcaraz said.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter