Pet overpopulation in the valley and how one city is becoming a no-kill community

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- For many people in the Central Valley, pets are like family. But one man deals with the dark reality when those pets aren't wanted anymore.

"You're dealing with a lot of scared animals aggressive animals," said Animal Control Officer Jesse Boyce. Three bite scars and ten years with the department Boyce has seen it all. But even after all these years, he said rescuing abandoned dogs doesn't get any easier.

Boyce finds a six-month-old puppy while on a call.

"He's got some ticks going on. Someone's not taking good care of him," he said.

Boyce puts the dog in his trunk and takes him to the Central Valley SPCA. He knows this puppy's days could be numbered. That's because from July 2014 to 2015, roughly 26,000 animals were brought to the CCSPCA. About 18,000 were killed.

For most dogs who make it to the shelter, there's a one week period where they're kept in pens. Four days for an owner to reclaim their animal, then another three days until they are either put down or moved to the crowded adoption floor.

"If we don't have the space then most likely they'll be euthanized," said CCSPCA Spokesperson Walter Salvari.

On the day Action News visited the shelter, workers euthanized 26 dogs.

"Stray animals don't really make it out because we have so many that come through," Salvari said.

A huge factor for their high kill rate is the temperate climate explained Salvari. Stray dogs and cats can breed year-round, unlike colder, wetter or hotter cities across the country. A lot of people don't spay and neuter their pets which causes an overabundance of puppies and kittens. Many of whom end up as older dogs on death row.

"For our staff to see these animals come through here wait three to five days and then have an outcome which may be euthanasia it's tough," Salvari said.

The CCSPCA works with many rescues to move animals to no-kill facilities. From July 2014 to 2015, they transferred about 1500 animals. But Salvari admits it's not nearly enough to make a true dent in the depressing statistics.

"It's a community issue the community needs to get together and start doing something about this because it's not going to change if we don't address it soon," he said.

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The problems facing Fresno?s animal pound aren't unique to the region. The city of Los Angeles experiences it on a much bigger scale.

The problems facing Fresno's animal pound aren't unique to the region. The city of Los Angeles experiences it on a much bigger scale.

"Los Angeles city had over 56,000 animals coming in four years ago and killing almost half of them," said Marc Peralta.

Peralta is the executive director of Best Friends Animal Society that's working to make LA a no-kill community.

Today in Los Angeles nearly 80% of impounded animals make it out alive. It started with an initiative called No Kill Los Angeles spearheaded by Peralta.

"Everybody was saying the same thing that I'm hearing you're saying about Fresno. It's impossible, we don't have the funding. But there's a lot of people in the community that want it if they are aware of the situation," said Peralta.

Their aggressive campaign calls for the city to be no kill by 2017. 114 rescue groups partner with the city shelter. Dogs are sent to rescues where there's room-- and if not, they are sent out of the state. Peralta said the organizations make it very easy for people adopt, spay and neuter. With low fees and late hour, the shelters are easier for people to access. They also make it easy for volunteers to give, not only money but their time.

"Fresno needs to believe that you can be no kill and I tell you if Los Angeles can be no kill Fresno can do it too," said Peralta.

Following the footsteps of coalitions like NKLA -- is a group that's drastically reduced their kill rate. Fresno Humane Animal Services is the shelter for Fresno County.

Shelter manager Tracy Crutchfield explained, "We're really trying to embrace some of the progressive sheltering strategies instead of just doing what's always been done before."

Since Fresno Humane took over the county's animal control contract last year, the euthanasia rate in the county plummeted to almost 1 in 10. It's largely in part to their transfer program. Last year 80% were moved to other rescues and humane societies. Fresno Humane isn't completely no kill yet, though they hope to be in the future.

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