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Sunday, Mar 31 2013 03:00 PM

Ask The Californian: Is it illegal to feed feral cats?

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    The many feral cats in Hart Park never seem to be lacking for food with many going to the park on a regular basis volunteering their time and expenses to feed the cats.

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By The Bakersfield Californian

Q: The cat population in Hart Park appears to be out of control. Many individuals are feeding the cats in two locations. I have been told that notched ears means the felines have been spayed or neutered.

I suspect that people have been abandoning strays knowing that they would be fed. There is also a colony at the 24th Street/Kern River bridge.

Isn't there a city ordinance forbidding feeding feral animals?

-- Matt Sarad

 

A: There's a prohibition in the city of Bakersfield, but not in unincorporated areas of Kern County.

Hart Park is within county jurisdiction. So we talked to Maggie Kalar, a spokeswoman for the Kern County Animal Control Department, who told us:

"There is no county ordinance that prohibits the feeding of feral animals.

"There is a California law that prohibits the abandonment of animals PC 597s(a): 'Every person who willfully abandons any animal is guilty of a misdemeanor.' This includes anyone that is abandoning animals at any location in the county. If the animal ends up suffering or passing away due to conditions related to the abandonment, the animal owner could face even more serious charges.

"Pets that are abandoned face the dangers of the elements, predators, other animals, vehicles and even humans. Kern County Animal Control urges members of the public to try and find other alternatives to abandoning animals such as re-homing a pet with a friend, family member, co-worker, rescue organization or even a neighbor.

"If a temporary or permanent home cannot be found, owners can always bring their pet to any of the Kern County Animal Control shelters in Bakersfield, Mojave and Lake Isabella. We will do our best to find a second home for your pet.

"To increase the chances of finding a successful placement for your pet, we ask pet owners to bring in their current medical records and provide as much background information as possible so we can use the information to speak with potential adopters. There is a small fee to turn in your pet, $20 to help cover some of the cost of feeding and caring for your pet including vaccines if they are not up-to-date.

"One of the reasons that we see so many pets that are lost and looking for a new home is because too many pets are not spayed and neutered. We can help put people in touch with resources if they are looking to have their pet spayed or neutered and we urge the public to contact us at animalcontrol@co.kern.ca.us for more information or call Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 321-3000."

For the rules in the city, we turned to Tammy Davis, animal control supervisor for the city of Bakersfield, who cited a section of code that defines prohibited activity in city parks.

It reads, in part, that "it is unlawful for any person" to "purposely or knowingly, in any manner, provide access to food, feed or bait to any wild animal, including, but not limited to, coyotes, deer, squirrels, feral cats, foxes, raccoons, skunks, waterfowl, birds or beavers."

Which brings up another question: Is this rule enforced?

"I would say no, because I've never even had the complaint," Davis said. "However, if we receive a complaint and it's within a city park, we will either address it or refer it to the department (code enforcement) that would."

 

Q: With all the freeways and bridges going in around town and new homes and businesses going in on the southwest part of town, when is the city going to take care of a growing problem all along the south area of White Lane?

The problem is the train crossings, the only place you can cross when a train is blocking the tracks is Highway 99. Traffic goes crazy when the train blocks Wible, Akers, Stein, Ashe, Gosford and so on. It seems to me that Gosford and at least one of the other roads in between Highway 99 could have a bridge to cut down on backed-up traffic. What's the city's plan on doing about the growing problem at hand?

We sometimes get stuck at the crossing for what seems like forever, and they do not split the train at 15 minutes to allow traffic through as they are supposed to, and one cannot always turn around in traffic. That wouldn't really do any good because all of the crossings would be blocked.

In short, we are in bad need of a couple of bridges over here, folks.

 

A: Arnold Ramming, an engineer in the Bakersfield Public Works Department, answered:

"At this time, the city does not have plans to construct a grade separation at any of the crossings referred to in the question.

"Such a project would cost on the order of $20 million. When the city and county do plan to construct a grade separation project, the Greater Bakersfield Separation of Grade District submits an application to the state of California for funding.

"The application includes ranking the existing at-grade crossing on a formula that considers several aspects of the existing crossing. The limited funding that the state has is then appropriated to the top ranking projects.

"Historically, the city has received about $5 million for each project through this program. So we would have to come up with the remaining money necessary to fund the project. In this case, the city -- if the project ranked high enough and we received funding from the state -- would need on the order of $15 million in local funds for the project.

"Based on the city's experience in submitting applications for other grade separation projects, an application for a grade separation on any of the streets crossing the railroad in southwest Bakersfield would rank low on the state's list. That's primarily because of the low volume of vehicles and trains -- typically only two per day. Therefore, the probability of the city receiving funding from the state is very low.

"The city will continue to monitor the situation and will investigate future funding opportunities."

 

Ask The Californian appears on Mondays. Submit questions to asktbc@bakersfield.com or to The Bakersfield Californian, c/o Christine Bedell, P.O. Bin 440, Bakersfield, CA 93302.

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