Kern County Animal Control: No truth to mass-killing rumor

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Kern County Animal Control director Jen Woodard held a press conference Friday to dispel a social media rumor that the shelter will euthanize hundreds of animals before it moves to a new facility.

Woodard said there's no truth to the rumor, though she credited it with a positive side effect - a spike in willing adopters. On Friday, the shelter office was packed with people ready to give pets a new home.

Audrie Nevarez , 15, came down from Hanford, and waited in line just after noon. She had heard dire reports about what would happen at Kern's animal shelter.

"They're closing down, and like about 700 animals who don't get adopted will die," she worried. But, that is not true - on two counts.

"We're not sure where that rumor came from, but it's definitely a rumor and we want to dispel that," Woodard told Eyewitness News. The shelter is moving, not closing. And animals will not be put down.

And when a reported took that word back to the teenager from Hanford, she was relieved, but still ready to adopt both a cat and a dog.

Same for McKenzie Keown, who drove for two hours from Long Beach.

"My dog passed away last year, so I'm here to adopt again." she said. Keown said she'd checked into adoptions in Bakersfield before, and was aware there were plenty of animals here needing homes.

A recent breakdown between the city and county has forced the sudden, additional stress on the situation.

A Bakersfield-Kern County pact will expire Sept. 30, and the city is evicting the county from the city-owned animal shelter on South Mt. Vernon Avenue. For years, the county has handled animal control operations for both the county and city, while using the city-owned shelter.

Bakersfield announced late last month that it's launching its own animal control operation amid bickering between the two government entities over costs and functions. That left the county animal control agency scrambling for a new home.

"We're not closing, we've been evicted by the city of Bakersfield," Woodard said during the news conference.

But, animal advocate Liz Keogh took exception to that.

"It is not an eviction," she insisted. "The county had the option to negotiate with the city."

She's convinced the two sides could have worked out the dispute over cost-sharing.

However, the county is now poised to relocate the shelter. Woodard confirmed four locations are being considered, and it's hoped the county's Board of Supervisors will have a decision next Tuesday.

Since word of the move came out, the rumors started circulating on social media sites that the county would kill any animal it couldn't adopt before the move. And, that spread beyond Kern County, as seen in a Twitter post from pop music star Ke$ha.

Hoping to encourage more adoptions, Kern County Animal Control has dropped the fee for dogs to $15 and cat adoptions to $5. Woodard said in the past couple weeks, 329 animals have been adopted, and 200 taken by rescue organizations.

Woodard said it's hoped some large rescues will happen in the next couple weeks. She said groups may take 30, 50 or even more than 100 animals. She said they've been contacted by organizations and individuals from across the country.

But, as of Friday morning, Woodard said there were about 630 animals in the shelter on Mt. Vernon. They hope to have the smallest possible number there when the move is made, but again assured the public the pets in their care will go with them.

"When the time comes to vacate the shelter, we'll move all the remaining animals to the new facility and continue to care for them at the new site," Woodard said.

Meanwhile, they're grateful for people adopting the pets.

Bakersfield resident Josey Keeney was at the shelter to adopt, even though he knew the rumors were false.

"We actually read that online before we came down here, so that's real nice to hear they're not putting anything to sleep," he said. "But, it's nice to see there's a lot of people here adopting. That's really a good thing."