Cathy Forrester’s missing microchipped cat Pumpkin turned up in a cage behind an animal control shelter already in turmoil over alleged unnecessary killings.
The Kern County Animal Shelter on Mount Vernon Ave. in Bakersfield CA is at the center of two stories currently in the news.
We set out today to tell the story of Cathy Forrester and her cat Pumpkin but found an unsettling juxtaposition between that story and the recent firing of the shelter’s new director over her allegations of unlawful killings of cats and dogs.
Ms. Forrester’s microchipped cat Pumpkin was missing for over a week and a half before she finally discovered him locked away in a large open air cage reserved for feral cats behind the Mount Vernon Ave. facility. The shelter staff had not bothered to scan for a chip, citing Pumpkin’s antisocial behavior after having been trapped and essentially catnapped and brought to the strange place full of animals.
Ms. Forrester recognized his meowing, had the staff bring him out and scan him to verify his identity and was able to take him home. She was charged $105 to get him back but the shelter graciously offered to waive part of the fee because the cat was not scanned.
Ms. Forrester, who had searched diligentlly for her cat, took her displeasure with the animal control facility to television news station KBAK, who produced a story on her experience, seen below.
We were curious about the fate of cats held in the facility’s outdoor ferals cage and decided to look into the shelter’s policies. It took only moments to discover that there is a controversy over unlawful animal killings by officers associated with the shelterm which has allegedly caused a new shelter manager to be let go.
Kim Mullins was fired last month after a 6 month probationary period as Kern County Animal Control manager. Ms. Mullins says she believes she was let go after pursuing change too aggressively and acting as a whistleblower in raising concerns that Bakersfield City Animal control, which also is affiliated with the shelter, was unlawfully killing animals in the field. A rift between the city and county officers deepened over the attempts at change, and outcry over the alleged killings. There are further concerns over animals at the shelter being killed before their few days in which to be claimed are up. The manager position has had significant turnover in the last four years, which suggests a troubled animal control unit.
Volunteers from the Friends of Kern Shelter showed their support for Ms. Mullins when they spoke at a board meeting and told board members that Ms. Mullins was the most responsive leader they had worked with.
A short excerpt from a recent newspaper article gives a brief look at the recent history of the troubled animal agency. According to the Bakersfield Californian of May 21:
‘Kern County has struggled for nearly a decade to transition from a catch-and-kill organization to a humane agency that advocates for responsible pet ownership, licensing and helping lost and unwanted animals find people who want them.
The call for change had long been made, but momentum built after the city of Bakersfield moved all its animals into the county shelter after a bitter 2003 breakup with the Bakersfield SPCA, its former shelter.
With the animals from much of the unincorporated county, and the county’s largest incorporated population center, in one place, the scope of Kern County’s animal problem came into focus.
Constantine, who ran Animal Control at the time, faced overcrowding.
The percentage of shelter animals euthanized by Kern County Animal Control hovered around 80 percent.
Tens of thousands of animals died at the end of a county syringe every year.”
The animal control shelter is still overwhelmed and in difficulty by all estimations, and that is acknowledged by all those involved. It is also generally acknowledged that the county itself has a very high rate of neglected, abandoned and stray animals; so whatever other troubles Kern County’s animal agencies face they are dealing with a huge problem of far too many unwanted, stray or ill-cared for animals.
While we do not know exactly what the accepted practices are at the Kern County animal control shelter facility we strongly suspect that Pumpkin is lucky to have gotten out of there alive and returned to his family. As many of us know, ferals do not usually pass the adoptability test at kill shelters, especially ones that are continually overrun with animals.
KBAK feature on Pumpkin
KBAK feature on the shelter. May 23.