So the city and county have split the sheets, so to speak, on animal sheltering.
But someone (ahem, county) is apparently having trouble moving on.
County supervisors don't like the way the city is taking in animals (from city residents only). They want the city to agree to a cumbersome animal exchange program. And they somehow think the city should jump on board with the county's basically-nonexistent trap-neuter-release (TNR) program for feral cats.
I swear, it's like your ex saying he doesn't like your new curtains. Yeah? Then quit looking in the windows!
The county needs to let it GOOOO.
Not just in terms of trying to control the city's shelter policies, but how about not micromanaging its own department head into oblivion?
The county (finally) has a good, level-headed interim Animal Services director in Shyanne Schull.
Schull is very busy getting a massive job done settling the county's shelter into a new location.
And she is working extremely well with Julie Johnson, director of the SPCA which has taken over city operations at the Mount Vernon shelter.
Schull and Johnson know what they're doing.
Now the politicians and bureaucrats needs to step back and let them make the soup.
Instead, Supervisors are working overtime to pick fights with the city.
It would be great if both entities approached every issue of animal control hand in hand.
But I think we can all agree that ship has sailed.
Before I get into the policy issues brought up by the county, I just have to say what an odd red herring I thought it was for supervisors to demand the city join its TNR efforts.
If you'll recall, former Animal Control Director Jen Woodard, leapt into TNR in late June saying the county would no longer accept feral cats starting July 1. Sometime later, she altered that to say the county would take them in, but it wouldn't house them as it had before. Instead feral cats would be fixed, microchipped, have their ears tipped and be returned to their original territory.
In her typical fashion, she made these announcements without first securing the support of local veterinarians and volunteer groups, but I had hoped it would come together eventually.
It hasn't, certainly not to the extent envisioned.
Either way, the SPCA city and SPCA support TNR programs. They just haven't had a chance to set one up yet. And Johnson and her staff know very well that a cat with a tipped ear means it's been fixed as part of a TNR program. They would know enough to pick up the phone and call the county, not just gas the animal and go about business as usual.
Have a little faith, county.
Anyhoo, aside from the basic fact that each entity should stay out of the other's operational decisions, here's why I think the county is pushing a rock uphill for no good reason.
First, we've already been living in a two-shelter community without any disastrous fallout.
The SPCA's shelter on Gibson Street has worked closely with the County's Mount Vernon shelter for many years coordinating animal exchanges and directing the public to the right shelter for animal surrenders, adoptions and where to find lost pets.
Residents, whether from unincorporated parts of the county, this city, another city or Mars, have coped just fine.
It may be an inconvenience and there may be instances where some rotten apple dumps an animal rather than drive across town. But considering our massive stray animal issues, those instances don't even qualify as a drop in the bucket.
Sure, it would be better to have a one-stop shop. We don't have that, so let's deal with what we do have.
The city is smaller and has fewer resources than the county. It only makes sense for it to limit the animals it handles and accommodate those people paying into its resources.
As far as the county trying it's little tit-for-tat game and declaring that if the city only takes city animals then the county will only take animals from unincorporated areas, I must ask, uh, really? Last I checked, Bakersfield residents paid county taxes and are residents of Kern County as well.
I'd like to see the county try that kind of garbage with county roads or parks or libraries. You can't prohibit city residents from using those "county" resources and you should not do it with animal sheltering either.
County officials have an almost pathological fear of "subsidizing" the city.
Whatever advantage the city took in years past is over. It is now paying nearly $1 million a year for its own shelter and has increased the community's overall shelter space by 100 percent.
The bottom line is both shelter directors will have to work together and, in fact, already are working together to make sure animals and people get to the right places.
I do agree it would be great if both entities recorded their data in the same way as to where animals are found. But even if they have different systems, as long as those systems are accurate (not a strong suit of the county's in the past), that's all that matters.
Because that data is absolutely necessary if the city and county are ever, EVER, going to get a move on toward the only real solution to our pet overpopulation problem -- massive, targeted spay/neuter programs.
You have to know where the animals are being produced so you can get services to those communities.
Bickering over policies is just more flotsam getting in the way of an effective spay/neuter program.
And that, dear readers, is the real prize. That is what each entity should be striving for. That is our only salvation.
Without it, there isn't enough fresh paint on this planet to keep either shelter from descending into overcrowded, disease-ridden hell holes.
We've been there. Lets not go back.
Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at http://www.bakersfield.com, call her at 395-7373 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org