I.V. Humane Society overcrowded with animals, addressing the issue

Dogs bark at a dog that is taken out of the kennel at Imperial Valley Humane Society in El Centro on Dec. 26. JOSELITO VILLERO PHOTO 

The Imperial Valley Humane Society is brimming with furry friends without a home, but plans are in the works to reduce the overcrowding, much of which requires the public’s help. 

“We have animals and a lot of them, and they desperately need homes. We need people to adopt them, to come and donate and to come and volunteer,” I.V. Humane Society executive director Devon Apodaca said. “We need a lot more community involvement.”

The nonprofit agency received about 5,000 animals in 2012 and will likely total about the same amount for 2013.

It usually has 250 to 300 animals at a time, about half dogs and half cats with the occasional guinea pig, rabbit, iguana, bird or ferret coming in. With as many as 50 animals coming in a day during a peak point in 2013, it averages only about 20 animals adopted out a month. About 30 animals are typically transferred out to other rescue groups or shelters monthly.

Animals come in from various animal control agencies with some bringing them straight in after being picked up, while others hold them for about a week to allow a chance to be claimed. Individuals also bring animals in to give them up or after finding them.

The roughly 60-year-old I.V. Humane Society has operated for years as the largest animal shelter for residents and agencies.

With a recent change in leadership, including new board members and administration turnover, it has “conducted a comprehensive re-assessment of our current needs and capacities, including the overcrowding problem at the shelter,” said Humane Society board president Kelly Ranasinghe.

The overcrowding situation is unsustainable but is “being rectified by a shift in our financial strategy, as well as organizational and operational changes at the shelter,” he explained.

Plans include no longer accepting animal control agency drop-offs without adequate payment, continuing to work closely with other shelter and rescue operations like the Humane Society of Yuma, promoting foster programs, and developing corporate donation fundraising and grant research.

“We believe it was, and is, inappropriate for local government to burden-shift the costs of animal welfare to a nonprofit organization in an underprivileged region,” Ranasinghe said.

The nonprofit is also working with the county to develop a new comprehensive animal shelter program.

While most animals are transferred out, animals are euthanized at the I.V. Humane Society in last-resort cases, usually because of aggressive behavior or because they are very sick or injured.

Apodaca has the unfortunate task of carrying out the act.

“I don’t like euthanizing animals, as I’m pretty sure no one else does. I’ve had to do it and it’s not a good feeling,” he said. “We’re trying to save as many as we can instead of euthanizing.”

Promoting adoption can be difficult. Apodaca said as soon as he tells someone that there’s an adoption fee, many are turned off.

It costs $75 to adopt a cat and $140 to adopt a dog, regardless of age, sex or breed. But the fee includes up-to-date vaccinations, spaying and neutering, and a free veterinarian health examination, all of which would normally cost between $400 and $600. State law requires animals be spayed and neutered in order to be adopted out.

Seventy-five percent of the animals at the I.V. Humane Society are mixed breed while the rest are purebred.

“Every time somebody breeds their cats or dog and sell those puppies or kittens or buys from a breeder or pet store, that’s one animal in the shelter that did not get a home,” Apodaca said.

While the shelter relies on donations to operate, staff and volunteers work with the little they have to ensure the animals are happy, healthy and comfortable. And the I.V. Humane Society needs help.

“The animal overpopulation in the Imperial Valley, this is the community. These animals here are the community’s animals,” Apodaca said. “We want to get the community more involved.”

Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or cadami@ivpressonline.com.

Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or cadami@ivpressonline.com

I covered the border and Calexico for two-and-a-half years but am now the courts and crime reporter. I studied journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and previously worked as a staff photographer in Austin, Dallas, Costa Rica and rural Oklahoma.

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