shelter (copy)

The Mojave branch of the Kern County Animal Shelter, located at the Mojave Air and Space Port, once served the needs of east Kern County. It has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Pet owners are cautioned to take extra care when keeping hold of their animals as the nearest shelter is now located in Bakersfield. Once the closest facility, the Mojave branch of the Kern County Animal Shelter was shuttered in March due to COVID-19. Located at the Mojave Air and Space Port, the lease on the shelter's property lapsed in June.

"The Mojave Animal Shelter lease was set to expire in June of this year, and as recently as February, the County was scouting locations in the area for a new site. But with COVID, and what it has done to the County's budget, relocating was no longer an option. Whatever happens with COVID, and how the County budget responds, will be what decides when a Mojave Shelter is again available to the community," Nick Cullen, director of Kern County Animal Services, wrote in an email Friday.  

According to Cathy Lueder of the Tehachapi Humane Society, the Bakersfield Animal Shelter, located at 3951 Fruitvale Ave., partially reopened as of June. It now takes in stray dogs and sick or injured cats. The shelter no longer takes in surrenders. 

"Needless to say, we have had some dumping going on," said Lueder.

Recently, the Kern River Valley branch of the animal shelter was slated to close due to budget cuts; however, residents rose up and saved the shelter from the chopping block.

The fate of the Mojave shelter, however, is doomed due to its location at the airport. A new location will have to be confirmed before a shelter in this part of the county can be reopened.

"The shelter will not be reopened which means from here, Tehachapi, all the way to North Edwards, if someone had a dog that got away and they (animal control) came out and picked it up, they would take it to Bakersfield," Lueder said. "Then the poor person would try to have to figure out how to get to Bakersfield to claim their dog."

Gina Christopher, chief financial officer of Have a Heart Humane Society, said it does what it can to foster animals whenever possible. However, missing pets that are not microchipped are harder to keep in Tehachapi long enough to be reunited with their owners.

"I think this is going to be a hardship for people," said Christopher, who is also a commissioner on the Kern County Animal Services Commission. 

Christopher said she didn't believe the closure of the Mojave Shelter would raise the rates of euthanasia as the shelters try everything they can to save animals that are not hurt, sick or aggressive. However, it will increase the amount of work required by shelter employees.

"I firmly believe that we need a shelter in the Mojave area, and it is my hope that we are able to bring one back as soon as possible. There has been some discussion over the course of the last several years of relocating to Tehachapi. But nothing was solidified. We had always wanted to locate the shelter where the most animals are coming from, and that has historically been Mojave, with Rosamond a close second," wrote Cullen.

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