Most of the animals who go in the shelter are put to death. Animal rescue groups say they could find homes for more of those animals, if the shelter would let them.
Brenda Mitchell heads the Animal Compassion Team. They provide homes and foster care for animals rescued from the shelter. She does it to save their lives.
"The numbers show about 80 per cent of the animals that enter into the shelter die, and that's a really sad thing," Mitchell said.
Until last week Mitchell's group and volunteers from other local animal rescue operations were able to save some of the shelters dogs and cats from death. But the informal arrangements between the SPCA and the rescue groups recently changed when the shelter put new regulations in place.
Becky Holly, who heads the pit bull rescue group called Fresno Bully Rescue says the rules are too restrictive and apparently, nonnegotiable.
"We've asked several times for meetings with the director and others here and have received absolutely no response whatsoever," Holly said.
But the SPCA's Beth Caffrey says the new rules are simply more businesslike.
"The truth is, we appreciate everyone who wants to help animals. What we have to do as a business is we have to work with other legitimate organizations that operate as businesses as well."
The regulations require the groups to be registered nonprofits, which is not a problem for the rescue groups we spoke with. But they do have a problem with requirements they pay for animals they rescue from imminent death and that they provide documentation about who adopts animals from them. They also don't like rules restricting rescue workers from telling members of the public about what happens in the shelter, along with a rule that prohibits them from taking pictures of animals in the shelter.
Brenda Mitchell believes it's an effort to silence their call for a no kill shelter.
"We also believe this is an attempt to hush us and to make us stop educating the community that there is a better way for our animals," Mitchell said.
The SPCA denies that, but the controversy has the shelter under scrutiny. Members of the Fresno City Council and the Fresno County Board of Supervisors are questioning theSPCA's practice of closed meetings .
The city and county provide more than half of the SPCA's 6 million dollar a year budget and there are signs members of the City Council may launch an effort to put an elected official on the SPCA's board, and open their meetings, as a condition of continued public funding.