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.
In Bakersfield, as in many places, the number of stray cats and dogs explodes in cycles as those strays manage to mix with each other and pets with homes, to produce litters of unwanted and often uncared for animals. The sad result is that many of these animals’ lives are short, miserable, and often end in being euthanized or worse. The single most responsible way to control the unwanted animal population is to spay or neuter our pets.
And the single most affordable place to do that in Bakersfield is Critters Without Litters located at:
4300 Stine Road, Suite 720
Bakersfield, CA 93313
They are open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. and because they are a a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization – they provide high-volume, high-quality, subsidized companion animal sterilization. They seek to end the preventable euthanasia of healthy, adoptable pets in Kern County through strong alliances with the community, local businesses and nonprofit organizations to increase the number of cats and dogs that are spayed and neutered, while promoting animal health and safety within our community.
Definitely call for an appointment. They accept vouchers and you can see their rates for spay and neuter as well as a host of other services on their website at www.CrittersWithoutLitters.org .
And remember that spaying/neutering your pet has many other benefits besides population control:
Share with friends and family who have animal companions.
If you are shopping on Amazon for gifts over the holiday season, remember to bookmark our link to Amazon Smile, the program that donates a portion of your purchases to Critters. Thank you for your support!
Today we celebrate our second anniversary of spaying and neutering pets in Kern County, as well as our 15,000th surgery!
We could not be more grateful to our community for their dedication to having their pets spayed and neutered, and we are honored that you continue to support us in our mission to help more pets become Critters Without Litters. Together we can end pet homelessness in Kern County. Thank you!
Take a peek at the wonderful column Lois Henry wrote about our organization in honor of our anniversary!
This is the absolute best news I’ve heard in a long time.Bakersfield now has its own low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter clinic.
It’s called Critters Without Litters and it’s on Stine Road just south of White Lane. It opened Oct. 1 and the staff is raring to go.
Tell a friend. Tell 20!
Anyone can use Critters’ services regardless of their income level.
Dogs cost between $65 and $80 depending on sex and size. Cats are $40 for males, $50 for females. (Vouchers from local organizations can bring down costs even more.)
For those not familiar with what it costs to fix a dog at regular vet offices, let me tell you, Critters’ prices are far lower, in some cases less than half the going rate.
That’s because they use a combination of grants and community donations, and they focus on one thing only — animal sterilizations.
Using state-of-the-art equipment and techniques, their vets can work on a large number of animals.
At full throttle, they hope to do about 35 animals a day, said Larry Keller, who along with is wife, Joann, brought the clinic from a dream to a reality.
The Kellers’ goal is to fix 8,400 Kern County cats and dogs in their first 12 months.
These people are very goal-oriented, so I have no doubt they will meet or exceed that number.
The Kellers, involved in animal issues for many years, started the “Fix Your Pit” voucher program a few years ago and ultimately gave out 2,000 vouchers.
They subsidized the vouchers through their business, Fortress Self Storage.
But working with veterinarians was complicated, it was getting expensive and they both realized the program was a drop in the bucket compared to the need, Larry Keller told me.
They decided late last year to simplify their lives and discontinue the program.
But then the county’s euthanasia rates came out in the paper. It was depressing, as usual. Kern was forced to kill 19,797 animals in 2011. So far this year, the number is 15,202.
Joann and Larry went to a meeting of the county Animal Control Commission and asked about a low-cost spay neuter clinic.
“We were told, ‘Great idea, next topic,'” Larry recalled.
Many animal advocates have longed for a low-cost clinic as the best option for reducing our animal population in order to keep cats and dogs from going to the shelter in the first place.
The county and several organizations have started voucher programs (see info box) but those have been the equivalent of a Band-Aid on sucking chest wound.
For a while, we also had HOPE, Fresno’s low-cost, high volume spay/neuter clinic, which made two trips a month to truck Kern animals north. But, again, it just wasn’t enough.
Larry and Joann talked about the possibility of opening their own low-cost, high-volume clinic. They decided to think on it.
But then things started to happen. Larry got in touch with Marvin Mackie of Long Beach, the grandfather of fast, safe, spay/neuter techniques and who has been helping start similar clinics up and down the state.
It so happened, a national veterinarian show was coming up in Las Vegas and Mackie, who owns a time-share there, persuaded Larry to go.
By the time Larry drove home a few days later, Joann knew they were no longer “considering” the clinic. It was a go.
From there, things moved fast.
The Kellers already owned the 2,600-square-foot building on Stine. It had been vacant awhile. Then they went after grants through Petsmart charities and training through Humane Alliance of South Carolina, which specializes in helping establish spay/neuter clinics.
I first wrote about Humane Alliance back in 2008 when I was trying to convince our board of supervisors to look at a mandatory spay/neuter law. The big obstacle, I was told, is that fixing animals is too expensive for many families. I researched Humane Alliance and felt it would be the perfect resource for our county to change direction.
My enthusiasm thudded up against the usual wall of governmental silence. So many others had hit that barrier over the years, we all thought maybe it just couldn’t happen here.
But the Kellers don’t understand the words “can’t be done.”
“I’m the kind of guy who just jumps off a cliff,” Larry said, with his signature ear-to-ear grin.
Meanwhile, Joann did the paperwork, the logistics and the fretting.
By the end of summer, they were Humane Alliance’s 111th approved clinic.
So far, they have one vet, Cattrina Lucas, and hope to get a second vet a couple of days a week.
“I’m hooked,” Lucas said of the operation and its mission. She said the training at Humane Alliance was incredible.
“This is not a ‘chop shop,'” she said.
For Kern’s animal advocates, Critters is somewhat of a miracle.
“It’s amazing!” gushed Marilyn Stewart, director of Alpha Canine. “Thank God!”
Now we have to do our part.
Get your animals over there and get them fixed.
Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at http://www.bakersfield.com, call her at 395-7373 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.