There are ways -- proven ways -- to fix Kern County's abominable animal overpopulation problem.

Five years ago, I looked for success stories across the country, found them and wrote about them.

I even put the architect of one of those success stories in touch with Supervisor Mike Maggard.

I had hope.

Because, this isn't rocket science.

It's a basic numbers game.

Figure out where the majority of our unwanted animals are coming from and target those areas with massive, free spay/neuter programs.

From there, it's dominoes: population reduced, shelter intake reduced, euthanasia numbers reduced.

We have more than enough money and resources to do it.

What we have not had is leadership, focus and, frankly, the maturity to get it done.


All of that came to a head last week with Bakersfield cutting ties with Kern and giving the county a month to move out of the Mount Vernon shelter.

Much histrionics and gnashing of teeth have ensued.

I'm not going to rehash who did who wrong.

I will, however, remind all those in the county who are so "shocked" by the city's actions that the county did the exact same thing to the city a year ago.

City folks had no idea the county was considering terminating its shelter agreement until they saw it on a Board of Supervisors agenda. At least in this latest turn of events the county had fair warning that the city was getting anxious to have a new agreement signed or it would make this move.

Neither side can claim martyr status.

Besides, I don't think the city and county separating is a bad thing.

Consider this: There was so much animosity built up over so many years between he city and county, that the two sides couldn't even come to terms on an agreement, which was meant to create an orderly path for them to split up anyway.

How could they ever come together on what we really need, a massive spay/neuter program?

So, fine, I say. Cut the cord and maybe each agency can get to the big picture on its own.

It's worked in Sacramento where there's a county shelter, one operated by the city and a third operated by the SPCA. They do their own thing, have their own funding and provide citizens with strong programs.

My hope is we'll get there too, someday.

But right now we're facing a major transition as the county looks for other digs to house its 700 animals.

That's going to require everyone to play nice.

Which was made that much more difficult after Kern County Animal Control Director Jen Woodard posted a rant against the city and the SPCA on her Facebook page.

Woodard has priors for bad Facebook blurting. This one was a doozy. (See accompanying article.)

At one point, she accuses the city of planning to "sweep" the city for stray animals to dump on the county at the last minute.

I asked why she would think the city would ever consider something like that.

"I have to plan for the worst-case scenario and if the roles were reversed it would make sense to me to do that," she said.

The city has said it has no plans to overload the shelter with animals.

Woodard acknowledged that this transition phase will require all parties to deal with each other professionally and in a collaborative manner.

I wondered how that was going to work since Woodard also called out the SPCA out as being "in the pocket" of the city and said it had turned its back on the shelter.

The SPCA is slated run the shelter for the city, though a contract has yet to be signed.

Woodard defended her Facebook post saying the "SPCA has never reached out to offer us assistance during my tenure.

"They house their dogs singly," Woodard noted. "Is it too much to ask that they pair some of their dogs and open up kennel space to help?"

She said she was also frustrated by previous criticism from SPCA Executive Director Julie Johnson about how the shelter handled disease, testing and treatment of its animals, but that Johnson didn't offer any help in those areas.

Since news broke of the impending break up, Woodard said she was upset that Johnson gave interviews saying the SPCA would provide a higher level of care for the animals.

"No one from the city has ever once mentioned issues of care to us," she said. "Now they say they want to provide better care, but they're knowingly kicking 400 of their animals out of the shelter. How is that providing better care?"

Woodard estimates that about 400 of the shelter's 700 animals are from city territory.

She said her Facebook post wasn't intended to be inflammatory

"Honestly, what the city did (last week) was far worse than what I posted on Facebook. Now we're faced with this daunting task simply because the city, what? Wanted to play hardball?"

Though Johnson was dismayed by Woodard's comments about the SPCA, she told me her organization stands ready to do help in whatever way it can to provide a smooth transition.

"The Facebook post doesn't change that," she said. "However, it certainly gives pause as to what a rant like that actually accomplishes for the animals."

Johnson also felt the city/county separation could be a real win for the community.

"We have to break the cycle of pointing fingers. That's gotta stop and we have to get down to the basics of sheltering animals and making positive changes."

I'm all for that.

I asked Johnson if the city and county could still hash out their differences and she shrugged.

"Anything could happen."

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at, call her at 395-7373 or e-mail