After a year in which Kern County Animal Services achieved a long-standing goal of successfully finding homes for 90 percent of the animals that have passed through its doors, the rate of euthanasia has rebounded.
From June 2020 to June 2021, Animal Services saved 91% of all animals delivered to the department, a ratio that allowed the shelter to be considered “no-kill”.
But the difficulty of hiring a full-time veterinarian and the higher rates of distemper and parvo have led to the increasing use of euthanasia at the shelter.
“The pandemic has thrown us into a loop when it comes to statistics,” Animal Services Director Nick Cullen said. “Now I think we’re back to the middle. “
In 2021, the shelter euthanized 739 dogs and 433 cats, or 14.5% of all animals.
That’s a big increase from the 564 dogs and 398 cats that were euthanized in 2020. Still, Cullen said a lower number of animals were dropped off at the county shelter in 2020. To illustrate, he said that the euthanasia rate in 2020 was the same as in 2021.
Still, he said progress was being made. In 2019, the county euthanized 1,774 dogs and 1,309 cats, with a “save rate” of 74%.
This is a sensitive subject for the county, which has been working for years to reduce its rate of euthanasia. A decade ago, the county was killing an average of 2,000 animals per month and was under significant community pressure to reduce their numbers.
Great strides have been made to reduce the number of animals killed upon entering the shelter, and Cullen believes progress is still being made.
“The number of animals we saved in calendar year 2021 is probably where it should be compared to progress from 2019,” he added. “Rarely do you see an organization that suddenly goes from 76% of the animals in its shelter to a shelter that goes at a save rate without slaughter. “
But potential problems have appeared on the horizon. The puppies have started to reappear in the shelter, a sign that the sterilization and sterilization programs are losing ground. A shortage of veterinary services across the county means owners are struggling to make appointments for their pets.
The lack of space in the shelter means that even healthy dogs must be euthanized. If a dog is considered aggressive, it can be killed to make room for a more moderate dog.
“It’s a dire situation and these dogs – even cats – are suffering needlessly there,” said shelter volunteer Carrie Zaninovich. “It’s a very, very, dark time for the county.”
She said stricter breeding policies are needed to reduce the number of dogs entering the shelter, especially among the popular pit bull, chihuahua, German Shepherd and husky breeds. She urged the county to spend more money on animal control to better prevent conditions that lead to high shelter takings.
Under current departmental ordinances, anyone who breeds more than one liter of dogs or cats per year must obtain a permit. Lack of veterinary availability also reduces the number of animals vaccinated against common diseases.
“The problem is getting worse very, very, very quickly and we think there has to be a change,” said Ryan Zaninovich, Carrie’s husband, who also occasionally volunteers at the shelter. “It would be a shame if all these dogs were shot and no one really knew. “