The former Fresno County Coroners office is where the county used to bring the bodies of dead people. Over the next three weeks it will be transformed into a temporary animal shelter. The plan is to put kennels in the parking lot, and cover it all with a tent. For the most part, it will be a place for dogs only.
The first choice for an animal control facility was the former Elkhorn Boot Camp, south of Fresno. But the county's legal advisers said there were zoning issues that could take months to overcome.
Fresno County Supervisor Debbie Poochigian pushed to use it anyway. "But this is an emergency. I don't know how else we could categorize this."
But with the SPCA ending it's animal control contract with the city and county on October 1st, a majority of the board felt there was no time to fight legal issues, and agreed the former coroners facility would have to be used. Temporary kennels will be placed in the parking lot, under a tent. The city and county would provide the bare minimum animal control required by state law.
Adoption would be handled by animal rescue groups. "We are going to work with the local animal rescue agencies to see if they can house the animal and place it into a permanent home," said David Pommeville with the Fresno County Health Department.
Since it's not required under state law, cats would not be picked up. New studies show stray cats are better off left alone.
But that raised concerns for some. "If we are not going to do anything about cats , seems like we're going to be creating a bigger problem," said Fresno County Supervisor Susan Anderson.
Half of the nearly 50 thousand animals taken in every year are cats. Cutting them out saves money for the city and the county. "There might be enough money saved by not having to deal with as many cats, or restructuring to deal with that population, that we may have the ability to lease or build a facility without any more increase in our budgets than we already are incurring," said Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd.
While the city and county are now in a mad dash to deal with strays, they also hope to launch an education campaign to educate pet owners.
The City of Fresno is taking the lead in getting the equipment and personnel in place. Bruce Rudd says a deal with a private company, Liberty Animal Services, to take over animal control is almost complete and will go before the Fresno City Council and Fresno County Board of Supervisors for their approval next week.