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Animal advocate launches effort to form Stanislaus County humane society

Traci Jennings wants to tap into the frustration that people feel about the Stanislaus County Animal Shelter.

Jennings recently filed a complaint against the animal shelter and its director, Mike McFarland, with the civil grand jury. Now she is launching the Humane Society of Stanislaus County. She is seeking nonprofit status for the group and putting together a board of directors.

She hopes to start with educational and spay-neuter programs, and eventually raise enough money to open a shelter and adoption center.

Jennings runs Mutt-Minders, a pet care service. She filed the grand jury complaint this summer, alleging mismanagement of the shelter leading to unnecessary deaths and illness among the animals housed there.

County supervisors defended McFarland and the shelter, saying they thought he was doing the best he could with the resources he had. McFarland, who has been in the position for about 18 months, has resigned effective Oct. 5. The resignation, announced two weeks ago, apparently is unrelated to the grand jury complaint.

Many people called Jennings after a story about her complaint was published in The Bee, she said, asking what they could do to help. She said she was reluctant to send them to the county shelter to volunteer because of the problems she perceives there.

"We decided forming a humane society would be the best way to do it," Jennings said. The organization will raise money through paid memberships and fund-raising events, she said.

Initial projects will focus on community education -- including developing pamphlets and educational programs for elementary schools -- and sponsoring spay-neuter clinics.

"Those are two of the biggest problems the county has," Jennings said. "The community is crying out that it wants to do something. It's not getting done at the county government level. If we as a community want this to happen, we can make it happen."

She used the Gallo Center for the Arts as an example. "We have a big, beautiful arts center. Why not a big, beautiful animal shelter?" she asked.

Jennings said she is open to corporate sponsorship and will apply for grants for a shelter.

The humane society would be an "enhancement" to the services the county provides, she said.

"We are not in competition. We want to provide the community with alternatives," Jennings said. The county's spay-neuter voucher program is "fantastic," Jennings said, and her group may donate money to restore services recently cut back.

For more information about the group, call Jennings at 345-5967.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at tmoran@modbee.com or 578-2349.

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