Fresno-based animal welfare nonprofit Kirkland Foundation fosters and finds new homes for homeless pets, but it’s not a shelter.
Instead, founder Kyle Kirkland says his foundation is more of a virtual network of people working together for the good of homeless animals around the valley.
“For the most part we are working with ourselves and other (animal welfare) groups, working out of our homes or with fosters,” Kirkland said. “It’s a network of people, its virtual. We will definitely foster, but the goal is not to store, the goal is goodbye. So we’ll get an animal, get them healthy, figure out who can foster them, we pay for the food, the medical, follow up the chipping and all that. Then we find them a home.”
Kirkland is also Board Chair of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and owner of downtown Fresno’s Club One Casino.
His organization exists primarily on Facebook, where it pursues its goal of taking in animals and fostering them until they find new homes.
“The cool thing about Facebook is that we couldn’t do what we do but for that tool. All these animals come to us on Facebook, we can organize with other people using that,” Kirkland said. “Someone will see an animal distressed, take a picture and post it. Then in the comments someone will tag us. Then when I see it I’ll be like ok, how can we help you? So then we start communicating on Facebook and we arrange for the resources and the medical care to get there and then we figure out who is going to take care of them.”
The Kirkland Foundation is only made out of about 20 people, including paid employees and volunteers.
Kirkland began the foundation three years ago, after he rescued a few animals of his own.
“I rescued a puppy from underneath one of the dumpsters at work and he became the Club One mascot, his name is Jackpot. Everyone likes him and he runs around the casino. I noticed downtown – I was living downtown – and I saw some stray cats and I actually rescued a couple, still have one. Then I just started noticing it so I had a heightened awareness,” Kirkland said.
The Foundation’s main goal is to reduce Fresno County’s high rates of euthanasia. Kirkland said Fresno has an 80 percent euthanasia rate for cats and a 50 percent rate for dogs.
In fact, learning of the high euthanasia rate is what inspired Kirkland to start the foundation in the first place.
“The tipping point for me was talking with the (SPCA) about some issues and they told me what their euthanasia rates were and said I can’t do that. I can move that needle,” Kirkland said. “We have an animal overpopulation problem in Fresno County with 80 percent euthanasia rates for cats, 50 percent for dogs. No one wants to do that.”
In 2019 alone, Fresno County euthanized 14,500 dogs and cats.
Animal overpopulation is regarded as a major problem statewide. Earlier this month, Governor Gavin Newsom announced his intention to make california a “no-kill state,” meaning the elimination of euthanizing treatable and adoptable animals. He said $50 million of the Golden State’s 2020-2021 budget will go to achieving the goal.
Kirkland said Fresno’s high euthanasia rates are a fixable problem. With the proper grants and public education, the valley can bring euthanasia rates down to below 20 percent.
“We have a domestic animal overpopulation problem that is eminently solvable, all we need is education on spay and neutering and in 24 months, because that’s how animal gestation works, that problem starts to correct,” Kirkland said. “If you have a leak in your roof and your bucket fills, don’t just get a bigger bucket, fix the leak in the roof, and the leak in the roof here is animal reproduction. If we work on spay and neutering and educating people, in a very short period of time we slow the inflow and make it more manageable.”
For those who doubt his claim, Kirkland said look no further than the neighboring community of Madera.
“We have an example, Madera County 10 years ago had a 90 percent kill rate and then they got a spay and neuter program and now its like under 15. If Madera can do it, we should be able to do it,” he said.
Spay and neuter programs give pet owners the opportunity to “fix” their furry friend for a lower cost. So instead of paying $70 to $100 to spay or neuter your pet, you would only have to pay $25.
“Spay or neutering is $70 to $100 if you do it through your vet, but we if have a grant that supports it its $25. And we’ll reinforce it with advertising and education,” Kirkland said, adding that Fresno would need about $4 million in grants to address the issue.
“In Fresno I think for about $3 or $4 million in programs of advertising and education and awareness – I want to get it from private grants to not burden the city with it – you can educate people and have a huge impact. We at least can get it down from 80 percent to 30,” Kirkland said.
The foundation constantly shares events, news and educational information regarding animal welfare over its Facebook page. You can follow them at https://www.facebook.com/Kirkland-Foundation-328846224640175/.