Did you know that approximately 2 million homeless dogs and cats are killed annually in America’s shelters? That means nearly 5,500 animals are killed every day simply because they don’t have safe places to call home.

Here in Kern County, approximately 10,000 animals were put down last year alone – a significant number, no doubt. But when you consider that just a few short years ago, that number exceeded 20,000, some really good work is being done on behalf of Kern’s homeless animals.

In addition to the services provided by municipal agencies like Kern County Animal Services and Bakersfield Animal Care Center, nonprofit organizations like Marley’s Mutts, H.A.L.T. Animal Rescue, The Cat People, Meow Feline Rescue, Have a Heart Humane Society, Critters Without Litters, Licks of Love, SOXrescue, Kern Humane Society, Bakersfield SPCA and Alpha Canine Sanctuary work tirelessly to improve the conditions for homeless dogs and cats. Kern Community Foundation is proud to feature many of these organizations in its Community Giving Guide.

And while the numbers clearly indicate their efforts are making a difference, Nick Cullen, director of Kern County Animal Services, has plans to dramatically increase their impact and end the deaths of healthy, adoptable animals in Kern County’s animal shelters over the next two years.

No, these plans do not rely on new funding sources or magical grants. Nor does anyone expect new nonprofit organizations to spring up and share the burden. Rather, Nick has a vision for bringing together existing nonprofits, government agencies, local business and even veterinarians to work together, finding common ground and pooling resources to #MakeKernCountyNOKILL.

Simply called the “No Kill Coalition,” the group relies on a structure of collaboration that is taking shape in communities around the country involving critical initiatives.

The premise is quite simple: Often, community problems or issues are too large and complex for any one agency or organization to tackle. Putting together a coalition of groups and individuals can be an effective strategy for changing the programs and policies that are needed to solve the problem or achieve the goal. That goal could be as narrow as obtaining funding for a specific intervention or as broad as trying to improve permanently the overall quality of life for most people in the community. The individuals and organizations involved might be drawn from a narrow area of interest or might include representatives of nearly every segment of the community.

Kern County Animal Services will use World Spay Day, Feb. 27, as a kickoff for the No Kill Coalition. Their long-term goal is to put an end to the shelter deaths of adoptable animals in Kern County’s animal shelters by 2020. To accomplish this, they plan to organize regular collaborative events to educate the public on available resources for spay/neuter; encourage shelter animal adoptions; motivate activism in animal welfare, such as volunteer and shelter animal fostering; and generally promote responsible pet ownership.

By breaking down existing silos and working collaboratively toward a common goal, the No Kill Coalition looks to improve the quality of life for us all in Kern County.

Kristen Beall Barnes, Ed.D., is the president and CEO of Kern Community Foundation. Contact her at Kristen@kernfoundation.org or 616-2601. The views expressed in this column are her own.