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Supervisors OK plan for animal shelter to move forward, despite neighbors’ concerns

Fresno County animal shelter operator cuts euthanasia rate

Fresno Humane Animal Services has cut euthanasia rates since taking over animal control operations for Fresno County a year ago. Dogs and cats are dying far less frequently and leaving much faster than ever before for faraway new homes in places l
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Fresno Humane Animal Services has cut euthanasia rates since taking over animal control operations for Fresno County a year ago. Dogs and cats are dying far less frequently and leaving much faster than ever before for faraway new homes in places l

Despite concerns from residents, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the rezoning of 4-acre piece of land in northwest Fresno for a proposed animal shelter.

Project developer Derrel Ridenour, owner of Derrel’s Mini-Storage, was relieved the project could move forward. Ridenour has pumped $3 million and donated 4 acres on Grantland Avenue near Parkway and Tenaya avenues for a new shelter to be operated by Fresno Humane Animal Services.

A longtime advocate for animals, Ridenour was overcome with emotion when talking about the project.

“We are trying to build something for all of Fresno County,” he said in the hallway of the Fresno County Hall of Records. “It has been a long road, and we are so glad we can move forward. This will be a beautiful facility.”

Neighbors complained that the shelter would increase traffic, create an odor problem and be a nuisance because of barking dogs. Resident John Lourenco worried about the potential for animals being dropped off after hours. He said the dogs could roam the neighborhood, creating a danger for students at nearby Herndon-Barstow Elementary.

“The animals will likely head to the school to find food and shelter,” he said.

More than 100 people, for and against the shelter, attended Tuesday’s supervisors meeting. The property is zoned rural residential and needs to be changed to light manufacturing before it can move forward.

Supervisor Brian Pacheco, who represents the area, said he had hard time making a decision, but in the end he said Ridenour made enough changes to the project to deal with the neighbors’ concerns.

“A majority of people’s concerns are based on the the unknown, and only time will tell if our decision was right,” Pacheco said.

Before the vote, Ridenour had agreed to several changes to the project, including building a cement block wall on the southside of the property and creating an abandoned dog policy; it also will not operate an animal hospital and will not take in large animals.

Ridenour still has several hoops to jump through including a review of the project’s site plan. If everything falls into place, Ridenour expects construction to being by the first quarter of 2019. He estimates it will take 10 months to build the shelter that will have a sophisticated heating and air conditioning system to mitigate any odor from the building.

Brenda Mitchell, board president of Fresno Humane Animal Services, was pleased with the vote.

“We have been fighting this for a very long time, and we can finally move forward,” she said. “It’s a big relief.”

Mitchell’s organization currently operates an animal shelter for the county in the parking lot of what used to be the county’s morgue.

She said she was saddened but not surprised by the neighbors’ reaction to the shelter, saying that in time they may change their minds.

“Our goal is to make every one happy. We want to be part of this neighborhood and part of the community,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully they will see it as a valuable thing.”

That remains to be seen. In the meantime, neighbors have not ruled out the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the county. John Kinsey, an attorney hired by the neighbors, said legal action is seriously being considered. Kinsey said he does not believe the county did a thorough environmental review of the project.

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