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Animal shelter volunteer rips Madera City Council

‘Shame on you,’ Kay Rhoads tells Council

Due to lack of funding, effective Oct. 1st, residents within the city of Madera will no longer have the local, low-cost options to spay or neuter their dogs and cats once provided by the Friends of the Madera Animal Shelter (FMAS) volunteer group. The feral or “Community Cat” trap and live release program will also no longer be available to city residents.

FMAS voucher programs for low-income Madera County residents animals will continue as long as county funding allows.

Kay Rhoads, a founding FMAS member and the volunteer group’s treasurer, announced the end of the five-year low-cost voucher program in front of the Madera City Council Sept. 20.

Rhoads didn’t mince words as she veered between anger and grief, blaming the mayor and City Council for their failure to help with funding for low-income city residents and their animals. Rhoads, in her 70s and a longtime Madera businesswoman, Rotarian and community leader, was a recent recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award for her long service and dedication to the Madera community.

“Shame on you. Shame on all of you!” Rhoads, near tears, exclaimed to the Council. “Your stated reason to refuse our (funding) request was the city has never funded a 501 C, nonprofit group. Well, any city in the state would be ecstatic to have help like ours. We have raised and spent roughly over $500,000 or more in the last 10 years altering low-income city residents’ animals. And the City of Madera has never given us a dime!” she said.

“This is certainly penny wise and pound foolish. We have saved the city countless (other) costs ...” Rhoads went on to say the non profit volunteer group spends 96 cents of every dollar raised on services to alter, transport or help local residents animals.

The volunteer group also holds monthly low cost shot clinics, rummage and bake sales, and fundraises on line to help pay for assistance programs, but it’s not enough to meet demand, she said.

“One of our board members has even personally donated over $200,000 in 15 years.” she said. “And none of us are paid.”

Rhoads went on to question the city council’s judgment and commitment to it’s residents, and predicted the city will soon see an overwhelming number of stray, feral and unwanted cats and dogs running loose on Madera streets and neighborhoods.

The city will also pay the price with increased calls to police and animal control, she said, and in quality of life issues such as dog bites, car accidents and residents unable to walk in their neighborhoods because of roaming stray dogs.

Rhoads came before the council in May, informing them the money raised by the volunteer group was dwindling and requested the city’s help in continuing the program for residents as the non profit group could no longer meet the city residents increasing demand for their low cost spay and neuter vouchers.

The council initially agreed to review the group’s request once the Measure K public safety sales tax increase dollars became known and available in August.

The FMAS group has recently spent around $10,000 each month to help city residents alter about 140 animals and was asking the city for that funding amount to help them meet current demand.

For a $20 co-pay the volunteer group had provided low income pet owners an affordable and convenient opportunity to alter their pets, with the group raising and paying approximately $70, the remainder of the pre negotiated veterinary expense themselves, and even scheduling and transporting the animals to the discounted HOPE animal foundation in north Fresno and to other local veterinarians.

The volunteer FMAS group also funds and provides the transportation of unwanted local animals to the Humane Societies of Oregon and Washington state to significantly reduce local euthanasia rates of healthy, homeless animals in Madera.

Madera County Animal Services and animal shelter director Kirsten Gross said she thought the city was being short-sighted, too.

“Prevention is always preferable,” said Gross. “We’ve worked so very hard to educate all area residents and reduce animal populations the last 15 years. Sadly, this is going backwards, reversing the progress we have made and it is going to result in even more unwanted, stray and homeless animals running loose in the city. We are very disappointed, but it’s the city residents that are going to be more upset, effected and even more disappointed than we are,” Gross said.

Gross also estimated about $10,000 a month from the city would allow the group to continue to help meet low income city residents’ pet spay and neuter needs, and the volunteer group was still able and willing to help.

Otherwise the only other option for city residents was to utilize a low cost animal spay and neuter clinic such as the non profit HOPE Animal Foundation in north Fresno, and schedule and take their animals there themselves, Gross said, though candidly she was not optimistic many would be able to do so.

“Or if residents want the low cost program to be reinstated call your City Council member and make your concerns known,” she said. “We’d really like to continue with the program for city residents but we just don’t have the funding and we now need the city’s help. Madera County has always found a way to help us fund spay and neuter assistance for it’s (low income) residents. Surely the city can find a way, too.” Gross said.

The Madera City Council meets the first and third Wednesdays of each month, at 6 p.m. at 205 West Fourth Street. The public is invited. The phone number to leave messages for Madera City Council members is 661-5405.


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