Debate over Fresno animal control continues

FRESNO, Calif.

At a task force meeting Friday morning, city and county leaders said they're close to finalizing a contract with a group that will take over animal control services, but they're no longer considering the former Fresno County morgue as the site of a temporary facility.

Animal advocates and rescue organizations filled a room at Fresno City Hall during the Friday morning meeting. They fear cats will be on the losing end of the city and county's new animal control plan. "We probably have 50 calls a day- people who need to surrender their animals and the majority of them are cats. So it's an issue that needs to be addressed," said Kelly Joos, the executive director of Valley Animal Center, the largest of Fresno's no-kill shelters.

Liberty Animal Control Services is prepared to take over animal control services for the city and county. But with a deadline looming, the immediate focus will be on state-mandated services. Those include veterinary care for injured animals and picking up vicious and stray dogs... not cats. Still, a Liberty representative said the felines won't be ignored. "This is difficult because there are services you have to provide and services you need to provide. And we're working to get to that point when we can provide all the services," said Michelle Shanley with Liberty Animal Control Services.

City and county leaders say they're working with U.C. Davis to determine how to best handle the cat population. Those services may be provided by Liberty or other organizations. "We know there are concerns about cats, but as we've said, if we continue to do what we've done with cats, that's not effective," said Fresno Assistant Manager Bruce Rudd.

"If someone presents a cat at the new facility, I don't think anyone is going to turn them away. But I think what we're saying is we're going to provide the bare minimum of services as a building block and add more services as we go," said Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea.

Liberty operations would center at a yet-to-be disclosed facility owned by the city or county. Rudd said the shelter would not be at the old Fresno County morgue or another site discussed last week. While the location remains a secret for now, a source at city hall old Action News plans include putting the facility at Fresno's Wastewater treatment plant.

A representative from U.C. Davis was in Fresno Friday to consult with city and county officials and tour the site of the facility. We're told negotiations with liberty include a three year contract for about $3.2 million annually. That's the same amount currently paid to the SPCA.

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