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Ceres yields too many unwanted pit bulls, Chihuahuas
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Unwanted pit bulls like this one are winding up in the local animal shelter from Ceres and three other zip code areas of the county. To curb their numbers the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency is offering free spaying and neutering services. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Unwanted pit bulls and Chihuahuas from Ceres, South Modesto, west Modesto and the Airport District have been a huge problem for the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency. A new program of offering free spaying and neutering services is intended to nip that problem in the reproductive tract.

Annette Patton, the executive director of the agency, came to the Ceres City Council on Monday to get out the word that Ceres has been part of the problem and can be a part of the solution - free of charge.

"We have a brand-new program for the first time ever we are offering free spay and neuter for all pit bull and Chihuahua owners in the city of Ceres," said Patton.

Ceres' 95307 was one of four zip code areas identified as producing a "very high volume" of unwanted pit bulls and Chihuahuas coming into the shelter.

Owners living in the 95307 zip code can go to the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency at 3647 Cornucopia Way in west Ceres to obtain a free spay or neuter certificate as well as a free rabies vaccination. The certificate can be redeemed at any local veterinarian to get one of the breeds altered. The agency will also issue a dog license after alteration has been documented.

"I want citizens to take advantage of this because ultimately our goal is to lower the euthanasia rate and lower the in-take rate," said Patton. "We don't care if you own a pit bull or Chihuahua; we just want them spayed and neutered."

The free program is also being offered to those living in zip codes 95351 and 95354 in west and southeast Modesto, and the 95358 area in west Modesto.

Ceres was the third highest zip code area for intake of unwanted Chihuahuas. A total of 283 pit bulls and 296 Chihuahuas came from Ceres to the shelter during the 2014-15 year, said Patton. Patton said a combined 3,970 pit bulls and Chihuahuas made their way to the shelter from the four zip code areas, and that 71 percent were unaltered.

Patton noted that Ceres has also been a source for a high number of unwanted cats. She stressed that cat owners alter their pets as well.

Starting July 1 the agency has issued 140 certificates "and I will tell you Ceres is number one in the running for taking advantage of the program," Patton told the council.

The four zip codes have produced about 4,000 unaltered pit bulls and Chihuahuas annually. The goal is to get 600 dogs in the two breed categories fixed which will cost the joint powers authority tens of thousands of dollars. The investment is designed to lower shelter costs and the cost and heartbreak of having to destroy thousands of dogs.

From July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, the shelter took in 8,405 dogs and puppies. Pit bulls from the four specific zip codes account for 24 percent of the dog intake while Chihuahuas are 22 percent of the total intake.

Patton said that the euthanasia rate for dogs has declined significantly over the past few years. During Fiscal Year 2014-15, 45 percent of the dogs taken into the shelter were destroyed. That percentage dropped to 29 percent in FY2015-16 which ended on June 30.

Spaying and neutering a dog may have some side benefits. Uncontrolled breeding has been known to contribute to an increase incidence of fighting and bites to humans. Pets that have been altered also live longer and happier lives, according to the Humane Society. Spaying and neutering can eliminate or reduce the incidence of a number of health problems that can be difficult or expensive to treat.

Ceres recently experienced an incident earlier this month when Jan Stiles, 67, was attacked by a pit bull as she walked her Yorkie on Bordeaux Way. The 50-pound female dog and another dog bit Stiles in the arms, legs and ribs. The attack ended when residents living on the street came to her aid and scared the dogs off. Stiles went to the hospital and her dog was treated by a local veterinarian.

The shelter is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and may be reached at 558-PETS.