National Nonprofit Develops Plan for Kern County Animal Services in Bakersfield, California
Onyx, a sweet, 8-year-old black and white Pit Bull, could barely walk down the street. Beaten and starving, his face covered in dog bites, he had been adopted out for free by Kern County Animal Services in Bakersfield, California, to a man described by a long-time volunteer as a “shady character.” The man likely used Onyx for fighting and then dumped the poor dog on the street. A sister of a shelter volunteer saw Onyx and called Kern County Animal Services, sending Onyx back to the shelter.
Little did I know that when Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) relocated to California on 10/31/20, we would soon be working to reform a troubled shelter. The Kern County shelter has close to 300 stray dogs and puppies (and a small number of cats and many kittens during kitten season) housed in two large metal warehouses, which have small kennels with no outdoor runs. With a live release rate of around 70 percent or less, and a desperate need for space, many animals get overlooked and are killed for space. I realized that CAPS had to help.
On December 4, 2021, CAPS rescued a Smooth Coat Collie mix named Penelope from the Kern County shelter. Right then, we started developing a plan to move more dogs out of the overcrowded shelter. This plan has many no-kill shelter components, such as videotaping high risk dogs for social media, setting up shelter-to-shelter partnerships, finding air and ground transports, creating designated “Rescue Only” and “Needs Foster” website pages, bringing in a certified professional trainer, and using a pro bono animal photographer.
Social Media Videos Get Dogs Adopted and Rescued
In mid-February, we rescued Dickens, an Australian Cattle dog mix. While there, CAPS President Deborah Howard filmed an introductory video, which featured Onyx, as well as dogs named Norman, Flash, Baubles, Goonie, Luna, and Zeekie. The edited video ran on our social media. Within days, Pit Bulls Goonie and Baubles had found homes, and a foster home came forward for Luna, a high energy Kelpie mix. They subsequently adopted her.
Norman, a beautiful, one-year-old Husky and Lab mix, who suffered from confinement anxiety, found an amazing home with Madie and Sebastian who had seen our videos and driven three hours to adopt him. A rescue in Alaska saw our videos of Flash, an overweight, older Husky with arthritis, and arranged for a local volunteer to put him on a plane to Anchorage. Flash has since lost all of his excess weight, looks years younger, and easily climbs stairs. Zeekie, a black Labrador mix who had been at the shelter nearly a year, found a home with a loving family who had adopted another dog from the shelter a few days earlier.
The most incredible story is that of Onyx. He eventually found a home with Caitlyn, who had adopted a female black and white Pit Bull, Libby, from Kern County in October 2020. The shelter had been insisting that Onyx did not like other dogs because he had joined in dog fights in the tiny play yard. This can happen when too many dogs are put in one small yard with a single person. Confined dogs who get little or no exercise will also suffer from anxiety, depression, and reactivity to people and other dogs. Caitlyn took a chance on Onyx, and he immediately hit it off with Libby, playing with her like a puppy.
Saving Dogs at the Last Minute
CAPS has saved dogs on the brink of being killed by insisting that the shelter put a hold on them while we feature videos that we have created of the dogs. We saved Aniston, a black female Pit Bull mix who was adopted shortly after our social media posts. A few days later, we saved Bronc, an energetic, one-year-old gray and white Pit Bull. A foster family agreed to keep him until he could be transported to a rescue in Sacramento. Then there was Sheara, a German Shepherd mix and recent mother. She was scheduled to be killed after her puppies were adopted, but our video saved her life.
The first week of June 2002, the shelter was planning to put down Cow, a one-year-old high-energy McNab Shepherd and Pit Bull mix who had been at the shelter since March 12, 2022. She was restless in her kennel, as are many of the young, energetic large dogs, who are often treated with anti-anxiety medication. Perry, who lives in Montreal, saw the CAPS video on Facebook (most of the adopters see our videos on Instagram because we buy advertising, which reaches targeted users in most of California). It was two intense days of figuring out how to get Cow to Montreal. Air Canada was not accepting American animals in cargo. The cargo terminal at Los Angeles International Airport told us that Perry could fly to L.A. and bring on Cow as “excess baggage.” Perry then discovered that his passport had expired. We finally found a dog transporter with a mini-van who was traveling in Southern California and could pick up Cow the next day. It took five days and cost CAPS $1,500, for Cow to get to the border between New York and Quebec,. Cow, now named Bella, is thriving in her new home with Perry’s Pit Bull, Bo, and two cats. Perry’s mother, who lives upstairs in the two-family house with her Pit bull and a cat., watches Perry’s dogs while he works as a geriatric nurse. All three dogs play together.
Maverick, a very energetic, one-year-old Labrador and Pit Bull mix whom we saved from death, went to the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter in Wyoming in mid-May, along with Carrie and Elsa, two shepherd mixes whose puppies had been adopted. Within a day of arrival, Maverick and Carrie were both adopted. Bonded pair Winston, a German Shepherd, and Sherlock, a McNab Dog mix, along with Stoney, a German Shepherd mix, went to Yellowstone about a couple weeks later.
We are excited to announce that the CAPS coordinated the transfer of 18 dogs from Kern County, including one pregnant Chihuahua mix, to Humane Society for Southwest Washington in Vancouver on December 8, 2022. Humane Society for Southwest Washington will now be taking Kern dogs on a monthly basis. CAPS has been trying to coordinate this partnership since last spring.
These shelters are two of the many no- or low-kill facilities in Western states that we are working with, encouraging the formation of partnerships between them and Kern County.
As of December. 9, 2022 CAPS’ efforts have saved the lives of 89 dogs. At our urging, the Kern County shelter has begun using the pro bono services of a professional photographer for high risk dogs and describing their personalities on social media. But much more work is needed. We are putting our efforts into helping reform the shelter and thus reduce the number of animals being killed. Also, keep an eye on our social media. CAPS will continue to post videos of at-risk dogs, and we will be creating blogs and follow-up videos about some of the rescued dogs. It’s so wonderful to see them thriving in their new homes.
Please donate today to help CAPS continue to save at-risk dogs from Kern County Animal Services. Your donations will help CAPS coordinate and fund last-minute transportation needs that save dogs from this shelter and finally give them a chance to live in a loving, forever home.