HANFORD – After decades of existence, Kings SPCA, a nonprofit dedicated to the rescue and adoption of neglected cats and dogs, is shutting down.
On Thursday morning, there was a closure sign attached to the chain-link gate of the facility, on 16 1/2 Ave. just off Grangeville Boulevard in a rural setting surrounded by fields and orchards.
"It is with heavy hearts that the Kings SPCA Board of Directors announces we will be closed to the public effective immediately," the sign read.
The organization isn't accepting any more animals.
Staff remained on site Thursday as they worked to find shelters and homes for the approximately 10-15 dogs and 45 cats remaining.
Kari Martin-Higgins, president of the board of directors, fought back tears as the reality of the end set in.
"We're getting the [remaining] animals out to rescue as best we can," she said.
Martin-Higgins said the organization has been slowly bleeding red ink since moving from their former East Lacey Boulevard site in 2013.
The move was made necessary because the city needed to buy the property to relocate East Lacey Boulevard northward as part of the Costco project.
Martin-Higgins said income from donations and adoptions wasn't keeping up with the approximately $17,000-a-month cost to keep the sprawling 10-acre site and its growing population of rescued animals going.
The 10-acre property was donated to Kings SPCA.
Depending on the age of the canine, the organization's adoption fee for dogs ranged from $100-$220.
The adoption fee for cats more than five years old was $80. Felines younger than that were $100.
Martin-Higgins said adoption fees offset part of the shelter's operating expenses. She said the shelter also depended on donations, which she said weren't enough keep the doors open.
Pam Brasil, executive director of Lemoore-based Valley Animal Haven, rolled up in her van Thursday to take some of the remaining animals to their new home at Valley Animal Haven three miles away.
Dogs waited patiently inside their carriers in the back as Brasil walked off to bring in more.
"We reached out to ask them, 'Do you need our help?'" Brasil said. "The answer was, 'Yes.'"
Brasil said Kings SPCA's closure "will have a big impact on the community."
Brasil reiterated the need for local residents to spay and neuter their pets to put a dent in the problem of strays and unwanted, neglected animals.
Brasil said she already has 170 animals at Valley Animal Haven's two-acre site.
"We need to hire more staff," she said.
When asked if she might have to shut down too, Brasil said she wouldn't let that happen.
"This is where I'm supposed to be," she said.
Cassie Heffington, who manages the county-run animal shelter in Hanford and recently joined Kings SPCA's board of directors, called Kings SPCA's closure "sad."
"Unfortunately, it's very difficult for rescue [shelters] in this area to place dogs," she said, adding that it's almost impossible to adopt out cats.
Heffington said the problem is the local overpopulation of dogs and cats because of a lack of spaying and neutering in Kings County.
As a result, people who want a dog or a cat know they can get one for cheap or nothing from a neighbor or through an online ad rather than paying hefty adoption fees at a shelter.
Heffington has worked hard to cut euthanasia rates at the county-run shelter (the county-run facility is not a strictly no-kill).
She's had to develop connections with no-kill shelters and adoption groups all over the country willing to accept Kings County's unwanted animals.
Heffington's hope is that the Kings SPCA site will be taken over by another nonprofit that will continue to serve these animals in some respect.
"We are looking into avenues for that," she said. "I just hope something good comes of it."