Community, government partner for animal control solution

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

As the Kern County government scrambles to recover from devastating liabilities associated with Kern Medical Center, 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason pointed to remedies for the county’s animal control services as a shining example of how public investment can make a difference.

Just one day after the Board of Supervisors fired the chief executive officer of KMC (see related story, this page), the board also fired Kern County Animal Control Director Jen Woodard.

“We hired Jen last year, and it didn’t work out,” said Gleason. “Animal Control was a big mess, and a lot of things were going on with Bakersfield and the county where we were not doing as good a job as we needed to.”

Although Gleason declined to elaborate on Woodard’s poor performance reviews, previously published reports indicate that she was unable to maintain relationships with the agencies that have historically been supportive of the county service.

In August the city of Bakersfield, which owned the building the county leased to house its animal shelter, gave Kern 30 days to vacate with no option to extend the lease.

“This was a complete shock to Kern County,” said Gleason. “We had 700 animals to care for and no place to go.”

The story was picked up by both traditional and social media, where it gained attention from even national celebrities who called on residents to adopt the potentially homeless pets. Although county officials said that the animals were never in immediate danger, Gleason noted that adoptions saw a staggering leap in that time frame.

“We have since had a chance to purchase another property that will serve as our animal care facility. We are going to rename it, put in more kennels and restructure it to be a wonderful center for our animals,” he said.

“You have never seen a race to adopt like we saw when the welfare of our animals was at stake. And what that means is that instead of having to juggle 700 animals in this transition, we saw that number go down to about 200.”

Gleason, who has been trumpeting the importance of community involvement since he was on the campaign trail, said, “This is the perfect example of community coming in and partnering with government to solve challenges.

“Because of that, we will have a safe and smooth transition. Morale is up in the department, we have new leadership that is working out wonderfully and we are about to move into a premiere facility,” said Gleason.

“I think animal control in this county is going to be one of those programs that we can run up the pole and brag about. We were truly able to make lemonade out of lemons.”

Story First Published: 2013-09-25