The Collegian

11/22/04 • Vol. 129, No. 39

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International Thanksgiving

SPCA employees say animals aren't promised a home

SPCA employees say animals aren't promised a home

Workers say the number of euthanized are too high


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 aren’t adopted.

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 said.

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 remains healthy.

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 rescued.

“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 the job.

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,” Hodges said.

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.”