Driving to work in Kern County each morning, I often witness dogs wandering, scavenging for food, and dodging traffic to survive. Dead animals on the roadside only add to my sorrow. These pets are the forgotten victims of their owners' irresponsible actions.
To add to the problem, backyard breeders continue to sell puppies in shopping center parking lots with no background checks or screening of potential owners. Puppies require a lot of care, attention, vaccinations and training; only some are prepared to provide that. I want to believe they will find loving homes, but I cannot help worrying that many will end up in shelters or abandoned on the streets. What’s worse is that many people purchasing these puppies will not spay or neuter their new pet, leading to even more unwanted litters and perpetuating the cycle of animal homelessness and overpopulation.
The mating season for cats and dogs is one of the most challenging times for animal welfare organizations as it leads to an influx of pets overwhelming the already strained resources of local shelters and rescues. Unfortunately, I have witnessed the devastating consequences when people fail to spay and neuter their pets, as countless puppies and kittens end up abandoned, surrendered to shelters, or left to fend for themselves.
Living in a rural area, I have encountered many pets that needlessly suffer due to their owner’s actions. I know of an irresponsible pet owner who lets his pets roam free, resulting in frequent cases of pregnancy, injury and sickness. One pet that suffered due to his negligence was a female Doberman Pinscher that would wander onto my property daily for food. One day, she showed up pregnant. When I approached the owner, he refused to take responsibility for her, claiming she was a stray.
I spent weeks searching for a local rescue to take in the Doberman, but all were full. Eventually, I found a rescue willing to take her in, but the Doberman went into labor that night and required an emergency C-section, costing $3,000. However, she and 11 of her 13 puppies survived thanks to the combined efforts of three rescues. This is just one example of the devastating consequences of neglecting to spay and neuter pets, emphasizing the importance of responsible pet ownership.
Pet owners often cite cost as a reason for not spaying or neutering their pets. Recognizing this issue, local animal welfare organizations have teamed up to provide mobile, low-cost spay and neuter clinics to make this vital service more accessible. Unfortunately, despite the availability of these services, many clinics remain unfilled.
In other cases, pet owners claim they are too busy to bring their pets in for the procedure, but the consequences of this neglect can be catastrophic. While volunteering at a local animal rescue, I noticed that many pet owners were unable or unwilling to take their pets to low-cost spay and neuter clinics.
To help address this issue, the animal rescue I volunteered for started offering to take people’s pets to their appointments. Volunteers, like myself, would pick up the animals from their owner’s residence, transport them to the clinic, and return them home after the procedure. However, despite the agreement to have their pets altered, we often encountered situations where pet owners would back out at the last minute or simply not answer the door on the day of the procedure.
Ultimately, the issue of pet overpopulation and homelessness is not just about animals — it is about our community and our values. The pet problem in Kern County is devastating, but ignoring the issue is not an option. It is time for pet owners to take responsibility for their animals and for our community to come together and solve this ongoing problem. It starts with responsible pet ownership, including spaying and neutering pets, providing proper training and care, and committing to our furry companions for the duration of their lives.
We must all work together to address this issue, and every little bit helps, whether volunteering at a shelter, fostering a homeless pet, or simply spreading the word about the importance of spaying and neutering.
Dallas Ruiz is a local animal welfare advocate with 16 years of experience in animal rescue.