Animal Control Director fired, county gets new shelter home

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) One day after the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to fire Paul Hensler as CEO of Kern Medical Center, the board voted unanimously on Tuesday to also fire Jen Woodard as Kern County Animal Control director. Some hailed the board's action.

"I think it was a long time coming," said animal welfare advocate Liz Keogh.

"Her style has been abrasive to staff, to volunteers and to the public," said Keogh.

"The Board of Supervisors has concluded that a change in leadership of the county's Animal Control Department has become necessary," Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Maggard said in a news release. "Accordingly, by a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors has relieved the Animal Control director of her duties, effective immediately."

Woodard had been on the job for less than a year, taking over on October, 2012. Her hiring at first was seen as a plus by many in the animal rescue community. Before coming to Kern County, Woodard headed Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Los Angeles, considered a premier animal welfare organization.

Supervisors initially hoped Woodard could eliminate or reduce Kern County's staggering animal euthanasia rate. According to county records, more than 250,000 animals have been euthanized since 2003. But Woodard apparently made enemies along the way with key support groups.

"It is imperative that leaders in the county and our department heads reach out to the community and always work toward solutions rather than causing us to be in a situation where we are creating enemies that we don't need," said Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez.

County Supervisors also decided to lease an industrial facility on Fruitvale Avenue to house its new, solo animal control operations.

Allan Krauter of the Kern County Administrative Office said Tuesday afternoon that the lease on the 2.75-acre property at 3951 Fruitvale Ave. will run for five years with an out clause after three years. The lease also has a pair of one-year extensions, and the county has a built-in avenue to buy the property, Krauter said.

Bakersfield had used Kern County for its animal control services, but its agreement ends at the end of this month. For years, the county has handled animal control operations for both the county and city, while using the city-owned shelter on South Mt. Vernon Avenue.

The city and county have come to an impasse over costs and functions, so the city decided to start its own animal control service and boot the county out of its shelter.