by Lorie Lewis Ham
We at KRL believe strongly in the work of animal rescues and we do all we can to support them. Not only do 10% of all advertising fees go to an animal rescue, we have columns by several California animal rescues every month. We have one from Fresno Bully Rescue, Cat House on the Kings, Rattie Ratz Rat Rescue in the Bay Area, and just recently Animal Rescue of Fresno started a column with us (Look for their latest column in this issue). Starting next week, Valley Animal Center in Fresno will also have a monthly column with us, so we thought it would be nice to get to know them a bit first. So we sat down to chat with their Executive Director Kelly Joos.
KRL: How, when, and why did Valley Animal Center get its start?
Kelly: For more than two decades, the Valley Animal Center, originally known as the California Feline Foundation, has played an important role in raising awareness for the no-kill movement in the Central Valley. For decades, Fresno County’s major animal control agencies have been overburdened with stray and surrendered dogs and cats. A variety of factors have contributed to the severe overpopulation and under-adoption of dogs and cats. These factors include a lack of a progressive animal welfare presence historically, insufficient public awareness regarding the importance of spaying and neutering, and the temperate Central Valley climate which has allowed for higher than average reproductive rates. Since the beginning, the mission of the Valley Animal Center has been to alleviate the pet overpopulation crisis through education, adoptions, and spay and neuter programs, not euthanasia.
In 1992, the Valley Animal Center’s predecessor, the California Feline Foundation, was founded in Downtown Fresno as a no-kill shelter for cats thanks to the forward thinking and pioneering efforts of Christine Morykwas who is still active in the organization today sitting as Board President. The Valley Animal Center moved to its current location in Central Fresno in December of 2007. Today, the Valley Animal Center includes separate dog and cat adoption centers, a low-cost clinic; membership based Dog Park, mobile adoption unit, perpetual care sanctuary for cats, a feral retirement village, and humane education provider.
KRL: Who all was involved in its creation?
Kelly: Christine Morykwas, Founder and President, and Ron Patterson started the California Feline Foundation and continued to help grow the organization to what it is today, the Valley Animal Center.
KRL: How long have you been involved and how did you first get involved?
Kelly: I am born and raised in the Central Valley and during my college years, I moved to the Monterey Peninsula to attend San Jose State University. I married my high school boyfriend and returned to the San Joaquin Valley in 2007.
I started working for the Valley Animal Center on March 5 of that same year as the Director of Development. The new site for the Valley Animal Center was still under construction and for nine months I worked out of the office at the California Feline Foundation, the organization’s old location.
In 2012, I was promoted to my current position as Executive Director. It is an extreme pleasure to work for this extraordinary organization that continues to grow and provide for our community’s abandoned and abused companion animals until they can find their forever homes. I strongly believe in our mission in helping to teach our community the importance of spaying and neutering and how to become responsible pet owners.
KRL: Where are you located?
Kelly: We are located at 3934 N. Hayston Ave in Fresno, CA near Dakota and HWY 168.
KRL: What has changed over the years, beyond the major change of going from California Feline Foundation to Valley Animal Center?
Kelly: Since my tenure with the Valley Animal Center, we have grown tremendously not only in our programs and services we offer to the community but also in expanding our reach to nine different animal control agencies, thus being able to help countless animals in the community.
KRL: Are your rescues mostly in foster homes or on location?
Kelly: At any one-time we have more than 400 animals that we care for on a daily basis here at the Valley Animal Center. We have a very dedicated group of individuals who are part of our foster committee that help us with the canines and felines that are not old enough to be spayed and/or neutered. These very special individuals bring these animals into their homes to provide for their overall care to include: feeding, bathing, grooming, socializing and etc., until they are old enough to be brought back to the shelter to be altered, micro chipped, vaccinated, tested for any diseases and ready to be adopted. Our foster volunteers also take some of our canines that have been at the shelter for a while for weekend outings “slumber parties”.
KRL: Are you more than just a rescue? What all do you offer?
Kelly: The Valley Animal Center is not only a no-kill adoption center for dogs and cats, we are also a humane education provider, a low-cost clinic, membership based Dog Park, disaster preparedness emergency site and perpetual care facility.
KRL: How many volunteers do you have?
Kelly: We currently have 4,370 volunteers. Of those, 750 are active volunteers who dedicate their time and services to brushing, walking, socializing and cleaning up after the animals on a daily basis. Many of our volunteers are also involved on our volunteer committees to include: helping with fundraising drives and campaigns, participating in fun special events, being an outreach ambassador and spreading our mission in the community, fostering animals in their homes, assisting our dog trainer in teaching shelter dogs basic command and assisting with large groups of students for class presentations and tours.
KRL: How many cats and dogs have you rescued over the past year?
Kelly: In 2014, the Valley Animal Center rescued 939 animals from nine different animal control facilities throughout the Central Valley.
KRL: That’s wonderful! What type of adoption events do you do?
Kelly: We offer a variety of different events throughout the year! Our adoption centers are open seven days a week from 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. We have our mobile adoption and rescue caboose (M.A.R.C.) that comfortably transports more than 25 adorable adoptables in a climate controlled unit into our community for adoptions. The Valley Animal Center is involved in numerous outreach events during the year where the staff will bring adoptables in hopes to find our furry friends forever homes. You can also find some of our feline friends awaiting adoption at the PetSmart Store on Shaw and Clovis Avenue.
The Valley Animal Center exclusively hosts adoption events throughout the year such as our Super Adoption which happened on Saturday, May 30 – one of the largest adoption events in the community, and our Wiggle Waggle Walk & Furry 5 K in the fall, where we will bring our mobile adoption unit out with adoptables to meet potential adopters!
KRL: Do you have an unusual or big rescue you have been involved in you could share?
Kelly: Back in March, Valley Animal Center was contacted about several animals in an abandoned rental home. After animal control was notified, several rescues including the Valley Animal Center were able to take in these homeless animals. The house that the animals were living in was not a healthy environment for humans or pets.
The cats we were able to rescue are now at our facility or in foster care with three of them already being adopted and finding their forever families! In total, we were able to rescue 38 along with spaying and neutering them all, micro chipping and testing for any diseases.
KRL: Anything else you would like to share?
Kelly: The Valley Animal Center is committed to providing care and shelter for homeless dogs, puppies, cats and kittens until they can be adopted into loving homes. Financial support is derived solely through donations from the community, grants, program services and fundraising efforts. We receive no public funding.
We are able to rescue, spay and neuter, and provide care for these animals in need thanks to generous support from our community. We couldn’t do what we do without our supporters & volunteers – Thank you to everyone who has helped make the Valley Animal Center what it is today and all that it will become in the future!
KRL: Future goals and hopes?
Kelly: As animal advocates, we always hope that eventually there will be no more need for shelters as all animals will have loving homes. Until then, our goal is to ensure we do our best to educate the community on being responsible pet owners and spaying and neutering our pets to help alleviate the pet overpopulation problem.
You can find more animal rescue, therapy animal, and other pet related articles in our pet section.