Local News

Monday, May 19 2014 05:06 PM

City expands spay-neuter, vaccine efforts

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    In this file photo, a cat waits for its adoption to come through at what is now the Bakersfield City Animal Care Center.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    This little dog was at the city's Animal Care Center at 201 S. Mt. Vernon Ave., off HIghway 58, in a file photo.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

The city will expand availability of dog licenses and low-cost spay-neuter and vaccine programs, in hopes of reducing animal overpopulation and shelter euthanizations, officials told members of a Bakersfield City Council committee Monday.

The latest efforts to reduce the population at the City of Bakersfield Animal Care Center include:

* Offering low-cost microchip and vaccination clinics, 1-3 p.m. Thursdays, starting June 5 at the Animal Care Center.

These will feature $5 shots, and include vaccines for rabies, distemper and parvo.

* Providing 500 $40 spay-neuter vouchers, pending approval next month of the 2014-2015 fiscal year city budget.

* Hosting Ark Sciences training June 4 for eight local veterinarians in how to administer a $25 series of shots that provide non-surgical neutering for dogs.

* Allowing the SPCA and Critters Without Litters to sell city dog licenses, a program expected to start July 1.

* Continuing to offer temporary $15 dog licenses at licensing and vaccination clinics provided owners get their dog spayed or neutered in 60 days.

Members of the Bakersfield Police Department's animal control division joined Julie Johnson, Animal Care Center director, at the meeting of the Legislative and Litigation Committee.

They told committee members despite offering many alluring ways to convince them, many city and county residents still have not licensed or fixed their pets.

The $15 temporary dog license program, for example, generated about 55 percent compliance in 2013, when 78 of 141 participating city dog owners got their pets licensed.

So far this year, the city has issued 198 temporary discount licenses, but only about 25 owners have followed through -- a 13 percent compliance rate. (Most of the remaining licensees, however, are still within their 60-day time limit to get the discount.)

"To me, that looks anemic, but I know we don't have any benchmark to measure it against, but compared to other programs, how do they measure up?" asked Ward 7 Councilman Russell Johnson.

"When this program was developed, it was to serve as an incentive to people who otherwise might never think about getting their dog spayed or neutered," said Assistant to the City Manager Steve Teglia. "A lot of people didn't even realize they needed to have their animal spayed or neutered to get a license."

"So you're saying one incident is a victory?" Johnson asked.

"Absolutely, it's a voluntary thing right now," Teglia said. "Any time you can incentivize them to do the right thing by themselves, you're getting more and more people to comply."

The committee also heard from Bakersfield resident Valerie Shumaker, who suggested the city consider adopting a mandatory spay-neuter ordinance.

Committee members directed city staffers to revisit the issue -- and the question of a spay-neuter ordinance -- in October, when Bakersfield will have operated its own shelter for a full year.

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