Shelter a caring place for animals

By Thaddeus Miller tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comFebruary 7, 2013 

The number of stray dogs and cats that passed through the doors of the animal shelter dipped in 2012, but staff and volunteers continue to struggle with educating some about spay and neuter programs.

The Los Banos Animal Shelter saw 2,237 animals in 2012, down from 2,378 in 2011. About 70 percent of those animals, or 1,581, were taken by out-of-the-area rescues, returned to owners or adopted locally.

Animal control officer Jason Martin said 141 fewer animals in the shelter at 1000 Airport Road is not substantially fewer, but attributed the high rescue rate to the Los Banos Volunteers for Animals.

"I know we euthanized quite a few less, which is always a good thing," Martin said.

The officer put down 115 fewer dogs and cats in 2012 than the previous year. Martin said a 70 percent rescue rate is high for a city-run facility.

The shelter is run entirely by Martin and volunteers. The fiscal year 2012-13 budget is $101,588, including salary and benefits for the animal control officer, as well as shelter supplies and maintenance, said Cmdr. Ray Reyna. That's about $4,500 fewer than the previous year.

Volunteer Peggy Logan said the facility gets an influx of pit bulls and Chihuahuas, and has a difficult time finding homes for all of them.

"We get more of those in and very few that go out," Logan said.

Volunteers started a spay and neuter program for dogs last year, and one for cats before that. The programs are funded through donations, fundraisers and operations fees.

The volunteers are running a program this month aimed at pit bulls and pit bull mixes. The first 25 people to sign up to get their dog spayed or neutered will receive a voucher for the operation free of charge, assuming the animals fit a handful of requirements.

To sign up for a voucher, leave a message at the shelter at (209) 827-7089.

Feral animals

Martin said a contributing factor to the problem of feral felines is residents who put cat food out in public places.

"There's nothing legally wrong with what they're doing," Martin said. "They're just adding to the problem instead of helping it."

Martin said residents take food to particular alleys and areas behind businesses for strays and feral animals. Cats won't venture into animal control traps if they're not hungry.

"I don't have any problem with someone feeding a feral cat colony as long as they would spay and neuter them too," he said. "Our volunteers have been more than willing to find low-cost ways to get that done."

Spring is puppy and kitten season. That's the unofficial name for the breeding season for cats and dogs -- and its impact on the community and the city's animal shelters.

Breeding season is nearly year-round, but generally peaks from March to September.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, during a year a single unspayed female cat may have up to two litters -- with the potential for four or more kittens to be born to each litter. A dog on the other hand has four to six puppies once a year.

The number of kittens exceeds the number of homes available; the ASPCA estimates 70 million stray cats nationwide. So, most kittens born during this season end up homeless, causing animal shelters to become inundated, the feral population to grow and more euthanized animals.

The cost of spaying or neutering a pet is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for a year, according to the ASPCA.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

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