Fresno County spotlights animal service crisis

Board of Supervisors acknowledges severe challenges facing county’s animal services at latest meeting

(Darren Fraser)
Darren Fraser
Published June 20, 2024  • 
10:00 am

FRESNO COUNTY – While approving an amendment to the county’s agreement with the Fresno Humane Animal Services, the Board of Supervisors addressed some ongoing challenges being faced by the local shelter.

At its June 18, 2024 meeting, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to an agreement with Fresno Humane Animal Services, allowing the organization to continue providing veterinary and other services at the county shelter through Dec. 31, 2025. Despite this, Supervisor Brian Pacheco stated that the county is facing a crisis.

“The animal population is out of control,” said Pacheo, who  pulled the item from the consent agenda because he wanted to go on record with his views. “I think it should be stated publicly we are limited and, sometimes, stuck 100% in receiving animals. That is a problem. Under no circumstances should we be turning people away.”

He added, “It’s not an animal problem; it’s a people problem.”

Chairman Nathan Magsig left little room for doubt as to who is responsible, and for his comments, was more direct.

“Animals are like members of your family; you care for them appropriately,” he said. “If members of the public acted appropriately with their pets, we wouldn’t be in this situation. If the public is responsible, it means the government doesn’t have to get involved in every aspect of our life.”

Magsig pointed out that during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people were confined at home, they flocked to shelters to adopt animals. But now that people are once more out and about, they find they can no longer care for their pets. Some owners, he said, do the lesser of two evils and take their pets to shelters. Other owners find a more expedient way of disposing of them.

“Some of those individuals just let their pets go. Will drive out somewhere and let them go,” he said.

During public comments, one individual said pets have been belittled to the level of trash.

“They get dropped off on the road, along with tires, a refrigerator. You name it. It’s a disaster. If we can be taking care of (forgiving) student loans, we dang well should be taking care of animals. We have to be responsible,” he said.

The county entered into the agreement with Fresno Humane on Jan. 1, 2020. The agreement was supposed to last until Dec. 31, 2029, but the amendment reduced the agreement by four years, with the new end date being Dec. 31, 2025. 

It also reduced the total compensation paid to Fresno Humane by over $7 million. The amendment also provides an additional $500,000 to ensure that money is available to the shelter for services. Had the Board voted against the amendment, the agreement would have been terminated due to the expenses becoming too much for the county to handle.

FROM THE MORGUE TO MORE

The Board signed the original agreement with Fresno Humane Animal Services in October 2019. The agreement designated the organization as the county’s shelter-master and animal control agency. The shelter was responsible for animal care, field service operations, enforcing leash laws, licensing and caring for the welfare of animals placed in the county shelter.

The agreement took effect in January 2020. At that time, the animal control operations were located in the old county morgue on West Nielsen. The new shelter was under construction at West Don Ronquillo Drive. Because the new facility was designed for more capacity, the Fresno County Department of Public Health, which oversees the shelter, projected greater operating costs. The original agreement contained a provision that it would be re-evaluated after a year to adequately compensate Fresno Humane for its services.

Fresno Humane moved into the new shelter in April 2022. The building had a capacity for 194 dogs, which represented a 159% increase over the previous capacity of 75. The new, larger facility required an increase in staff and resources to function optimally.

According to numbers supplied by FCDPH, Fresno Humane’s contract for 2022 maxed out at $1,765,008. Expenses for that year were $2,825,397 – leaving the county over $1 million in the red. The numbers were worse for 2023. The contract maximum was $1,1935,096. Expenses were $3,516,082. Once again, the county wound up in the red for over $1 million.

FCDPH notes that rising costs have gone hand in hand with an increase in the shelter population. In 2022, the shelter took in 5,522 dogs; in 2023, it was 5,786. There has been a drop-off in the number of cats taken in – from 1,997 in 2022 to 1,674 in 2023. This decrease has been slightly offset in an increase in the number of other animals taken in. According to 2024 projections, the shelter expects to take in over 6,000 dogs. The number of cats continues to decline but the number of other animals will reach a three-year high.

Darren Fraser
Reporter