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Kern County animal shelters are overcrowded, forcing tough decisions

Officials with the Bakersfield Animal Care Center and Kern County Animal Services want local pet owners to learn more about low-cost spay and neuter options for cats and dogs.
dogs at bakersfield animal care center
Posted at 6:36 PM, May 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-23 22:06:29-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — From full-grown dogs to 11-week-old puppies, the City of Bakersfield Animal Care Center doesn't discriminate when it comes to taking dogs off the streets and into their care. But space is limited, and with the facility already housing 300 dogs in 175 kennels, the shelter is increasingly doing something they don't want to do: euthanasia.

"We've sent out more dogs this year than we ever have in the past, but here's the kicker - the sad thing is, our intakes are on such a high rise that even though we're saving more dogs than we ever have, our live release rate is actually dropping," said Josh Proctor, an animal behaviorist at the Bakersfield Animal Care Center.

According to Proctor, along with an increase in adoptions, the center has also seen a rise in returned owners and transports. He says these efforts are due to the waiving of adoption fees, which is one tactic the shelter is using to reduce the number of animals being euthanized.

"We don't believe that we should be charging an adoption fee when there are dogs on the euthanasia list, so our dogs have been waived for the past year," said Proctor. "We're hoping to keep pushing our adoptions and we'll probably keep the adoption fees waived for the rest of the year."

Proctor says although the shelter is housing roughly 300 dogs, they are supposed to stay under 200. Proctor says daily checks are done to determine which dogs will be put down.

"We look at any dogs that might be getting sick or not getting better. We look at any dogs that are showing any signs of behavioral issues. We check all of our numbers, our reports, see if there's any dogs who are getting attention or not getting attention," said Proctor.

Proctor adds that the best way to lower euthanasia rates is by spaying and neutering pets.

Spay and neuter is something that Kern County Animal Services Director Nick Cullen is also a huge advocate for. According to Cullen, county animal services euthanizes about 145 animals per month, but that number changes depending on the number of dogs in the shelter and the number adopted out.

"A massive influx in animals coming into the shelter means there's a massive influx in the number of animals in the community," said Cullen. "How can people prevent animals from multiplying in the community? Spay and neuter your pets."

Recently, the shelter was awarded a grant of about $145,000. Cullen says a majority of that money will go toward spaying and neutering animals, but they also have another project underway to address the issue.

"We're using it to create an offsite adoption event team," said Cullen. "So we have staff who take adoptable pets and drive them out to businesses and locations across the county."

Overall both Cullen and Proctor agree that true change can only come when the public is willing to do their part as responsible pet owners and commit to spaying and neutering their dogs and cats.

"We're never going to keep dogs off the euthanasia list if they never stop coming in in the first place, so I would suggest to people: Get your dogs fixed. Reach out and see how you can," said Proctor.

Another way Proctor suggests for people to help keep healthy animals off shelter euthanasia lists is to become a foster pet parent. You can find more information on how to apply for the KCAS foster program on their website's How To Help page.