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10,000 cats, kittens could die. Or we could do this

The Bakersfield Californian
By Louis Henry

For those of you who didn’t know, we are currently standing at the precipice of Kern’s annual cat explosion.

This is nearly the start of “heat” season for female cats, which, not surprisingly, is followed by kitten season.

Most of those kittens will end up in the Kern County Animal Shelter, which will be forced to kill nearly all of them. The shelter had to put down more than 10,000 cats and kittens in 2012, according to its monthly reports.

So this isn’t a small issue.

But Critters Without Litters, Bakersfield’s new low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter clinic, is determined to try to stem that awful tide.

To that end, the clinic has been awarded a PetSmart Charities grant that will enable it to spay 200 female cats for only $20 each.

There are no income requirements, but I’m hoping those who can afford Critters’ regular fee (already a super low $50), will let truly low income folks have first crack at these “Beat The Heat” grant prices.

Yes, the grant is really called “Beat The Heat,” I didn’t make that up.

Word is getting out on this exceptional price so call Critters now to make your appointment.

But don’t fret if you miss out on this particular grant. Critters takes vouchers from a wide array of animal welfare groups (see box) which can also lower the price significantly.

This is just the first of what Critters hopes will be many innovative ways the clinic can put a dent in our pet overpopulation and disease problems.

Larry Keller, one of the Critters founders, and his staff are hoping to develop a fund to pay for weekly vaccination clinics covering distemper, parvovirus and bordetella at a cost of only $10 to the public. Full cost for that package is $36, but Critters is hoping to find a donor, perhaps a business or group of businesses, or individuals who can offset that cost.

Critters staff estimated that 75 percent of dogs coming into the clinic are either not vaccinated or are undervaccinated (meaning they might have had one set of vaccines as a puppy but not the full series of shots.)

Kern County has an especially serious problem with parvovirus, which is highly contagious and often fatal in puppies.

“We want to be able to provide a vaccine package at low cost for every animal who needs it at the clinic and then do a special clinic on Fridays, which is our slowest day,” Keller said.

Slow is a relative term.

Since opening Oct. 1, Critters has altered more than 1,600 cats and dogs.

They are averaging around 28 to 30 animals a day between two veterinarians both working part time. The goal is to get that number up to a solid 35 animals a day, Keller said. And if he can add another vet, who knows?

It may not seem like a lot compared to how huge Kern’s overpopulation problem is.

But Keller said studies done by Humane Alliance, which is where Critters got its training, show that other areas have seen a real difference in euthanasia rates in about three years once a low-cost, high-volume clinic is established.

“We want to speed that up, of course,” Keller said.

Yes, please!

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