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'They just starve' Why healthy dogs dumped in Bakersfield won't be picked up

The changes were made back in November of 2023
Duchess the German Shepherd
Posted at 8:53 AM, Mar 15, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — We head out to the orchards, where a German Shepherd named Duchess lives. She is skinny, only being fed three times a week by the volunteers. Duchess is one of the many dogs abandoned throughout the city.

  • In this story, 23ABC's Ava Kershner goes out with the group at 4 a.m. to see a part of their 7 hour route, feeding stray animals in Bakersfield.
  • According to the City of Bakersfield, the shelter has a high volume of animals and a low number of resources.

“I’m in charge of food and she does water, so we just both go at the same time to knock it all out all at once,” said Hadyn Clarke, a 16 year old dog rescuer. 

It's 4 a.m. out in the orchards of Bakersfield.

It's dark, and most people are asleep- except for one mother and her teenage daughter.

“We have 39 stops in total on this route,” said Tanya Clarke, a local dog rescuer and Hadyn’s mother. 

“And how long does that usually take you?” I ask. 

“All in all like three hours in the morning, and then another three or four at night,” said Clarke. 

For Tanya Clarke and her daughter Haydn its six to seven hours a day of filling up pans with dog food and cleaning them so the water is fresh.

“We started it because the dogs that get abandoned out here, nobody feeds them. And they just starve and can't fend for themselves so we started coming out here on a regular route,” said Clarke.

And they aren't the only ones.

They are a part of Friends of Abandoned Dogs- just one of many animal rescues Kern has.

It's no secret that this county has a high population of animals without people who can take care of them.

However, the City of Bakersfield says they are doing what they can to help the problem.

“I think we are trying to address as many animals as we can. We have limited resources at our shelter, in our facilities,” said Joe Conroy with the City of Bakersfield. 

But some feel they aren't doing enough.

“I don’t want to speak for other people, but I’m angry with the way things have been handled here locally,” said Melissa Hutton. 

Melissa Hutton is also a volunteer with Friends of Abandoned Dogs, with a seven hour route as well.

She doesn't just want help from the city.

She wants justice.

“People need to be held accountable. Animal cruelty is punishable and nobody’s getting punished,” said Hutton. 

Hutton has seen dogs being thrown out of cars, stuffed in dog food bags, and tied up in the fields.

Which is why when she doesn't see her normal dogs on her route, she fears the worst.

“They live in the backyard there,” said Hutton. 

One of the stops is at a house with no power where usually a pack of Dobermans live.

But when we went to feed them, they weren't there.

So we tried again a week later.

“A number of them have gotten killed,” said Hutton. 

And still no sign of them.

“Come on guys… It worries me,” said Hutton

Worries surge, but duty calls.

And onto the next stop.

We head out to the orchards, where a German Shepherd the volunteers have named Duchess lives.

She is skinny, only being fed three times a week by the volunteers.

But she keeps a friendly demeanor- going up to smell unknown guests with cameras like me.

Dogs like Duchess, who are healthy and not aggressive, will not be picked up by the city’s animal control.

According to the City of Bakersfield, the shelter has a high volume of animals and a low number of resources.

“What happens to the dogs that are dumped, but still qualify as healthy?” I ask. 

“What do you mean by dumped?” asked Conroy. 

“Like, for example, a lot of dogs get dumped out in the orchards out there. A lot of them are still healthy and not aggressive, not sick at all. What happens to those dogs- is there anything in place for them?” I ask. 

“They will have to wait at this point we would not be able to retrieve them at this point,” said Conroy. 

“Yep, they have to wait,” said Hutton. 

So the rescuers do their best.

But it doesn't always work- 16 year old Haydn has seen it herself.

“Oh I wonder what that bag is, and you walk up to it, and you can just see seeping out and it’s really gross. So we try and like do our best to help those dogs so that way they don’t end up in bags,” said Haydn.

But despite the animal abuse the volunteers have witnessed first hand, they still have hope.

And every once in a while- that hope is validated.

We turn the corner, heading back after not finding the Dobermans.

When all of a sudden, three brown dogs pop out of the tall grass.

“Those are the Dobies!” said Hutton. 

If you would like to help Kern’s animal crisis, please visit https://bakersfieldstrays.org/


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