People & Community

Saturday, Oct 27 2012 12:49 AM

Community: Saving Bakersfield pets

By Katie Avery

Bakersfield loves its pets. But there is a problem here: Thousands of animals are abandoned, abused and lost in Kern County.

As of June, 15,637 animals were taken in from the streets, according to Kern County Animal Control. Most of them were abandoned, neglected or abused. In that same time, 9,185 of those animals were euthanized.

Related Photos

Two of the kittens that The Cat People, a local feline rescue, adoption and outreach organization, is hoping to place in “forever homes.”

Jack Russell Junction is the temporary home of many of the smaller breeds housed at Alpha Canine Sanctuary, just north of Bakersfield.

Sequoia, a husky mix, is one of the thousands of dogs and cats that are abandoned each month in Kern County.

Zach Skow

Dogs and cats are overbreeding and overpopulating, and the county can no longer support them all. But there are programs in place to help animal lovers bring in new furry friends.

The following government and nonprofit shelters take in stray, abandoned and rescued pets. In accordance with the law, all pets that go through these shelters are examined, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and healthy before they are adopted.

Bakersfield Animal Shelter
201 S. Mount Vernon Ave.; 321-3000;

The Bakersfield Animal Shelter will not turn away any animal and houses more than 100 cats and 400 dogs, said Maggie Kalar, marketing and promotions associate at the shelter. Working in conjunction with Kern County Animal Control, the shelter is usually the first place dogs and cats are taken once they are picked up from the streets.

The shelter encourages adoptions with various themed parties along with lower adoption fees. The shelter also participates in the 100K Challenge, where it competes with other shelters in the state to adopt out the most animals.

“These guys will make great pets; they just need to be given a chance,” said Kalar.

Considering how many pets have to be euthanized, Kalar said, “We’d like to be the solution” to avoid euthanasia.  
The shelter also works with various veterinarians to offer spay and neuter discount vouchers.

Alpha Canine Sanctuary
P.O. Box 5517 Bakersfield, CA 93388; 391-8212;

Alpha Canine Sanctuary is a no-kill haven for dogs managed by owner Marilyn Stewart for the past 17 years. The sanctuary provides a lifetime home for 100 dogs taken in from throughout the area.

“It’s a drop in the bucket,” Stewart said, “But it’s a very important drop.”

Dog owner Spencer Schluter had to give up one of his dogs, Frieda, when his baby was born, he said. Instead of leaving Frieda at a shelter where she may have been euthanized, he took her to Alpha Canine where he visits her often, and volunteers to help other dogs. Potential adoptive parents are encouraged to visit the sanctuary and interact with the dogs, and also bring pets to see how they all get along.

Stewart has a story for each dog in her care, she said. She is proud of what she calls a “retirement center” for the older dogs, which are not likely to get adopted. A goal of hers is to make the sanctuary a retirement center for dogs to live out the rest of their lives if they are never adopted.

The Cat People
1930 18th St. and Petco at 8220 Rosedale Highway;;

The Cat People, as the name implies, is a cat exclusive adoption agency. The Cat People have spay and neuter programs that will foot the bill for owners who can’t afford those services. The Cat People also hosts a cat food charity to help families in need. 

“Our goal is to find loving, permanent homes for all of our rescues,” said owner Barbara Hays.

The team started at Hart Park where people were dumping cats, and feral colonies were forming. They sheltered the cats in foster homes, treated them and put them up for adoption.

Since the team does not have its own facility, The Cat People can only rescue as many cats as it has room for in the foster homes. They are always looking for more cat lovers to be foster parents, Hays said.

The Cat People has put in place a fundraising plan to build a cat sanctuary to bring in even more abandoned cats. Team members hope to see that dream come true within three years.

Marley’s Mutts
972-3852;; zach@marleys

Marley’s Mutts is a Tehachapi-based adoption center for dogs, where they live together in a pack environment, play and socialize. It’s named after Marley, the first dog rescued by owner Zach Skow.

Their family has grown.

Dogs of every breed and age are taken into Skow’s home, or nearby foster homes and are made ready for adoption.

“The only way we can do this is with community involvement,” Skow said.

His neighbors help out by fostering dogs, volunteering, driving them to the vet, washing, walking and feeding them.

Marley’s Mutts is also a treatment and rehabilitation center. One of the rescues, Kenny the English Bulldog, had a cleft palate that caused health issues. Instead of being euthanized, he will be flown to Cornell University for surgery, paid for with donations to the group.

Dogs that have aggression issues due to abuse are rehabilitated and trained. Two puppies that barely survived injuries from a fire went through Marley’s Mutts and were adopted as rehabilitation dogs for the Grossman Burn Center.

Marley’s Mutts has adopted out more than 600 dogs since 2009, and according to Skow, has formed a close relationship with Kern County Animal Control, receiving many rescues from there.

Working together

Stewart, Kalar and Skow — along with many others — said they are optimistic about new Animal Control Director Jen Woodard, who started in early October.

Woodard said she has many goals in place to fix Kern County’s unwanted pet problems. And the people of Kern County, Woodard said, are very much “willing to embrace change.”

She is hoping to decrease the kill rate by 10 percent in the first year, bring on more trained volunteers, establish a new and better-functioning facility and coordinate better adoption transport programs.

Woodard also said she hopes to work closely with the public, relating the importance of spaying and neutering pets.

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