In late 2011, the shelter supervisor was performing a shelter walkthrough at the Kern County Animal Shelter, then located at 201 S. Mount Vernon Ave., along with the senior animal care worker.
These two, at that time, were the individuals responsible for formulating a daily list of dogs and cats – numbering over 70 – that were to be killed that day. And the profoundly disturbing reason for the formulation of the list was that room needed to be made for the 100 or so dogs and cats that were to come in the next day.
It was simply a matter of space and humane care. But it was a decision that needed to be made nonetheless, and one that would need to be brooded over each and every day moving forward, in perpetuity, unless something was to occur that could shift the animal welfare paradigm in Kern County.
2012 was a landmark year for animal welfare in Kern County. But it was not a landmark to be celebrated.
Over 20,000 animals met their untimely death in Kern County shelters that year.
So many of those animals were killed for no other reason than kennel space had to be made for the next animal. Imagine, if you can just for a moment, coming to work and being handed a list of 70 animals that had to be killed by the end of the day. Imagine deciding which ones to begin with and which ones to delay until later because perhaps you’ve determined that there is a chance someone will express an interest to adopt them before the end of your shift.
Unfortunately, that was the reality just five years ago at Kern County Animal Services. Since 2013, the city of Bakersfield’s Animal Care Center and Kern County Animal Services have operated separate animal shelters based on jurisdiction. In that time, the total number of animals put down has declined by 50 percent. Progressive programs like foster, rescue, volunteer and trap-neuter-return have succeeded in getting more animals out of shelters alive than ever before and have engaged our community in participating in the journey toward a better life for Kern County animals.
It has become, in my opinion, a realistic goal to end the euthanasia of adoptable animals in Kern County shelters by the year 2020.
Several organizations have joined efforts here locally to organize regular, structured and collaborative events year-round in Kern County to pursue this goal. Marley’s Mutts dog rescue, Critters Without Litters spay and neuter clinic, The Cat People feline rescue, Meow Co. feline shelter and rescue, and H.A.L.T. animal rescue have partnered with Kern County Animal Services to develop a coalition in Kern County aptly named, the “Make Kern No Kill” coalition.
Our community can help this effort by being active locally in animal welfare. There are many opportunities to temporarily foster at-risk animals, adopt shelter pets, volunteer your time to help shelter animals or even donate to local agencies that are directly supporting a “no kill” Kern County.
Together, a focused community along with like-minded agencies, we will put an end to the killing of animals in our local shelters.
Nick Cullen is director of Kern County Animal Services. The views expressed in this column are his own.