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Californian columnist Lois Henry

If you're overwhelmed when you hear about Kern County's continuing animal overpopulation and think you can't make a difference, think again.

Even if you don't have a lot of money or time, there are ways to participate.

Like books? Like pizza? Then you can help.

In fact, there are so many organizations gearing up for fundraisers and events that I thought it would be best to compile all that I know of and you, dear reader, can take your pick of the volunteering and/or giving options. (If there are other organizations I've missed, please email me and I'll do my best to get the word out.)

I cannot say enough good about Bakersfield's low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter clinic. Since it opened its doors in October 2012, it has fixed nearly 11,000 Kern County animals.

When you figure, conservatively, each one of those 11,000 animals could have produced four more animals per year and, in turn, those animals could have produced four more, you can see what an impact spay/neuter can have.

In celebration of Critters hitting the 10,000-animal mark, Robert and Patty Salazar, owners of Red Brick Pizza on Brimhall Road and Calloway Drive, will donate a portion of their May 1 proceeds to Critters.

Critters will have a booth on hand from 4 to 9 p.m. and will hold drawings for items such as an overnight stay for two at the Madonna Inn and more. But if you can only get there for lunch, no worries, you'll still be contributing to this worthy effort.

Critters Executive Director Vicky Thrasher told me they are extremely grateful for the help.

"We always need things like new medical equipment," Thrasher said.

The top item on Critters' wish list is a transport vehicle that would enable staffers to help low-income people in outlying areas get their animals to the Bakersfield clinic.

Hmmm. Any Ford, Dodge, GMC, Toyota dealers around who want to help out?

* Fixing Kern -- the Spay and Neuter Project

The group will hold a rummage sale May 3 from 7 a.m. to noon at 16589 Clarisse St. and all proceeds will go to, you guessed it, spay and neuter.

The group takes all items, clothes, blankets, furniture, etc.

If you can't be on hand to buy, you can call Kim at 330-7736 -- no later than May 2 -- to arrange pick up of donated items.

They also need volunteers, so check out their Facebook page.

* Basic Needs Foundation

This Los Angeles-based organization has been coming to the Lake Isabella area for the last three years to do mobile spay/neuter events for low-income residents.

It has a clinic coming up June 7, but needs money for another clinic it would like to hold in Lake Isabella in July.

Interested persons can call (323) 325-2712 to help, or check out their website and Facebook pages (see sidebox).

* Friends of the Kern County Shelters Foundation

Buy your tickets now for this organization's second annual Applause for Paws comedy and dinner event to be held June 14. There will also be a silent auction and opportunity drawings.

Cost is $30 for singles and $50 for couples. Tickets are available at a number of local outlets or you can contact the group via email at

All proceeds go to support Friends' spay/neuter voucher program, which has become extremely popular. So popular, in fact, that Friends had to stop issuing vouchers for lack of funds.

Hint hint -- the group needs money.

The general voucher program gives residents $20 off the cost of fixing a cat and $30 off the cost of fixing a dog.

Last year, Friends vouchers were used to fix more than 800 Kern County animals.

Friends was also recently granted $20,000 in spay/neuter vouchers from Kern County.

Those vouchers can only be issued to county residents of the 93306, '07 and '08 ZIP codes and are good for dogs only. Friends has created two specific voucher programs for that money called Fix Kern Now! and Spay Your Princess!

Fix Kern Now! vouchers will give residents $50 off the cost of a spay/neuter surgery for all male dogs and smaller female dogs. Spay Your Princess! vouchers will give $60 off for surgeries of female pit bulls, pit mixes and other large breed dogs and puppies.

Friends will also be working with Kern Humane Society and Alpha Canine to distribute those county vouchers, so check with those organizations as well.

The group hopes to have those county vouchers ready sometime in early May.

But wait, that's not all, Friends president Judi Daunell told me.

