Northwest Bakersfield

City gears up to go it alone in Mt.Vernon animal shelter

City gears up to go it alone in Mt.Vernon animal shelter »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — City officials say they're ready to set up shop by themselves in the animal shelter that's been operated by Kern County Animal Control for a long time. The city says they have a new model for running the shelter, and they'll be ready when the county moves out.

"It's an exciting time," Steven Teglia told Eyewitness News on Friday. He's an assistant to the Bakersfield City Manager, and says the change represents opportunities. "We're moving forward with kind of a unique model of carrying out the animal care and sheltering in the future," he said.

For years, animal sheltering for both the county and city have been handled together in the facility on South Mt. Vernon Avenue. The county has leased the site, which the city owns. Disputes over cost-sharing, however, led to a split in that arrangement. In late August, Bakersfield gave the county until Sept. 30 to move out.

At that point, the city will take over operation in the facility, and use it to care for animals from their jurisdiction.

Teglia says that starts with a partnership between the city, the SPCA and the Bakersfield Homeless Center. He said agreements with both those organizations will go to the city council on Sept. 25.

The city will pay the SPCA to manage the shelter, and will pay the Homeless Center for a pool of workers. The SPCA employees will fill jobs like clerical work and vet technicians, and some will do animal care.

Workers from the Homeless Center will also work in animal care. "They are not only getting a second chance to get a new job and gainful employment, but they're also helping their community," Teglia commented. And, he notes the city already has similar agreements for the Homeless Center to provide workers for highway litter clean-up, and at the city's green waste facility.

Teglia said on Friday there was already part of a crew from the Homeless Center getting training at the SPCA. He said the city will also add some positions at the animal shelter when it's their operation. That may be some reallocation of city employees, and they may add one or two.

The county has leased the location on Mt. Vernon since 1978, Teglia said. That means people from the city and county have been bringing animals there for a long time. The city says the split in services doesn't have to be confusing for the public.

"If somebody comes in to surrender an animal that they own, that's very clear they are residents either of the county or city, and they should go to the facility that corresponds to their residency," Teglia said.

He says they'll also try to keep it simple, if someone finds a stray animal. "If they are a city resident, regardless of where they found that animal, they would come to our city facility, and we would provide them services -- and the animal services."

The county has just leased a site for their new, separate shelter at 3951 Fruitvale Avenue. "We are looking forward to moving into our new facility at the end of the month where we will continue to expand our services to the community and move forward to save more lives," Kern Animal Control spokeswoman Maggie Kalar said in a statement on Friday.

Till that time, the county is still in the shelter, and Kalar said they continue to take in animals every day.

"We are still working with the public and rescues to place as many animals as possible in good homes before our move," Kalar noted. "We have adopted out over 500 animals and placed over 270 animals with rescue groups since the eviction notice on 8/21." She reminds the public the adoption rates have been lowered to $15 for dogs and $5 for cats.

When they take over the Mt. Vernon site, Bakersfield officials estimate they'll end up with some 10,000 animals from their jurisdiction throughout the typical year. But, Teglia said they'll know more when they have the operation, and have firm numbers.

He thinks that will lead to other improvements. "I think we'll have better data to be able to tailor the responses in the field," Teglia said. Those "field responses" are efforts like animal license outreach, vaccination and micro-chip clinics, and providing vouchers and information for spay and neuter services.

The city hopes those efforts pay off in important ways, Teglia said. "To reduce the amount (of animals) coming in, and ultimately the amount of animals that end up being euthanized on an annual basis."