Tulare County Animal Services deserves a shout out


Dear Editor,

I sit on the Tulare County Animal Services Advisory Committee, and we met in early August to hear updates on the work of the shelter, the stats are staggering and could be the stats of any animal shelter here in the central valley. They are overwhelmed, understaffed and crippled by a gigantic increase in abandoned animals. Stray animals are arriving at an alarming rate, and people who adopted pets during the pandemic are now unceremoniously abandoning them.

In the county’s 21/22 fiscal year (July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022), the county shelter received 6,496 calls for animal control officers to respond, which is 1,300 more calls than the county shelter. ‘last year. In July alone, they received 488 animal control calls, broken down with just three officers for all unincorporated areas in Tulare County. So far, animal intakes for the year are 5,036 animals (as of August 1), which is an increase of 1,400 intakes over the previous year. In July alone, the TCAS shelter has taken in 640 animals in June 577 and so far in August 250 in the first 11 days alone. This represents 150 to 180 animals more each month than at the same time last year.

Despite this, County Animal Services Manager Cassie Heffington remained an incredible leader for her facility with an 87% live release rate. This means that less than 13% of all animals entering his shelter are euthanized.

The new County Spay/Neuter Clinic operation at TCAS has been open since October 1, 2021 and has spayed 1,730 cats, 890 dogs and 2 goats. The clinic has also administered over 2,500 vaccinations to help reduce the incidence of parvo, distemper and rabies. The clinic is fortunate to have a driven and caring veterinarian, Dr. Alexandra Myhal, who was previously a large animal vet who does an amazing job with surgeries. Dr. Myhal has worked in food animal medicine, with dairies and a mixed animal practice that brings together his talents well for a busy county shelter that cares for all types of animals. The vet will be off for a few months, so surgeries will be put on hold.

TCAS currently has 15 staff members for the three departments (Field Services, Clinic and Shelter Operations) operating 7 days a week. There are over 110 dogs, 20 cats and 3 roosters at the shelter with another 115 animals in foster homes. TCAS recently added a Foster/Adoption Coordinator named Candace Harrington who is doing a very hard, thankless job of trying to find rescue, foster and adoption for all of these creatures.

The county facility has 40 regular kennels, 10 quarantine kennels, 4 puppy kennels, and a few emergency kennels and pop-up crates in use. They have four banks of stainless steel cat kennels and a small cattery. When wildfires threaten homes and ranches, TCAS must also be equipped to set up a mobile evacuation center and shelter livestock, including horses, cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, mini horses, donkeys, poultry and pet dogs and cats. The fire department also takes critical resources away from other responsibilities and requires finding enclosures and a facility to use to keep them.

This is a powerful team that does an enormous amount of work with very little credit, and they receive hundreds of phone calls each month from the public discussing issues of neglect, cruelty, abandonment and harm to children. animals, day after day. They don’t come close to the thanks they deserve.

Just recently I also worked with them to help an elderly woman who had lost her well-being. She had horses to water, and no water for them or for her house. We worked together to set up water tanks and bring them to her property, and thanks to a kind dairy farmer, her tanks were filled the same day with water for her horses and her house. This is a temporary solution, but TCAS and United Way went above and beyond their normal duty to help this person, and I want to thank them both and the dairy farmer who answered my call help.

Tulare County Animal Services is one of the unsung heroes of our county health and human services agency. Everyone wants stray animals contained and dead roadside animals removed, and no one wants nuisance animals roaming free, causing damage to their livestock or property. Just wanted to acknowledge the challenging work done by this small team that has over 4,800 square miles of county roads to cover when the animals are in need.

Donations, foster homes and volunteers are also needed. Although TCAS does not have the staff to run large-scale adoption days, they are open to the public and adoption appointments are welcome. Volunteers and dog walkers and foster homes are always needed! If you want to know more, contact TCAS at 559-636-4050.

Tricia Stever Blattler
Executive Director and Corporate Secretary
Tulare County Agricultural Bureau

This letter to the editor is not a news article but the opinion of the author and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper..

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Jennifer R. Strohm