Second Thoughts: Animal shelter advocates play waiting game
by Jon Mendelson / Tracy Press
Jun 25, 2010 | 3564 views | 13 13 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tuesday, June 22, was a rare day at the Tracy Animal Shelter.

At least one full row of dog kennels stood vacant, which, according to Animal Control Services supervisor Ben Miller, means many shelter residents recently found homes.

“Usually, we’re right at or near capacity,” Miller said. “We had a good week.”

Good weeks at the shelter happen in spite of the aging facility, according to Miller and others working there. Built more than 30 years ago as a stop-gap, it’s still Tracy’s only shelter.

It’s one of the reasons advocates such as Kim Gray, who volunteers as a rescue coordinator, are adamant about building a new shelter.

“Absolutely,” Gray said. “We need a new shelter desperately.”

Despite her certainty, fair questions remain: Does the city really need a new animal shelter? And, maybe more to the point, can the city afford one?

When it comes to euthanasia rates, the Tracy Animal Shelter is exemplary, at least when it comes to national standards.

While Miller said that the Tracy shelter is only “average” when it comes to saving adult felines — a notoriously difficult population to adopt out — the local shelter puts down only 20 percent of the dogs that stay in its kennels, while the typical shelter euthanizes 60 percent. Of that 20 percent at the Tracy shelter, Miller said, only half are put down because there’s no room at the inn.

So to have statistics tell the story, a new shelter doesn’t seem like a screaming need.

But a lot of the shelter’s success, Miller told me, is because of the rescue groups — especially Tracy Animal Rescue — that partner with the shelter. To keep those euthanasia rates low, Gray works as a shelter-rescue liaison, finding homes for pets as far away as San Francisco and Southern California.

Because of that, Gray said, “Very few adoptable dogs (at the Tracy shelter) get euthanized.”

That outcome could be very different without efforts like Gray’s.

And though it’s well taken care of by staff, the shelter is small, its heating and air conditioning aren’t up to snuff (Miller recently rigged his own mister system for a block of kennels), and it’s generally not up to the standard of modern-built facilities.

Oh, and the location stinks. Literally.

The shelter’s tucked off Arbor Road way north of Tracy near a scrap metal yard and a sewage treatment plant that “perfumes” the air on warm days. The geography discourages folks from visiting and returning with a new family member.

“We’re not near any destination,” Miller said, explaining that there’s nothing close to the shelter — like sports fields or the West Valley Mall — to draw “while we’re here” traffic.

Listen to arguments like these and take a tour of the shelter, and it becomes obvious — a new one is indeed a need.

Of course, that only answers one of our questions. As Miller explained, new digs for Tracy’s impounded dogs and cats is “all going to come down to funding.”

Right now, that funding simply isn’t there.

According to City Manager Leon Churchill, building a new animal shelter is definitely a priority for Tracy’s leadership. Community meetings have been conducted, and a draft has been started. But compared to other city needs, the animal shelter is down the list.

“Compared to public safety and job creation,” Churchill said, “it is not an urgent need from an operational standpoint.”

Not only that, but the shelter competes against other big-ticket items like the aquatics center and the Holly Sugar sports fields for money — not to mention, as Churchill said, anything else that comes up with city’s regular capital improvement planning.

And when it comes to climbing the city-do list, the shelter’s stellar statistics suddenly become a liability.

But all is not lost for shelter advocates. Churchill said he and other city officials know the score.

“The thing that bothers me as a city manager, and I know the advocates, is that it’s a poor location,” he said. “And in absolute terms, it’s a poor facility, because it was built as a temporary facility, and here we are 30 years later.”

In other words, a new Tracy Animal Shelter will someday be a reality. It just might take a while for “someday” to become “today.”

n Contact associate editor

Jon Mendelson at 830-4231 or

• Contact associate editor Jon Mendelson at 830-4231 or
Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 03, 2010
Hopefully the animal shelter will be placed where there would be lot of foot traffic, such as near Holly Site Sports Park?

I am glad the city manager agrees the present shelter is in poor location. If it can't be taken care of right away, the community could join force and donate items to spruce up the building, such as lumber, paint, pipes and so on.

Make it a happier, more presentable place so it would attract more volunteers?