The organization has also received a $5,000 grant from Supervisor Leticia Perez that Friends will use for a third voucher program available to all residents of Perez's district in the 93306 and '07 zip codes, regardless of whether they live within city or county jurisdiction areas.

Friends plans to divvy up the Perez money between its Fix Kern Now! (76 vouchers) and Spay Your Princess! (20 vouchers) programs. Those will go fast, so get your name in now -- or 472-6191.

The group expects to issue the Perez vouchers the first week of May.

Daunel said she already has a waiting list of more than 100 people who don't qualify for the county money or the Perez money but are desperately seeking any kind of help to fix their animals.

Again, hint, hint, whatever you can donate will go a long way.

* Kern Humane Society

Supervisor Perez also gave Kern Humane $5,000 for vouchers, director Sue Bennett told me.

Those will be distributed on the group's regular discount coupon day, the first Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kern Humane's thrift shop, 2111 Brundage Lane.

The group will still give out its regular coupons -- $20 for dogs and $10 or $15 for cats. The Perez coupons will be for $50 for dogs only and, again, to residents of the 93306 and '07 ZIP codes.

* Cathey's K-9 Rescue

This is the third year Nancy Cathey has held her puppy surrender project at the Petco on Rosedale and it's grown every year. Last summer, she took in and adopted out more than 600 puppies that otherwise would likely have been euthanized in Kern animal shelters. She also got 75 mama dogs spayed through the program.

She's begun the program again and is asking for any help from the community, either monetary donations or dry puppy food. Either are welcome.

To surrender puppies, residents must first make an appointment by calling (760) 417-9627. Cathey will then issue the person a voucher to get the mama dog fixed. And she will follow up to make sure that gets done.

Do not -- repeat, DO NOT -- dump puppies in front of the store and take off.

Cathey is also hoping to get a corporate sponsor to continue a pilot program she started a few months ago. She wants to give out 100 coupons once a month to low-income residents to cover the entire cost of having a dog fixed, microchipped and vaccinated.

Cathey financed one month on her own and it was hugely successful. But she needs a corporate partner to help with the estimated $7,000 monthly cost.

* Marley's Mutts and Fixing Kern -- The Spay & Neuter Project

These groups already kicked off their first spay/neuter voucher event April 19 in the 93308 ZIP code, according to Fixing Kern's director Jackie Cameron.

They anticipate receiving $50,000 in county money. But there's been a hiccup while the county sorts out a conditional use permit issue with Marley's Mutts.

No matter, Cameron said. They already have $30,000 from private donations and a grant from the Salah Foundation and intend to use that money until the county funding comes through.

Volunteers gave out 150 vouchers and there are 100 people on the waiting list, Cameron said.

Each voucher costs residents $30. They may be used at an upcoming spay/neuter clinic to be held May 4 at the Rasmussen Senior Center on Roberts Lane.

At the May 4 clinic, more vouchers will be given out for another clinic set for May 16. Further clinics will be held every two weeks through Aug. 17.

"The faster we do this, the more lives we save," Cameron said.

* S&N Foundation

The Spay & Neuter Foundation also got some county money, $10,000, to be used in the 93306, '07 and '08 ZIP codes. But president Julie Nunes and vice president Natalie Garrett are also seeking donations to restart their general spay/neuter voucher program for low-income residents of any ZIP code.

Like Friends, their program was so popular they ran out of funds and their "pub crawl" fundraiser isn't until next fall.

You can help out now, though, by purchasing one of their fun t-shirts that read -- "I'm into S&N" -- via the group's Facebook page.

"We're all out there trying to get it done," Garrett said. "It's a team effort."

* Bakersfield SPCA

And don't forget the ongoing book sale for the SPCA at the East Hills Mall. You never know what treasures you might find, and this is the organization's biggest fundraiser all year.

It runs now until May 24. Hours are Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

Volunteers are also very much needed. For more information call 323-8353, extension 2.


So there you have it. Lots of ways to jump in and make a difference.

No excuses.