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Plans for a new Fresno County animal shelter scrapped, but supervisors already have alternative

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

The Fresno Humane Animal Services has discontinued efforts to support a private animal shelter that became a controversial plan for northwest Fresno residents.

Fresno Humane Animal Services president Brenda Mitchell made her organization’s plans known in a letter sent in late July to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

County supervisors were scheduled to take action Tuesday on an appeal filed by a law firm representing angry residents who opposed the shelter on Grantland Avenue between Parkway Drive and Tenaya Avenue. The board had already approved steps that moved the shelter closer to reality, including changing zoning from rural residential to light manufacturing.

But the sudden withdrawal by the Humane Services has scrapped all plans. Derrel’s Mini-Storage owner Derrel Ridenour had agreed to donate 4 acres for the shelter and pour $3 million into the project, which would have been operated by the Humane Services. The entire facility would have cost about $9 million to build.

Throughout the planning, neighbors who sued complained that the shelter would increase traffic, create an odor problem and be a nuisance because of barking or roaming dogs near an elementary school.

To calm concerns from residents as well as supervisors, Ridenour agreed to make several changes to the project. That included building a cement block wall on the south side of the property and creating an abandoned dog policy; he also agreed to not operate an animal hospital and not take in large animals.

But now Ridenour says he’s spent too much time arguing for the shelter in the face of outspoken opposition and isn’t willing to ride out a long, expensive legal fight.

“It just about ruined my health and two years of my life,” he said Tuesday. He added, “I was hoping to solve a community problem.”

The money intended for the now-failed Grantland Avenue project will be redirected toward other services, like spay and neuter services and a wellness project with the HOPE Animal Foundation, according to Mitchell. Down the line, Ridenour said he expects to help build low-cost wellness clinics in other cities.

Mitchell said the struggle was “too big” to continue challenging the lawsuit and the neighbors who put up a fight.

“It just became such a drain on resources to continue the battle,” she said.

Backup plan?

Other than approving or disapproving of the proposal, the supervisors were not involved in the project that Ridenour was leading.

However, the board has voiced need for better animal shelters in the county. Earlier in the year supervisors set aside $5 million for an animal shelter amid heated pushback against the northwest Fresno plan.

A new 4-acre site is being examined by the county west of Highway 99 at South West Avenue and Dan Ronquillo Drive, near the current Humane Services location at the former county morgue.

Supervisor Brian Pacheco wrote last month in a letter to The Bee that supervisors viewed their plan for a shelter as an insurance policy should the Ridenour project stop, as it now has. But had the Ridenour shelter continued, Pacheco said both would be used.

“The Board of Supervisors knows that the current shelter in the old morgue site at Nielsen and Teilman avenues was not meant to serve its purpose for more than a few months, but it has been nearly seven years ... the purchase of a new site means that we are starting the process to move from the morgue site, which we feel, as does Fresno Humane Animal Services, is a great start,” Pacheco wrote.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is a general assignment reporter at The Fresno Bee. He grew up in Porterville and has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Fresno State. He is a former student editor at the Fresno State and Fresno City College newspapers. His hobbies include reading, sleeping, running and taking care of his dog.
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