SPCA employees say animals aren't promised a home
Workers say the number of euthanized are too high
By CINDY GONZALES
Cats and dogs taken to the Fresno County SPCA are given a second chance
at a better life if they find a new home, but it’s a gamble.
SPCA kennel supervisor Tim Mitchell said animals adopted have chips
implanted to keep track of them. Photo by Cole Davis
What’s guaranteed is that the animals will be euthanized if they
Lea Mitchem, SPCA human education coordinator, said the number of animals
taken in to the shelter and euthanized each year is “so horrifying
that the shelter no longer releases the numbers to the public.”
“Most people looking at the numbers are shocked,” Mitchem
said. “They know about overpopulation but can’t comprehend
what happens to the animals.”
The SPCA is the only animal shelter in Fresno that accepts stray and owner-abandoned
cats and dogs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Fresno State alumnus Clay Bishop adopted Saxon, his terrier/dachsund mixed
dog form the SPCA six years ago. Bishop said he had been interested in
a pet, but the thought of buying a purebred dog never crossed his mind.
“I knew the overpopulation rate was out of control,” Bishop
said. He said he knew he made the right decision when he saw Saxon, a.k.a.
Pooter, sitting in a kennel looking up at him.
Angelica Gonzalez, an SPCA kennel worker, has only worked at the shelter
for a year but said she is a “softie” for all cats and dogs.
“It breaks my heart when they don’t get adopted,” Gonzalez
Gonzalez said young families adopt the most animals, followed by elderly
people. She said she understands that pets provide a lot of companionship
for the young and the old and thinks adopting from the SPCA is the best
way to get a pet.
Gonzalez said the shelter is able to place about 10 to 20 animals in homes
every weekday and 20 to 40 animals on Saturday and Sunday.
If a cat or dog is taken to the shelter as an “owner animal,”
it is held for one full day in case the owners change their minds; if
not, the animal is placed in the adoption kennels. Once the animal is
in the kennel, it is available until it is adopted or for as long as it
Stray animals taken to the shelter are held for one full day by state
law. The animal is then held for five days and on the sixth day is placed
in the adoption kennel for one day. If the animal is not adopted, it is
euthanized unless a shelter worker thinks the animal has the potential
to be adopted. If the animal has potential, it is held for a few more
days then euthanized if it is not adopted.
A high population of stray animals is what causes the adoption time to
be only one day in most cases.
Mitchem said the number of stray animals causes the available adoption
time to be much less because there are so many more animals to be placed
in the adoption kennels before they are euthanized.
Steven Good, SPCA office manager, said the shelter works with several
private rescue kennels throughout the state to help place each animal,
but only 37,000 to 41,000 cats and dogs get adopted each year through
the Fresno SPCA. A trained kennel worker euthanizes the animals that aren’t
“The shelter does everything it can to find homes for every cat
and dog that gets brought in,” Good said. “The truth is most
animals don’t find homes.”
To contain the overpopulation of animals in the United States, Good said,
each person would have to adopt 15 dogs and 45 cats in his or her lifetime.
If saving an animal requires that Good take it home, he has done that
twice. He adopted two small terrier mixes from the shelter after his mastiff
and golden retriever died. Good said getting attached to a cat or dog
available for adoption is a natural thing but also the hardest part of
Mellisa Hodges, an SPCA front desk receptionist, has adopted four dogs
and one cat.
Hodges has volunteered at the shelter since she was 8 years old and has
been a staff member for more than a year. She said the day Ginger, one
of her favorite dogs, was adopted after being at the shelter for a few
months, she was very happy.
Hodges said she had decided that if Ginger was going to get euthanized
she was going to adopt the labrador/sheperd mix. She said when Ginger
was adopted and her new owner was walking her out of the kennel, she hugged
the dog then went in the bathroom and cried.
“When you see an animal rescued, it’s the best feeling,”
The Fresno SPCA requires all animals that leave the shelter to be neutered
or spayed and this is included in the adoption price of the animal. The
base price for a spayed or neutered cat with shots is $30. The base price
for a spayed or neutered dog with shots is $49. An additional micro chip
will be implanted in the animal for tracking purposes if they are lost
for $27. All operations require one day.
Alex Gonzales, an SPCA kennel worker, said he hopes each animal will find
a home but knows most of them never leave the shelter alive. Gonzales
works the graveyard shift and is alone with the animals most of the night.
He said when he gets to work, he’ll check the cages to see if his
favorite animals were adopted during the day.
Gonzales said he doesn’t think everyone knows what a big problem
cat and dog overpopulation is in Fresno County. He said the SPCA accepts
animals because the shelter doesn’t want the animals to be abandoned.
“People are always amazed that there are so many adoptions,”
Gonzales said. “They don’t see how many animals aren’t
adopted and get destroyed.”
Mitchem said the number of adoptions may seem high but it is because the
Fresno SPCA is open everyday. She said the shelter is able to stay open
because more than 100 volunteers help with office duties, pet grooming,
kennel cleaning and the large outreach programs that found homes for 89
animals during the Big Fresno Fair this year.
The SPCA is the busiest shelter in the county because Not So Purrfect
and the Clovis Animal Shelter, the other two county shelters, are not
open to accept animals everyday.
“Cats and dogs can reproduce every 52 days,” Mitchem said.
“We will never control this population if pets aren’t spayed
of neutered. Most will be euthanized.”
Mitchem said it’s the people who want to rescue the animals who
make the most difference. She said they get a healthy pet and save the
life of an innocent animal.
“Animals give unconditional love,” Mitchem said. “They
never put limits on how much they love you.”