Valley Voices

Why did Fresno County buy land for a new animal shelter?

A dog at Fresno Humane Animal Services located near Teilman and Nielsen avenues receives a treat in this 2016 photo. Fresno County will spend $3 million to build a new shelter.
A dog at Fresno Humane Animal Services located near Teilman and Nielsen avenues receives a treat in this 2016 photo. Fresno County will spend $3 million to build a new shelter. Fresno Bee file

On social media there has been concern, criticism and gratitude regarding the Fresno County Board of Supervisors’ decision to purchase a site for a future animal shelter in southwest Fresno.

The misconceptions are over the possibility that Fresno County is severing its relationship with Derrel Ridenour, who plans to build an animal shelter near Grantland Avenue and Highway 99, a project I supported when it came to the Board of Supervisors in October, and continue to support.

pacheco, brian
Fresno County District 1 Supervisor Brian Pacheco. Fresno County Courtesy

Such concern is unfounded and not true.

First, Mr. Ridenour is building the facility for Fresno Humane Animal Services. FHAS is the county’s animal control contractor. I must emphasize that the site is not being built for the county. Second, Mr. Ridenour’s plan is locked in litigation with residents opposing his project. The county is not regularly apprised about the lawsuit since it is not an involved party. We don’t know how long this may take.

Another issue is that while the Board of Supervisors feels Fresno Humane has provided excellent service to Fresno County residents and animals, dropping euthanasia rates from around 70% under a previous contractor to less than 10% today, we also realize that there could be a time when FHAS may not want to run this program any longer, or it’s possible their program becomes too expensive. At that time, the county will still need an animal shelter, a facility that allows us to carry out our state-mandated animal control duties.

Under these circumstances, county officials began negotiating for four acres of land near South West Avenue and Dan Ronquillo Drive earlier this year.

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. That is simply too long and the Board of Supervisors knows this must change.

As the economy has improved, the county of Fresno has prioritized projects and a new animal shelter has been one of the top priorities. At the Board of Supervisors’ direction, more than $5 million has been set aside for an animal shelter.

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.

This new site is an insurance policy if Mr. Ridenour can’t build his site. If he can build, we could eventually employ both facilities, one for animal intake and the other as an adoption center.

Fresno Humane and the local animal advocacy groups deserve our thanks for their patience and all their efforts in turning Fresno County’s animal control program into a statewide model, while also assisting the county in its work to plan for new shelter facilities. We can now look forward to an even better future for the county’s animal control program.

Brian Pacheco is a Fresno County Supervisor representing District 1, which covers western Fresno County including both proposed animal shelter sites.