If you have been reading The Bakersfield Californian or watching the Bakersfield news, you know about the rift between Kern County Animal Control and Bakersfield City Animal Control.
I don't know who is right or wrong but I do know that a whole lot of dogs and cats (700) are in serious trouble at Kern County Animal Control and I, for one, can't sleep at night for thinking about it.
I've lived in Kern County since 1985 and I can't remember a time when we didn't have an animal control problem. The reason for this is obvious; not enough people get their pets spayed or neutered. But it would be too easy to say that people who don't alter their pets are all irresponsible pet owners. It's true that many are, but it's also true that a lot of people can't afford the spay/neuter prices that vets charge.
Until the opening of Critters Without Litters in Bakersfield, Kern County residents had to look far and wide to get their pets altered for under $100. Even with vouchers offered by various humane societies, a spay/neuter bill was still more than what many low cost spay/neuter clinics charge.
Even the rescues are affected by spay/neuter prices. Up until the opening of Critters Without Litters, Have a Heart Humane Society was hauling 25 or more pets at a time to the Hope Foundation in Fresno or to the Little Rock Animal Hospital in Little Rock to take advantage of significantly lower prices. These were all-day events for our volunteers, from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Still, the money saved weighed out over the inconvenience and the cost of gas. Once Critters became our spay/neuter clinic of choice, we were actually able to lower our adoption fees.
Since founding Have a Heart Humane Society in 2009, I've dealt with a lot of vets. Very few of them are willing to lower their spay/neuter prices even though spay/neuter isn't the big money maker in their businesses. It's pet illness, surgeries, medical supplies and vaccinations that are the money-makers. Vaccinations like DHPP (for dogs), FVRCP (for cats) and Rabies wholesale under $3.00 each, yet most vets charge $15 or more for each of these vaccinations. Same goes for IV fluids. Our rescue buys a case of 12 fluid bags for just a little over $30. We've seen vets charge $20 a bag.
A savvy vet told me that a spay/neuter appointment is often the pet's first visit to the vet hospital and that more often than not, the pet owner will come back for vaccinations and general care if they have had a good experience, which means money in the vet's pocket.
Getting back to the pets in trouble at Kern County Animal Control -- hopefully some will be relocated to other shelters outside of Kern County. Hopefully some will go to rescues who aren't already at maximum. And hopefully some will find permanent or temporary homes with sympathetic Kern County residents.
You can't help but read about the good deeds of the animal volunteers in Tehachapi and other areas of Kern County. I pray that these articles inspire you, make you want to help homeless pets. I have heard so many of you say that between your work and home duties you feel that you simply cannot commit. Really? You don't think you could help one dog or cat? Or possibly give a few hours of your time every now and then for a rescue fundraiser? Seriously, we all make time for something that is important to us; it just deciding that an animal's life is more important than some else you are currently doing.
So, I urge you -- if you have been entertaining the idea of adopting a pet, do it now, whether it's from one of the Kern County shelters or from one of the many Kern County rescue organizations such as Have a Heart Humane Society, Tehachapi Humane Society, STOP, SOS Dobie, HALT, etc. Adopting from a rescue means that rescue will be able to take a pet out of the shelter or off the street before it ever makes it into the shelter. Either way -- it's a life saved.
CHELLEY KITZMILLER is founder of Tehachapi's Have a Heart Humane Society.