County supervisor: Part of animal control report 'wasn't the smartest'

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Kern County's new animal control director is taking aim at the problem of too many sick pets in the shelter. A 14-page report lists reasons why Kern faces an epidemic of parvo in puppies, and that analysis is drawing some fire.

"We have made a lot of progress," Janice Anderson said Wednesday, in response to the report. Anderson is a member of the Kern County Animal Control Commission, a citizen group.

"We've got a long way to go," she said. "But, these problems didn't happen overnight."

The report is titled "Puppy Love Program at Bakersfield Shelter," and dated Dec. 27. An animal control spokeswoman said Wednesday it's a "draft" and couldn't confirm that new director Jen Woodard is the author. Woodard started with the county last October.

But, newly elected Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez told Eyewitness News she read the report last week, and called Woodard about it. Perez said she was particularly concerned about the first item listed as reasons for the parvo epidemic in the shelter. That section is titled "cultural belief regarding pet care."

"There are many communities in Kern County that are 98 percent Mexican and Spanish-speaking," the report reads. "The culture in Mexico regarding pet care is very different than what is expected in the United States."

It says often there are no limits on the number of pets and no protection from vaccinations.

"I invited the animal control director into my office to discuss that component of it," Perez said. "She recognized that probably wasn't the smartest thing to do in that report."

Animal activist Liz Keogh also takes strong exception to that component, arguing the statistic isn't even accurate. Keogh called the whole report insulting.

"This kind of manifesto doesn't help the animals," she said.

Anderson said some of the material in the report is "old news," listing problems that have been identified for a long time.

According to the report, other factors affecting the number of sick puppies in the shelter include a lack of knowledge about pet disease and prevention, and what it calls a lack of awareness of pet responsibility. It cites the "inability of existing animal welfare organizations (public and private) to unite and spread this message."

"We've got our animal welfare organizations around town, they are uniting and working together," Anderson counters. She also stresses more clinics are being offered.

The lack of low-cost spay/neuter and vaccination clinics is also listed as a problem, and the report points to local veterinarians.

"If the vets could unite and provide services to an entire community, instead of focusing only on certain areas and income brackets, there could be a united message for all residents," it says.

The new No. 2 person at Kern County Animal Control said there is progress on providing pet care services to the public.

"I think the Critters without Litters clinic just opened," Shyanne Schull told Eyewitness News. She said that's a turning point to help provide low-cost options to pet owners.

One more criticism in the report, is that Kern County hasn't made progress like other areas.

"Some of the progressive movements in the L.A. area regarding animal welfare and public/private partnerships," reads the report, "Do not make it 'over the hill' to Bakersfield."

Again, Anderson from the animal commission counters that progress is being made.

The report says other communities also deal with the problem of parvo cases, saying it's a "number one" on everyone's list. It also notes the warm climate in Kern County adds to the problem, it's an easy place for the parvo virus to thrive.

But, the report also says there are simply problems with the shelter itself, calling the facility inadequate, in poor condition, and overcrowded. It lines out a number of solutions including more community education, adding more low-cost vaccination options, and encouraging puppy foster programs.

The report also suggests there should be a new "Puppy Place" designated at the shelter, where the little dogs can be quarantined for a longer period and carefully watched for signs of parvo -- to help reduce the spread of the disease. Then healthy puppies can be adopted out or put in foster care.

"The goal here is not to point fingers or lay blame on anyone," new assistant director Shyanne Schull said about the report. "The important thing is that we're trying to find solutions to the problems."

Anderson says it's important for the community to get behind the county and city of Bakersfield in their efforts to improve services for animals.

Supervisor Perez said there's an opportunity to change the situation. She said Woodard promised to work with her on special clinics in the Lamont community starting next month.

"I'm very hopeful for the future," Perez said. "She gave me her word that we'd be working together to solve these issues."