The volunteers group Friends of Orange Cove Animal Shelter took over the care of the animals on New Year’s Day – pledging not to kill dogs or cats on the basis of space at the facility or how long a pet had been there.
“This has been a long time coming – we’re very excited,” said Jolie Wiggins, president of the Friends group.
For decades, Orange Cove animal-control workers had been picking up stray dogs and euthanizing them, sometimes within a few days.
The Friends had been working with the shelter for a long time, and Wiggins said the volunteer group finally negotiated with the city to take over the care portion of animal control.
“Animal Control will still operate as normal,” Wiggins said. “Our volunteers will take over day-to-day care of the animals.”
The city has given the group funding to hire one employee to operate the shelter the way the group wants.
“We can operate without interference from the city and give the best possible care,” Wiggins said. “Staffing an employee frees us up to do more work in the community.”
She said the group will be able to help inform people about spaying and neutering and how to care for injured animals, which can reduce overall traffic at the shelter.
“We’re moving the animals out as fast as we can, and that made the city allow us to keep some more long-term animals,” Wiggins said. “The standard euthanasia rate for Fresno County is 80 percent. We have a 99 percent save rate.”
Wiggins said animals are not put down unless required – like when animals are dangerous or have serious injuries.
The goal is to build a new, no-kill facility. The current building doesn’t have hot water, heat or air conditioning. The Friends utilize space heaters when it’s cold and a swamp cooler that the city provided when it gets hot.
The idea of volunteers taking over a city’s animal control is novel, but not new. In Selma, a group of volunteers formed a nonprofit called Second Chance Animal Shelter to take over animal control.
Orange Cove Mayor Victor Lopez is excited to see this change finally come for his town’s shelter.
“I’m really happy that they’re taking over,” Lopez said. “I’m a dog lover, too.”
Lopez said it was unfair to the animals that they were being euthanized so quickly. “We have excellent people who want to work for the animals,” Lopez said. “They’re going to have ample time to make every effort to make sure they don’t kill the animals.”
Lopez said the animals are part of the Orange Cove community, and he believes that the volunteer group, with city funding in hand, will ensure they’re well taken care of.
“We told them that they take care of the animals and the city will pay the bill,” he said. “These people have such a big heart – you can’t believe it. It almost made me cry.”
Wiggins said the group is probably a year away from realizing its dream of building a no-kill shelter. She said the city already has offered to donate land. Lopez said that when the group is ready, all they have to do is name a location, and the city will “make it happen.”
You can help
To get involved in the new undertaking or to make donations, visit the Friends of Orange Cove Animal Shelter’s Facebook page, call 559-201-6212 or email email@example.com. Friends president Jolie Wiggins said besides monetary aid, the group always needs dog treats, leashes, blankets and tarps.