BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer email@example.com
The Kern County-Bakersfield animal sheltering divorce is now final, but the bickering continues.
On Tuesday, Kern County supervisors will review a terse series of communications between the county Animal Services Department and the Bakersfield city manager's office over how to divvy up stray and unwanted animals in the metropolitan Bakersfield area.
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Bakersfield has taken a "city only" stance. In a Monday letter responding to county concerns, Assistant to the City Manager Steve Teglia said the city will only accept pets or strays brought in by city residents at its shelter on South Mount Vernon Avenue.
City residents will need to show identification with an address -- a driver's license or utility bill -- before the city will take the animal, Teglia wrote.
Given the city's stance, the county now plans to only accept animals from residents of unincorporated Kern, Interim Animal Services Director Shyanne Schull wrote in a letter to supervisors.
But, Schull said, the county still has major concerns.
The first, she wrote, is that people won't know where to go for service and could be told to drive all the way across town to the other jurisdiction's shelter. Kern County's new shelter is on Fruitvale Avenue in northwest Bakersfield, nine miles and, on a light-traffic day, a 13-minute drive from the city's eastside shelter.
And if city residents can't prove where they live, the drive could be in vain, Schull said. A city resident without proof could be told to drive to the county shelter.
At that point, the county would either have to deny service, too, or take an animal that might be the city's.
At best, those people would be frustrated or angry at the city or county, wrote County Administrative Office analyst Chase Nunneley.
"At worst, the public may be unwilling to transport the animal to the other facility themselves, and may choose to either abandon the animal at the shelter or release it back on to the street," he wrote.
Local animal advocate Liz Keogh said she worries the city's approach of "we don't trust you -- prove it" also could put off the public.
Teglia responded to the county that city residents are also county residents whom the county has a legal obligation to serve.
Schull rejected that argument, saying in her letter to supervisors that the city has clearly established city animals as its responsibility.
Kern County has suggested a compromise.
Both jurisdictions could create a courtesy 24-hour hold on any animals brought in by someone living in the other jurisdiction.
Both shelters could take all of the animals and then, at the end of the day, each could notify the other of the animals in its care.
Then, within 24 hours, the city and county could swap those animals.
Teglia said people need to learn which shelter serves them.
"Providing a '24-hour courtesy hold' will only continue to confuse the public and undermine the intake protocol established by the city," he wrote.
Teglia could not be reached for comment Friday. But Julie Johnson, executive director of the Bakersfield Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is running the city shelter, said the cold black and white of Teglia's letters were meant only to be clear and can be misunderstood.
Johnson said front-line workers at both shelters are making case-by-case decisions about each animal based on what is best for it.
NOT THE TIME
Johnson also argues that now is not the time to get into a deep discussion -- or negotiate a deal on -- issues like jurisdictional intake.
Both shelters are in turmoil, with staff working to care for animals in the middle of construction zones.
"The ink is still wet on the divorce papers. Let's go down the road a bit and see what is going on," she said. "I want to know how I can treat an animal. I want to know where I can put it. That's what's in our face right now."
County Supervisor Leticia Perez said animals have to come first.
"I think we can all do a better job of priorizing the animals and sometimes we can get distracted by the details and the fear of the unknown," she said. "To confuse the public, to not be on the same page, to make the process at all cumbersome for the public -- it's not good for the animals."
Supervisor David Couch agreed.
"I think we can, I think we will and I think we should, get past this jousting," he said.