See new $20 million Fresno Animal Center that promises to keep families and pets together

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Fresno leaders who are sometimes rivals were on common ground Tuesday as they joined to celebrate the opening of a new $20 million animal center that promises better treatment for the city’s dogs and cats.

The Fresno Animal Center, in the 5200 block of East Airways Boulevard near Fresno Yosemite International Airport, “will do things differently,” said Mayor Jerry Dyer. Under Fresno Humane Animal Services, it will “keep families and their pets together.”

The sprawling five-building complex was built in just 14 months during the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dyer said. It has administration and veterinary services buildings and three buildings to house animals — up to 15,000 animals yearly.

Gap Corporation donated land for the facility, developer Ed Kashian provided $25,000, and during Tuesday’s event, Cynthia Karsten of the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Prograrm announced a $600,000 grant for the center, something that Dyer said brought tears to his eyes.

Previously, animal control services were provided to the city by the Central California SPCA. But the relationship was tumultuous. In 2011 and 2012, animal advocates criticized the agency for its high euthanasia rates. That was reduced, but the number of reported dog bites doubled. City leaders remained unhappy with the organization’s services, especially since each year it sought more and more money. The city spends about $6.3 million annually on animal control and shelter services. The hope is the new shelter will reduce that price tag a bit.

There also was unhappiness with the previous way efforts were made to reunite owners with lost pets. Now, rather than taking a loose animal straight to the shelter, an animal control officer first will collaborate with residents in the area where the pet went missing.

Adoptable dogs Ferdinand, left, and Augusta explore one of six play yards at the new Fresno Animal Center during a grand opening and ribbon cutting event at the facility near the airport on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
Adoptable dogs Ferdinand, left, and Augusta explore one of six play yards at the new Fresno Animal Center during a grand opening and ribbon cutting event at the facility near the airport on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Said Councilmember Tyler Maxwell, “This day has been a long time coming. You can tell a lot about a city by how it treats its animals.”

Maxwell is one of four Democrats on the council who often spar with Councilmember Garry Bredefeld. But Tuesday, the two had nothing but friendly banter for one another.

Bredefeld in turn called the opening of the new center “long overdue.”

Augusta, an adoptable dog, gets out of a kiddie pool in one of six play yards at the new Fresno Animal Center during a grand opening and ribbon cutting event at the facility near the airport on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
Augusta, an adoptable dog, gets out of a kiddie pool in one of six play yards at the new Fresno Animal Center during a grand opening and ribbon cutting event at the facility near the airport on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
An adoptable dog peers out of his kennel at the new Fresno Animal Center during a grand opening and ribbon cutting event at the facility near the airport on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
An adoptable dog peers out of his kennel at the new Fresno Animal Center during a grand opening and ribbon cutting event at the facility near the airport on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
Visitors get ready to tour the Fresno Animal Center during a grand opening and ribbon cutting event at the facility near the airport on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
Visitors get ready to tour the Fresno Animal Center during a grand opening and ribbon cutting event at the facility near the airport on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.