MODESTO — Before long, the former county animal shelter will again house dogs and cats in an attempt to bring down euthanasia numbers.
Stanislaus County has partnered with the nonprofit Wags and Whiskers Rescue to reuse the shelter on Finch Road in Modesto for rescue and adoption services. The shelter was severely damaged by vandals a year ago.
Beside rescues and adoptions, the nonprofit group plans low-cost training classes so fewer owners will feel it's necessary to give up their pets, said Lyndi Love-Haning, public relations manager for Wags and Whiskers.
County officials say they need organizations such as Wags and Whiskers to help with adoptions if they are going to reduce the number of animals that are euthanized. Last year, the group arranged for the adoptions of 198 dogs and cats from the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency shelter on Cornucopia Way in south Modesto andfound homes for 500 animals.
The volunteer group rescues animals and finds safe homes for them in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties. A county lease agreement will give the group its first rescue facility and help secure the county-owned property.
Last summer, vandals stripped wiring from the building, stole plumbing and even took the metal gates off the kennels to sell for profit. In January, the county sought proposals from animal-related groups for reusing the 12,000-square-foot shelter, which housed abandoned animals for the county from 1973 to early 2011.
The newer shelter on Cornucopia Way is run by a joint powers authority including the county, Modesto, Ceres, Hughson, Waterford and Patterson.
Wags and Whiskers was the only group to submit a proposal for reusing the old shelter. County officials approved an agreement in June for the group to lease the shelter for $1 the first year and $100 a month starting the second year.
The three-year lease can be extended for two years with a positive performance review, said Joshua Ewen, management consultant for the county. In the second year, the group is expected to rescue 200 animals pulled from the Stanislaus Animal Services shelter and complete 500 adoptions within its network of foster homes.
Money for repairs
The county budgeted $153,000 to rewire the shelter, replace air-conditioning units that had wiring stripped from them and make other repairs. Insurance will cover most of the costs. On Monday, about 15 volunteers removed kennels from a modular unit before it will be demolished.
The county hopes to have the work done so the keys can be given to Wags and Whiskers on Aug. 1. But it could take six months to clean the building and get things ready to open for the public, Love-Haning said.
A volunteer staff will run the shelter and care for about 100 animals at a time. It likely will be open to the public six days a week.
Wags and Whiskers will emphasize classes for owners who have a difficult time managing their pets. Instructors will teach them to understand dog behavior and solve problems. Costs for the training could range from $30 to $50, Love-Haning said.
"We get a lot of calls from people who have given up trying to manage their pets," Love-Haning said. "A big part of this is to lower the intake at the (Stanislaus Animal Services) shelter."
The group's 198 adoptions from the shelter on Cornucopia Way last year saved about 2 percent of the animals that are euthanized every year. By increasing adoptions and training owners to keep their pets, the group hopes to make a significant dent in the death rate, Love-Haning said.
Annette Patton, executive director of the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency, said she doesn't think the rescue shelter will compete with the agency's adoption service.
"We give our animals to rescue organizations all the time," Patton said. "All of those animals have a second chance when they go through a rescue organization. The more animals we can get out of here alive, the better off this community is."
Wags and Whiskers is looking for volunteer workers and financial support for the shelter. Call (209) 613-0958. More information is available at www.wagsandwhiskersrescue.org or the Wags and Whiskers page on Facebook.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.