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Volunteers offer to aid Sutter County animal shelter
Read the Pet of the Week feature every Wednesday on page C1 in the Appeal-Democrat.
While Sutter Animal Services Authority members work through construction costs, staffing decisions, feral cat problems and other issues in planning for a new animal shelter, they are convinced of one thing: They must develop a strong volunteer program.
One ready-made group has offered to step in and fill that need.
ResQPaws, an all-volunteer animal rescue operation, was established last summer in response to publicity about Sutter County's badly overcrowded shelter.
The group, which recently acquired nonprofit status, works to place adoptable dogs and cats that are at risk of being euthanized into permanent adoptive homes.
Authority chairman Gary Baland, Live Oak's mayor, spoke highly of the group at the authority's meeting on Monday, and emphasized the need for a dramatic change in focus for Sutter County's facility.
"We're no longer dealing with a 'pound,'" he said, referring to the outdated approach to housing and disposing of unwanted animals. He recalled a recent trip to Merced County's shelter facility, during which he noted a sign asserting the staff's mission: Making pets out of animals.
Volunteers from ResQPaws spoke briefly to the authority board on Monday. They announced their interest in working at the new facility and helping to coordinate an in-house volunteer program.
Most members work out of their homes — there is no facility or office — to network online and by phone with other animal rescue groups across the country and in Canada.
ResQPaws has 50 active volunteers and 1,000 Facebook followers, works with two local veterinarians on spay/neuter education and community outreach programs, and has re-homed 400 Sutter County animals thus far, said Liz Fredieu, one of the group's key organizers.
The group's work has reduced overcrowding at the shelter on Second Street in Yuba City and promoted a positive reputation for the facility's animals, Fredieu said.
"It's about changing people's view of shelter animals. These are potentially wonderful members of a family," she said. "They just had bad luck."
Raising adoption rates, she said, is the name of the game. Higher adoption rates lead to fewer animals in the shelter.
Jeannie Pittman, a volunteer with North Valley Animal Disaster Group, also spoke on behalf of ResQPaws and the need for an organized volunteer force at the new shelter.
"They're doing a huge service to the community, and they're doing a really good job of it," she said.
Authority member Stan Cleveland, a Sutter County supervisor, said a strong volunteer program will be badly needed at the new shelter, especially in light of the current shelter's dismal reputation in recent years.
Prior to a grand jury report that outlined the shelter's failings, the facility lacked a vaccination program. Sanitation issues included a lack of hot water for laundering bedding and sterilizing food and water dishes. The facility had a long-standing rat infestation. The spread of disease among animals was rampant.
Cleveland said he and other county officials tried to reach out several years ago to animal rescue groups for assistance.
But those he attempted to reach, he said, "wanted not even to talk to us."
Authority members have said they hope to establish detailed guidelines and expectations for a volunteer program in the next several months.
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at email@example.com or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.