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Tuesday, Jan 29 2013 05:39 PM

LOIS HENRY: 10,000 cats, kittens could die. Or we could do this

BY LOIS HENRY Californian columnist lhenry@bakersfield.com

For those of you who didn't know, we are currently standing at the precipice of Kern's annual cat explosion.

This is nearly the start of "heat" season for female cats, which, not surprisingly, is followed by kitten season.

Related Info

Spay/neuter programsCritters Without LittersLow-cost spay/neuter clinic. Open to all income levels. Appointments required. Cats: female, $50/male $40. Dogs: females 60 pounds and under, $70, 61 pounds and over, $80/males 60 pounds and under $65, 61 pounds and over $75. Vouchers accepted.4300 STINE ROAD, SUITE 720661-831-6000www.critterswithoutlitters.org

The Cat PeopleLimited spay/neuter vouchers.602 18TH St.alisa74@gmail.com661-327-4706thecatpeople.org

KC Animal Control Voucher program for low-income (proof required) Kern residents. Cost $20 each, covers entire cost of spay/neuter. Specified vets and clinics only. Max. 4 per household. Limited number available each month. Can be purchased in person one Saturday per month throughout the county, usually at vaccination/licensing clinics. Call Ellie for more info. * For dogs: Accuracy of dog's weight is essential when purchasing voucher.201 SO. MT. VERNON AVE.661-321-3000www.co.kern.ca.us/acd

Kern Humane SocietyWorth $10 to $15 to help with s/n cost for cats, $20 for dogs. Available in person first Saturday of each month, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. only. Max. 2 per address. Can be used at Mountain Communities SPCA, any AngelDogs clinic, Critters Without Litters, or local vet. Call for info in outlying areas. Can be combined with other organizations' vouchers.2111 BRUNDAGE LANEShop Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday661-325-2589

Friends of the Kern County Animal Shelters FoundationLimited number available each month for $30 to offset cost of s/n. Limit 2 per household per calendar year. No income requirements. Send name, mailing address and number requested to fkcasf@gmail.com. If the month's allotment has been reached you will be put on a waiting list. Can be used at any AngelDogs clinic, Critters Without Litters and combined with other vouchers.PO BOX 11494, 93389661-472-6191www.friendsofkernshelters.org

Serenity Cat Hospital3150 PANAMA LANE, Ste L(661) 837-1228Spays,$50, neuters$40. Appointments preferred, feral cats OK. Cats can be spayed/neutered with Serenity as early as 8 weeks. Vouchers accepted. Cats must be in hard-sided carrier with a clean towel for revovery, ferals must be in a trap.

Happy Kern CatsTwo-year project (beginning fall 2011) of semi-monthly clinics to alter feral cats from the 93306 ZIP code. 661-868-0328 HappyKernCats@yahoo.com

Alpha Canine SanctuaryHave been funding periodic free or low-cost clinics at various locations. May be restarting vouchers for low income. Call for current details. P.O. BOX 5517 BAKERSFIELD, 93388661-391-8212www.alphacanine.org

Bakersfield SPCAPeriodic low cost s/n clinics for cats in town at specified locations. 3000 GIBSON ST.661-323-8353 ext2http://www.bakersfieldspca.org

Tehachapi Humane SocietyFree vouchers for varying amounts for residents of Tehachapi, Keene, Hart Flat, Caliente, Mojave, California City, Rosamond, Boron and North Edwards areas. Can be combined with Friends vouchers and used at most vets in Kern. Call first to confirm. Also fund $30 to $50 for feral cats.21600 GOLDEN STAR, UNIT #3TEHACHAPI, 93561661-823-0699 ext 1 for vouchers; ext 2 for feral cat programhttp://tehachapihumane.org

Mountain Communities SPCACats: Transport cats to Valley Vet Non Profit Spay & Neuter Clinic in Simi Valley every two weeks for residents of 93222, 93225, & 93243 ZIP codes. Cost $47.50; vaccinations and testing also available for $10 each. Kern Humane and Friends vouchers accepted. Contact Becky at MCSPCA. Dogs: Free vouchers for varying amounts based on income, for residents of 93222, 93225, & 93243 ZIP codes. Used with AngelDogs. First schedule with AngelDogs, then call MCSPCA for the voucher. PO BOX N PINE MOUNTAIN CLUB, 93222661- 245-3035http://mountaincommunitiesspca.rescuegroups.org/index.php

Lois Henry hosts Californian Radio every Wednesday on KERN 1180 AM from 9 to 10 a.m. You can get your two cents in by calling 842-KERN

Most of those kittens will end up in the Kern County Animal Shelter, which will be forced to kill nearly all of them. The shelter had to put down more than 10,000 cats and kittens in 2012, according to its monthly reports.

So this isn't a small issue.

But Critters Without Litters, Bakersfield's new low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter clinic, is determined to try to stem that awful tide.

To that end, the clinic has been awarded a PetSmart Charities grant that will enable it to spay 200 female cats for only $20 each.

There are no income requirements, but I'm hoping those who can afford Critters' regular fee (already a super low $50), will let truly low income folks have first crack at these "Beat The Heat" grant prices.

Yes, the grant is really called "Beat The Heat," I didn't make that up.

Word is getting out on this exceptional price so call Critters now to make your appointment.

But don't fret if you miss out on this particular grant. Critters takes vouchers from a wide array of animal welfare groups (see box) which can also lower the price significantly.

This is just the first of what Critters hopes will be many innovative ways the clinic can put a dent in our pet overpopulation and disease problems.

Larry Keller, one of the Critters founders, and his staff are hoping to develop a fund to pay for weekly vaccination clinics covering distemper, parvovirus and bordetella at a cost of only $10 to the public. Full cost for that package is $36, but Critters is hoping to find a donor, perhaps a business or group of businesses, or individuals who can offset that cost.

Critters staff estimated that 75 percent of dogs coming into the clinic are either not vaccinated or are undervaccinated (meaning they might have had one set of vaccines as a puppy but not the full series of shots.)

Kern County has an especially serious problem with parvovirus, which is highly contagious and often fatal in puppies.

"We want to be able to provide a vaccine package at low cost for every animal who needs it at the clinic and then do a special clinic on Fridays, which is our slowest day," Keller said.

Slow is a relative term.

Since opening Oct. 1, Critters has altered more than 1,600 cats and dogs.

They are averaging around 28 to 30 animals a day between two veterinarians both working part time. The goal is to get that number up to a solid 35 animals a day, Keller said. And if he can add another vet, who knows?

It may not seem like a lot compared to how huge Kern's overpopulation problem is.

But Keller said studies done by Humane Alliance, which is where Critters got its training, show that other areas have seen a real difference in euthanasia rates in about three years once a low-cost, high-volume clinic is established.

"We want to speed that up, of course," Keller said.

Yes, please!

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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