BY JAMES BURGER CALIFORNIAN STAFF WRITER firstname.lastname@example.org
Kern County Animal Control Director Jen Woodard laid out, in general terms, Tuesday how she hopes to tackle the county's overcrowded shelter and the more than 30,000 animals that pass through its doors annually.
Simply put, she told the Board of Supervisors, the community, animal control and nonprofits have to work together to spay and neuter more companion animals to decrease the numbers flowing into the shelter and having to be euthanized.
The five supervisors have shown interest in additional funding for spay and neuter efforts -- and while the clinics supervisors are holding are great, Woodard said -- the community needs to do more than that.
"Low-cost spay-neuter services are critical for success," Woodard said.
Woodard reported that the county has had to put down 18,708 dogs and cats so far this fiscal year -- or 63.9 percent of the 29,278 dogs and cats taken in since July 1, 2012.
That's a higher kill percentage than the county's six-year average of 62.46 percent.
Supervisors see momentum building behind the idea of doing more spay-neuter and said they're willing to put more money behind the effort -- as long as it can make a difference.
"I'm game to spend more money but I want to spend it in the most effective way possible," Maggard said.
They asked Woodard to come back with more specific ideas about how a program would work and could be tailored to alter the right animals.
Susan Bennett of the Kern Humane Society agreed that pursuing spay-neuter is the right thing to do. Her nonprofit has tried to help the situation for decades but can only do so much.
"The need for spay-neuter is tremendous," she said. "If there are low-cost clinics I can guarantee it will be used."
Woodard also promoted a new plan to stop taking a small portion of the roughly 10,000 cats received by Animal Control annually. The roughly 1,200 cats brought into the shelter in traps annually -- typically feral ones -- will not be accepted starting July 1, she said.
Cat euthanasia rates are much higher than that of dogs in Kern County.
Instead, the person who brings the cat in will be given a voucher or some other resource to spay or neuter the animal and will be encouraged to release it where it was picked up.
"We've got to stop the production before we stop the euthanasia," cautioned Bennett. "You've got to get the spay-neuter before you get the release."
Supervisor Leticia Perez asked Woodard whether the county shouldn't develop a spay-neuter program first and then look at diverting cats away from the shelter -- as other communities have.
Woodard said that she believes the small number of animals involved can be handled with systems in place while the county moves forward with developing new spay and neuter services.
Supervisors also approved the three-month extension of a contract with the city of Bakersfield to shelter unwanted animals taken in by the city.