Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Kirsten Gross, left, director of the Madera County Animal Shelter, and volunteer DJ Becker review paperwork filed to begin the process for a new animal shelter.
Supporters of the Madera Animal Shelter will have a booth at the Madera Fair to publicize a measure they want to put before voters to build a new animal shelter.
“We are beginning the process to gather the required signatures to place a measure for a new shelter facility on the 2017 ballot,” said longtime shelter volunteer and effort coordinator DJ Becker.
“The measure asks for a one half of one cent sales tax increase for 10 years, and it’s solely restricted to fund and build a new shelter,” Becker said.
“If Madera voters approve the measure, we can build a new animal shelter facility we can all be proud of. Construction could potentially start in 2019.”
Becker said the present facility take in, house and care for roughly 6,000 stray and abandoned dogs, cats, horses and other animals each year.
“Buildings, offices and kennels are in disrepair,” Becker said. “Staff and animals alike take shelter from the hot sun under makeshift, tattered and flapping tarps. Stacks of donated and essential goods sit outside, deteriorating for lack of inside storage.”
The 2016 Madera County Grand Jury report recommended replacing the entire shelter facility within the next three years, something that is unlikely to happen, according to supervisors.
The Grand Jury in its report agreed the current animal shelter is not adequately funded and nowhere near the required size for the consistently increasing human and animal population of Madera it is required to serve.
Becker said the ballot measure was necessary because there were no other realistic, timely funding methods and no political will to fund and build a new animal shelter facility.
“The current shelter was built in the 1970’s and is falling down,” Becker said. “It’s much too small and does not meet any standard, nor does it meet the needs of the animals, the shelter staff, or the public. People leave there shaking their heads in despair at the conditions. We can really do better than this — for everybody, if the voters will help us put this on the ballot,” said Becker.
“It’s a tiny amount on each sales transaction — a half of one cent, not unlike Measure Z collected to improve the Fresno Zoo. This limited and restricted sales tax measure would also save the city and county the millions of dollars they would have had to have contributed to build a new shelter, freeing up those funds in their budgets for other projects. Everyone benefits,” she said.
The local volunteer group, Friends of the Madera Shelter (FMAS), has long raised money and provided funding for essentials like vaccines, veterinary treatment for injured animals, spay and neutering, transport vehicles, etc.
“FMAS has provided tremendous amounts of money and help over the years, but that money is gone. Now it’s time for our county to step up. This shelter is a Madera County responsibility… and it’s been deferred for far too long,” Becker said.
The initiative for a new shelter needs to collect approximately 2,800 signatures of registered Madera city or county voters in the next six months to qualify to be on a ballot in 2017.
Animal Services and shelter director Kirsten Gross agreed a new facility was much needed, and encouraged everyone to support the measure.
“Please help us by signing the petitions to get the measure started,” said Gross. “It should be a priority to humanely house and care for our animals. At a minimum the animals need fresh air, adequate space to move around and prompt treatment of injuries and illnesses. There is no other funding available. We need the support of our community to build a new shelter facility.”
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Contributions to help with the ballot initiative can be sent to Start Our Shelter at POB 214, Madera, CA 93639. Or join the effort on Facebook at: New Madera Animal Shelter.