While its neighbors struggle to solve their animal control problems, Clovis is building a state-of-the-art shelter that will house stray dogs and cats and give new meaning to pet adoption and care.
It helps that a millionaire took an interest in the project. But people pushing for the new shelter say it took a community effort to get it going.
The Miss Winkles Pet Adoption Center got a jump start two years ago when retired Pelco owner David McDonald donated $2 million in honor of his dog who died after being bitten by a snake.
Since then, many others have pitched in to build the $4.5 million shelter at Sierra and Temperance avenues. It will replace an old, cramped one at Letterman Park on Villa Avenue, north of Barstow Avenue.
Among the donors are Friends of the Clovis Adoption Center, which has pledged $1 million toward the 14,000-square-foot shelter, and the family of Michael Lozito, who donated $50,000 so stray cats can have a large room to relax in.
The donations will help pay for such features as an open courtyard, two dozen dog runs and a high-tech ventilation system to eliminate odors -- to address a main complaint from some neighbors, city engineer Steve White said.
The shelter also will have McDonald's personal touch -- three "doggie in the window" displays -- to entice would-be adoptive families.
Tough times for shelters
The shelter is being built as Fresno and Fresno County struggle with animal control. Earlier this year, the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made headlines when it announced it wanted to sever longtime ties with Fresno and Fresno County.
Fresno decided to continue its uneasy relationship with the SPCA. Fresno County severed its ties with the SPCA and hired Liberty Animal Control to shelter abandoned animals at the old county morgue.
Clovis doesn't have those problems. It has its own animal services. But Clovis officials said their city does have a budget that's as tight as its neighbors'.
"Everyone knows we can't do it alone," said George Rodriguez, a Clovis police services manager. "That's why we couldn't do this project without community support. It's pretty incredible."
Rodriguez said Betty Cochran, an animal services supervisor, deserves extra credit. For five years, she has worked on a plan to care for the 4,000 abandoned animals the city picks up each year.
The city's big break came when it learned that McDonald wanted to make a donation to memorialize Miss Winkles, a West Highland terrier. City officials invited him to tour the animal shelter at Letterman Park. "He was really impressed with the way Betty took care of the animals," Rodriguez said.
McDonald's spokeswoman said he didn't want to be interviewed for this story.
Cochran, who has a degree in animal science from Fresno State, said she and a staffer toured 10 animal shelters in California to find the right design for Clovis. The city then hired architect George Miers, who has designed more than 30 animal shelters in North America.
Miers said a key feature of the Clovis shelter is the plumbing. Clovis spared no expense to ensure the animals and shelter remain clean and disease-free, he said.
Planning for new site
The shelter was originally planned for Letterman Park. But a city inspection found that the site would need new dirt to properly drain, White told the City Council in September 2010.
A year later, the council approved the construction of the shelter at Sierra and Temperance avenues, despite opposition from some neighbors who feared the shelter would ruin the neighborhood's tranquillity. To quell the concerns, the council also approved a 15-acre park -- Sierra Meadows -- just north of the shelter.
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