That shelter held up pretty well for a "temporary" shelter that was in use for 30 years! Interesting bit of news!

People, remember to spay your cats, dogs, to prevent unnecessary heartbreaks.



July 02, 2010
Actually it looks like Jon wrote this article as well as his dispicable "Meow-switz" article as an editorial.

Either way, please give Michelle a break. It's pretty easy ta see she took th article personally but not necessililarly
July 02, 2010
Actually it looks like Jon wrote this article as well as his despicable "Meow-switz" article as an editorial.

Either way, please give Michelle a break. It's pretty easy ta see she took th article personally but not necessarily goin off on City employees.

Th article was so poorly written it would be easy ta think th animal control staff made these comments while th smell came from Jon's fertile imagination.
June 30, 2010
I'll be honest with you folks. The Petco and the PetSmart don't "stink", but you don't see folks lining up around the parking lot to adopt a pet there either. Tough economic times.

I will say that on days when it is not very hot outside I did not notice the odor. Would not have noticed it until reading someone rubbing our noses in it.
June 30, 2010

Why not use words like "an odor" instead of "smelly"? It's confusing.
June 30, 2010
WOW.. I like how it went from an article on bettering the services for the Tracy citizens by building a new shelter and then went south to insults.. Michelle you talk about how you are insulted with what the article says, mind you the shelter employee's said nothing negative about C & S Scrap Metal Yard, and then you insult them with rude comments. So maybe use your words of advise and if you dont have anything nice to say, dont say it at all.
June 30, 2010
Michelle- No where in this article did I read where the shelter employees slandered your business. The ONE sentence that included the scrap metal yard merely gave the location to shelter, implying that is located in a "smelly" area(from waste water treatment plant). The writer of this article very clearly states what are actual quotes from shelter employees. After rereading it (which I suggest you do) you can clearly gather that the sentence that has your panties in a bunch are that made from the writer, not a City Employee.
June 29, 2010

Don't be so overzealous.
June 29, 2010
Despite the fact that you are unhappy with your location, we find it rather insulting that you have to associate our scrap metal yard with vulger smells for which our scrap metal business does not put off any kind of bad odors, and it has a organized yard for which we keep clean and free of trash and debree. We understand your need for the new shelter but no need to slander other businesses in the area of your current location in order to obtain reasoning for why you need a new shelter. Stick to the facts, being that your shelter is not large enough to accomodate the animals abandoned in our community and the fact that your location is secluded and not easily found off of Arbor Road. We have animals that have escaped your shelter running our property often but we don't complain nor do we wish to comment on why so many animals escape your facility. Please refer to the old saying, " If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all".


Michelle Morgan

C & S Metals
June 25, 2010

Please don't fall into the same trap as that lady who you asked this question to at the degate you presided over, at Monte Vista.

We don't need another dog kennel. What we need is these animal groups to reach out to churches and visit them in the parking lot on a Sunday morning.

When you learn to write about solutions instead of griping about things that are out of our control you will become like a rock star in Tracy.

Till then enjoy the recession. You voted for a president who was going to do something about oil.

Try it with sushi.

June 25, 2010
"over breeding of people"?

"nothing sacred about our lives"?

"Too many children decaying amid litter"?

What the heck are you talking about?
June 25, 2010

Since you feel life is not sacred are you advocating the euthanization of those "children decaying amid litter; too many Pitbulls and Chihuahuas"?

Why were you visiting this "squalid neighborhood in Stockton"? Just curious.

June 25, 2010
The significant question is this: When do we stop the senseless breeding of animals? We approach this issue the same way we do with the over-breeding of people? Animal Shelters, like “Seamless Summer Feeding meals,” is what I call an After-the-Fact program. Irresponsibility is allowed to burgeon because we don’t institute what I call Before-the-Fact mandates. Growth, in numbers, is the bane of this agency and so many others that purport to be in our best interest. Neighborhoods are now becoming like animal shelters because myopic, selfish people are advocating the salvation of all living things.

Guess what? There is nothing sacred about our lives!

I recently visited a squalid neighborhood in Stockton and was dismayed by the number of children and animals behind front-yard, chain-linked fences: Too many children decaying amid litter; too many Pitbulls and Chihuahuas doing the same thing.

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