Fresh start for pets in Fresno

Mac the brindle dog being reunited with is family at Fresno Humane Animal Services
City takes on the goal to save more animals
By Kelli Harmon

The brindle dog with amber eyes and a sweet smile was left tied up outside the shelter. Though his past was a mystery, he looked to be in good health. A Fresno Humane Animal Services staff person walked him into the building, making him one of the first pets whose life will be forever changed by the newly expanded shelter system in the central California city.

You can almost feel the hope and excitement in the air at Fresno Humane Animal Services. It’s not because of the building, even though it’s shiny and new; it’s the people and their commitment to saving more pets than ever before in the community.

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City invests in animal welfare

While Fresno Humane has handled pets in the county for years and the shelter rose to a 90% save rate (the benchmark for no-kill), the city was a different story. Thousands of dogs and cats were killed every year and it had to stop. So, the city took a stance on not allowing this to happen any longer, investing millions to build a new facility, and seeking a different organization to handle animal services and save lives.

In July 2022, Fresno Humane took over the city contract for animal control and sheltering — and is now creating lifesaving programs for a system that historically took in 15,000 animals a year. It’s a big job, so Fresno Humane requested assistance from Best Friends. Through our national embed program, made possible in part thanks to Maddie’s Fund®, we’re working alongside the city and the shelter staff to save lives from the start.

[How shelter embed programs are saving pets’ lives]

“Best Friends has been encouraging and offering support to the city of Fresno for years to help create a plan to save more dogs and cats there,” says Kaylee Hawkins, Best Friends Pacific regional director. “There’s a great need in this area and we are thrilled to work with the community to solve challenges and support them however we can.”

A new team, and Mac goes home

Through the embed program, the shelter received $100,000 in grant funds, a rotating roster of Best Friends staff and volunteers to assist both hands-on and remotely, as well as full-time help from two Best Friends staff in key roles (manager of operations and field services manager). Fresno Humane has hired more than 40 additional employees, including animal care assistants, client service representatives, field officers, veterinary technicians and foster coordinators. They’re off to an exciting start. The newly formed team is already serving the community and saving lives.

What happened to the brindle dog? Once he was in the building, a staff person scanned him for a microchip. The scanner beeped, indicating he was chipped. Even better, the chip was registered and the phone number was still current. It turned out that the dog, named Mac, had gone missing from his family three years before, when he was just a puppy, leaving them heartbroken and worried about him. They were not only thrilled that he was safe, they were eager to have him back. Soon, Mac was walking the shelter hallway again, this time on his way out, accompanied by his family. Kaylee says, “This is just the beginning of a brighter future for pets in Fresno. We couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come.”

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of Best Friends magazine. Want more good news? Become a member and get stories like this six times a year.

Interested in helping a furry friend?

Fostering can help people and pets alike. If you would like information on how to get involved, please contact your local shelter.

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