Bakersfield: City will operate its own animal shelter

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The city will operate its own animal control facility in a split from Kern County service, it announced Wednesday.

Bakersfield and Kern County have been at odds over animal shelter operations for some time. The county has leased a city-owned facility on South Mt. Vernon Avenue since the late 1970s, but last year the county planned to build its own shelter in the heat of a lease-rate fight.

The county said the city facility was inadequate, and the city said the county wanted to charge it too much to provide animal control service to city areas.

The city and county agreed to a one-year operational/lease agreement with an eye toward working out a longer agreement. On May 3 this year, the city provided the county with a written draft of a two-year interim animal shelter agreement. Months later, the city said its still waiting for the county to counter with its proposed revisions.

So, with the county-city pact set to expire Sept. 30, the city is telling the county it must vacate the shelter on South Mt. Vernon.

"The county's continued lack of responsiveness, cooperation and courtesy, coupled with the city's misgivings about the level of care and service being provided by the Kern County Animal Shelter (concerns that are continually brought to the city's attention by local animal welfare advocates), have forced the city to take action," reads a news release from the city manager's office. "After much thought and reflection, the city of Bakersfield has decided to separate from the county of Kern and operate its own animal care facility to provide appropriate shelter and care for the stray and otherwise unwanted animals from the city of Bakersfield."

The city said it will give the county until Dec. 1 if it needs more time to relocate.

Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner said Wednesday afternoon that he and his county colleagues were "blindsided" by the city's decision and felt recent talks on the topic had been productive. Scrivner said the county will both explore the possibilities of saving the relationship with the city and of finding a new facility from which to operate.

The city said it is already working with the Bakersfield SPCA and Bakersfield Homeless Center on animal control partnerships. It said agreements should be presented to the City Council in September.