The Health Beat Blog

Tuesday, Jan 07 2014 08:00 PM

LOIS HENRY: An animal killing field brings home the spay-neuter crisis

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bakersfield Police Department animal control officers Tammy Davis, left, and Sandra Alvarez are at the scene Tuesday near East Pacheco Road near Cottonwood Road where several dead animals were dumped. A couple dead dogs and a cat are in one of the plastic bags.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bakersfield Police Department animal control officers Tammy Davis, right, Drake Pritchett and Sandra Alvarez search along East Pacheco Road near Cottonwood Road where several animals were dumped.

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By LOIS HENRY, Californian columnist lhenry@bakersfield.com

It's hard not to be disgusted by your fellow human beings after seeing, and smelling, the remains of dozens of dogs dumped along the side of the road.

I rushed out to East Pacheco and Cottonwood roads Tuesday afternoon on news that there were perhaps 30 to 40 dead dogs out there that had been "brutally chewed to death," victims of a possible massive dog fighting ring, as the original tipster had indicated.

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Lois Henry appears on "First Look with Scott Cox" every Wednesday on KERN 1180 AM from 9 to 10 a.m. The show is also broadcast live on www.bakersfield.com. You can get your two cents in by calling 842-KERN

What I found both was and wasn't quite so monstrous.

Turns out about 18 dogs, and one cat, had been dumped along Pacheco over some period of time.

One female pit bull had obvious signs of trauma from old dog fights, as well as fresh bite and tear wounds. City Animal Control officials said they would do a necropsy on that dog to see if they could learn more about the manner of her death.

The rest of the dogs were in varying states of decomposition, making it impossible to know how they died. Some were so decomposed only the tattered remains of their collars, still clinging to fur, remained.

Some were large breed dogs, others small. And some were puppies, more likely the victims of illness than dog fighting.

It's hard to say this was the dumping ground of dog fighters, as the original tipster indicated in a post on Craigslist.

I came across the post late last week.

It read: "Dog Fighting Ring in Town - 100's of killed dogs

"Spoke to the shelter and they are picking up black garbage sacks with 30-40 brutally chewed to death dogs up to twice a week out by Cottonwood and E. White Lane. They are mostly large breed but some are as docile of a breed as Labradors."

I immediately sent it to City and County Animal Control officials who checked and could find nothing of this nature, either phoned in from the public nor from their Animal Control Officer patrols. The city sent an officer to East White Lane and found nothing. The dumped dogs were actually a country block to the south on East Pacheco Road, however.

Dog rescuer Teresa Maston, of Taft, saw the same post I did. She reached out to the poster, a woman she said didn't want to be named, and ultimately discovered the correct location of the dead dogs. She called her friend Zach Skow, of Marley's Mutts, then the media and the police were alerted, which is how I ended up there on Tuesday.

Maston and Skow also found three more dead dogs and a dead rooster a block away.

"Something has to be done," Maston said.

Agreed. But what, exactly?

As I said, the prospect that these animals died as the result of dog fighting is almost impossible to prove at this point. Even if it could be proved, who do you go after?

Skow noted that, in his experience, dog fighting cases are difficult to prosecute even with what seems like solid evidence and actual suspects.

Equally horrible, and possibly more likely, is how many of our nameless community members blithely dump dogs like yesterday's food wrappers. East Pacheco may just happen to be the latest unofficial dumping ground.

It used to be Hosking Avenue, said Bakersfield Animal Control Supervisor Tammy Davis.

And, unfortunately, it'll be some other lonely stretch of road in the future.

So, aside from putting video cameras on every square mile of Kern County, what's the answer?

As it happens, I think and fervently hope, at least part of the answer was being hashed out during the Kern County Board of Supervisors' meeting earlier Tuesday -- a massive, targeted spay/neuter effort.

Supervisors have budgeted $250,000 to jump start a spay/neuter program in Kern.

Rather pouring that money into the extremely lame spay/neuter programs under the county Animal Services Department, supervisors opted to create an ad hoc committee chaired by Supervisors Leticia Perez and David Couch to engage the public to brainstorm how best to spend that money.

The ad hoc committee meetings will be noticed and open to the public. The committee hopes to come back to the full board on Jan. 28 with recommendations.

There are lots of successful programs around the country we could emulate that have resulted in dramatic decreases in unwanted pets.

Because those programs also incorporate a lot of community education, I'm hoping there's a similar decrease in cruelty, neglect and flat out idiocy, such as tossing your dead dog onto the side of the road.

As I stood on East Pacheco among the dog remains and watched a pack of loose dogs chase cows in the next field, I realized we have a long way to go.

A very long way.

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 lhenry@bakersfield.com

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