Thieves apparently broke into the only van used by the Valley Animal Center to rescue animals from kill shelters.
Gas was siphoned out of the center’s only rescue van as well as from a tank of gas attached to a mobile adoption unit that was a gift from a community, Valley Animal Center Coordinator Devon Prendergast said Thursday. A battery was also taken from the mobile adoption unit.
A worker discovered the burglary early Wednesday, when an odor of gas filled the air, Prendergast said. Then the workers discovered the broken window to the rescue van, broken locks and severed wires from the box at the front of the mobile unit, where the gas tank and battery are kept. Prendergast said any items in the van are kept in a safe inside the animal center and thieves were not able to get away with much inside.
Surveillance video did not capture the break-in. Prendergast said that being tucked away in a cul de sac may have made the center vulnerable to the burglary. She said she believes burglars entered through neighboring Elaine’s Pet Resort property and then cut the chain link fence that divides the two. By Thursday, new fence had been added where the burglars had cut in through. A nearby hose was used to siphon the gas from the vehicles, Prendergast said.
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An estimate of damage to the vehicles was expected this week, Prendergast said, and the repairs would likely be made next week. Despite the break-in and the damages, Prendergast said she’s searched for silver linings. And she’s found a few, including that no animals were in danger.
A message about the burglary was posted to Facebook on Wednesday. Soon, supporters of the nonprofit began to share the notice and some donated money. By Thusday afternoon, the center had raised about $3,500. Prendergast said she’s overwhelmed by the community support.
The mobile rescue unit is typically unused in the summer, or when temperatures rise above 80 degrees, Prendergast said. So she’s relieved that the burglary did not happen when the center had plans to reach out to the community.
The animal center plans to use the funds from the community to make needed repairs, Prendergast said, and any excess funds will go toward installing additional security measures, such as adding alarms to the vehicles and installing additional security cameras. She said the police are aware of the incident.
Pendregrast and other workers at the center frequently visit shelters in and out of Fresno to rescue animals who may be euthanized due to overcrowding. A staff of 25 looks after about 400 cats and dogs at the animal center who are kept for adoption. Any adoption from the animal center means more space is made to rescue other animals, Prendergast said. This year, the center set a goal to have 1,000 pets adopted. So far, nearly 500 pets have been adopted.
But with a van in need of repair, Prendergast hopes she can get it back in shape in time for their next rescue in the coming week.
“If that’s not fixed, we can’t save 25 more animals,” She said. “So it’s definitely a priority in our list.”