In California's Central Valley, animal shelters overwhelmed

FRESNO, Calif. -- For thousands of Valley pets, the recession is a death sentence.

Layoffs and foreclosures have forced families to give up pets in large numbers, loading shelters that already were struggling. And if Fluffy or Fido are older or have chronic medical needs, that means they are less adoptable -- and more likely to be killed.

"We can't give them as much time to stay up for adoption," said Beth Caffrey of the Central California Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "The euthanasia rate climbs when that happens."

The situation has become so dire, Caffrey said, that just last week the SPCA board decided to start charging pet owners for surrendered animals: $10 per pet, $25 per litter. The new fee starts Monday.

The agency needed a new source of revenue because it expects budget cuts from the city of Fresno and Fresno County, she said. Meanwhile, donations of food and money are down.

But shelter officials are worried the fee may increase pet abandonment, or that owners will say their surrendered pet is a stray, which would require the shelter to keep the animal five days instead of putting it up for adoption immediately -- and increase crowding.

Read the complete story at