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EMC SPCA shelter front - photo courtesy Sharon Fitzgerald

Madera County Donates Land For New EMC SPCA Shelter

AHWAHNEE – Madera County is giving 75 acres in Awhawnee to the Eastern Madera County SPCA to help the organization complete its new, no-kill animal shelter.

On Tuesday, the board of supervisors OK’d the donation of 75.33 acres of “surplus” county land to EMC SPCA. The organization’s president said the donation will allow the nonprofit to secure additional funding for the facility, expected to open later this year.

Madera County Animal Control in Madera is currently the only animal shelter in the county.

EMC SPCA, which has been working to building a no-kill animal shelter in the area since the organization’s founding in 1990, first approached the county about the land donation after Caltrans took a larger part of the original building site for road improvements.

Sharon Fitzgerald, EMC SPCA president, is the owner of The Cat’s Meow in Oakhurst. She also operates the EMC SPCA Thrift Shop next door. The 2,000-square-foot thrift shop is one of the all-volunteer group’s main sources of revenue.

Fitzgerald said EMC SPCA had been leasing the 12.8-acre development site in Ahwahnee for $1 a year as it worked to raise funding to build the $3.7 million facility.

“We are very grateful for this donation from the county,” Fitzgerald said this week. “It just makes our building more valuable. Now we’ll own the land we’ve spent millions building on. It just makes a lot more sense.”

The donation also shifts responsibility for maintaining the steep, heavily forested terrain around the new shelter property from the county to EMC SPCA.

Located on Highway 49 across from Wasuma Elementary School and Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park, the new 8,500-square-foot shelter will feature state-of-the-art features for dogs and cats.

A number of area businesses have donated supplies and free labor to the construction effort, which has been financed entirely with grants and donations like the one from the County.

“We still need money to pay for office furniture, kennels and equipment for the spay-neuter clinic,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re always going to be fundraising.”

This week at the construction site, workers were putting finishing touches on an interior “community” area for cats, installing enclosures and wall paneling donated by H&L Lumber.

District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler characterized the land donation from the county as “a win-win situation for all of us.” At Tuesday’s board meeting, Wheeler said he hoped the facility might someday be able to build corrals for larger animals.

Escrow on the 75-acre parcel is expected to close Apr. 30.

“As soon as this weather clears, we want to get the paving in up there [at the construction site] because it’s such a mess right now,” said Fitzgerald.

The organization’s board has yet to finalize a projected opening date for the new shelter but Fitzgerald said the facility “will definitely” be up and running in 2019.

“We want it to be the best it can be,” she said. “Nobody wants it to be open sooner than our board but we’re not going to take any shortcuts.”

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