BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — With increasing frequency, dogs who were once pets, are being left alone to fend for themselves in Kern County. Abandoned on our roadways and in our communities that it’s becoming an increasingly serious problem for shelters whose sole mission is to find these furry friends loving, permanent homes.

One thing that staff at the City of Bakersfield Animal Care Center want to make clear is that this issue isn’t arising from the adoptions that took place during the pandemic, it’s actually a vicious cycle they see every single year.

“The problem our community is facing is that they just don’t care anymore,” said Nicole Gitzke, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Animal Care Center. “Animals are like children, that is how I treat my animals and people would rather just not face their problems.”

They wait, day after day, hoping that today will be the day they become part of a loving home.

Friday morning California Highway Patrol officers rescued Mia, a Husky pup tied to an electrical box at the I-5 off-ramp at 7th Standard. Left to fend for herself, Mia is now under the care of a foster home.

The lack of space at the Animal Care Center is causing heartbreak and desperation among staff, they have about 175 kennels for dogs but are caring for 213 dogs.

“We are seeing owners not coming for their dogs,” said Gitzke. “They’re telling us it is OK for us to kill their dogs instead of coming and bringing them back home.”

The lack of space and pet-owner responsibility is forcing city and county shelters to no longer accept owner-surrendered pets. Gitzke shares that fees pet-owners claim they no longer can care for pets due to work schedules or because they got more than they were expecting in a pet.

Fees that fund the many services and materials used to care for the hundreds of pets are deterring pet owners from picking up lost or abandoned pets.

“The biggest thing that we can stress is: know what you’re getting yourself into, whether it is a dog, a cat, or a bunny,” said Gitzke. “You might want to double think if you are ready to have a pet before that, animals do cost money.”

Many pets are available for adoption at the Bakersfield Animal Care Center, waiting for a forever home and you can adopt them for as low as $10. Other resources are also available like dog training. More information can be found by calling the Bakersfield Animal Care Center at 661-832-7387.