Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Friends of Madera Animal Shelter (FMAS) president Velvet Rhoads, holding a rescue named Boo, addresses city council meeting members and gives a presentation during a meeting Wednesday night.
A local volunteer group of animal lovers filled the Madera City council chambers to capacity Wednesday night to update council members on their activities on behalf of stray and homeless animals, and to request the city begin contributing towards the fund that helps many low income residents and their animals.
Founding member Kay Rhoads said the group has worked nonstop for the last 15 years to deal with the animal-overpopulation problem and help local animals.
Nearly everyone in the room raised a hand when Rhoads asked who among them fostered, or cared for unwanted or injured animals in their own homes.
“We have raised over $380,000 in 2016 — through adoption events, shot clinics and donations.” Rhoads said. “That’s a lot of money, and it’s a huge amount of effort. The problem is, we spent about $515,000 spaying and neutering animals for low income residents in 2016, along with veterinary bills, medications for the shelter, vehicles, hay for starving horses, etc. We even partner with out-of-state humane societies in Utah, Oregon and Washington. Our volunteers have driven over 2,000 Madera animals 14 hours, one way, to save those lives.”
The county of Madera contributes about $100,000 to the Friends volunteer group for low income residents spay and neuter efforts, and the group is asking the city to now do the same.
Rhoads said the nonprofit group spends .96 cents of every dollar on the animals, with no paid board members.
“I am very proud of that record. We are doing everything we can. Now we need the city’s help to meet the (increasing) demand from residents,” she said. “We can’t continue to keep up with demand, without more consistent funding.” she said.
The Friends group received a $1.5 million dollar grant in 2013-2015 from the Red and Nancy Arnold foundation and spent that amount to spay or neuter over 18,000 animals for local residents, but that Red and Nancy Arnold money is now gone, she said.
The money raised from their other efforts has allowed the group to scale up their volunteer spay and neuter operations with newer vans, crates and other supplies, and offer residents reduced price dog adoptions, and free spay and neuter vouchers for homeless community cats.
The human population is the San Joaquin valley is increasing. The Madera County animal shelter has recently been so overwhelmed they have stopped accepting unwanted healthy dogs and cats for drop off or euthanasia, according to shelter staff.
Any money spent in education and prevention of unwanted animals is good public policy, according to Rhoads and is a public safety and quality of life issue for residents because it prevents dog bites, car accidents and more unwanted animals from being born.
“This isn’t our job, but we do it. But we are struggling and can’t (continue to) do this alone. This is your job and your community,” Rhoads said to the city council members.
A city the size of Madera should also have several more animal control officers, she said, according to enforcement statistics. “I have owned and operated a business in the city for the last 30 years. There is never an animal control officer available when we call,” Rhoads said. “This and the animal shelter just does not seem to be a priority in this city.”
Former Madera County supervisor Ronn Dominic (retired) spoke to the council and read letters endorsing the volunteer group’s efforts from retired sheriff John Anderson, retired Chief of Madera Police Michael Kime (retired), Tom Mitchell Director of the Madera District Fair, and current county supervisor Brett Frazier.
Mayor Andrew Medellin said money was tight but he and the city council would be considering ways to help the volunteer group. “We’ll look at this and will do whatever we can to help” Medellin told TV news crews.
“It’s a timely request, with some Measure K funding being available in late August. And I absolutely agree — preventing the surplus of stray, unwanted animals, the aggressive ones running loose in our neighborhoods, having more animal control officers and dealing with the animal problems before they occur is the way to go,” Medellin said.
Donations to help the Friends of Madera Animal Shelter volunteer group efforts can be mailed to PO Box 923, Madera CA 93639.