BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Bakersfield Animal Care Center was close to becoming a “no kill” shelter but that time is long gone.

The holiday season is one of the hardest times for adoptions and shelter leaders say things are only going to get worse unless the community steps up to help.

Hundreds of dogs are being killed every month at the Bakersfield Animal Care Center. It’s almost as bad at the county pound and it isn’t just sick or old dogs. Even healthy puppies are being put down.

The holidays are about to make Kern’s horrible dog overpopulation problem even worse. Leaders at the Bakersfield Animal Care Center say they’ve been killing more than 60 dogs every week just to make room for the influx of new dogs from the streets but even that’s still not enough.

“On a daily basis even with all our efforts trying to move dogs to rescues or get them adopted,” Joshua Proctor the animal behaviorist at the Bakersfield Animal Care Center said. “There are more dogs coming in than out. So our only option is to euthanize for space.”

The center has been struggling to keep numbers down since people went back to work after COVID.

The percentage of dogs leaving the shelter alive right now is 60% compared to Pre-COVID which was 80% to 85%. While the county pound has 70% of its dogs leaving alive. It puts down about 35 dogs every week.

Cats are no exception either. The county pound has put down 25 cats so far this month while the city pound is limiting its intake to avoid euthanizing but both pounds are overcrowded.

The number of adoptions declines over the holidays and then, in January people realize they don’t want their Christmas puppies. So things are only expected to get worse.

The center says a lot of animals have been coming in with behavioral issues because they were raised during COVID and now have little to no social skills with other people or animals have severe separation anxiety.

More than a hundred dogs are picked up from the streets every week. Many owners are giving up their pets because of financial hardship, and backyard breeders and the homeless are overpopulating dogs in Bakersfield. That leads to heartbreaking decisions.

“Choosing the dogs is definitely a hard process and it takes a team to make all the decisions,” Proctor said. “Every dog is thoroughly assessed and monitored and we do give every dog a chance to get adopted.”

But with more dogs coming in every day tough decisions have to be made. Dogs are euthanized every week based likelihood of being adopted have black fur, or health or behavioral issues are first to go no matter how small. Even puppies are on the kill list.

“This is the first year ever in our history that we’ve had to euthanize puppies,” Proctor said. “Healthy puppies. We’ve had puppies that have been here three to four months and once they hit that toddler phase it’s almost cruel to have them here. They need enrichment, stimulation, exercise, they need to be socialized and they need to be in a home. Basically, the shelter becomes their home and that becomes their routine but that makes it hard for them to adjust to a home environment.”

Joshua Proctor the animal behaviorist at the Bakersfield Animal Care Center says there’s a few solutions like the city should enforce a breeder license while also limiting the number of litters any animal can have per year. Pets should be spayed and neutered and you can come out and save a life.

“We probably won’t see any kind of change in the shelter with euthanasia unless we start seeing less dogs coming in which means less dogs being bred,” Proctor said.

If you see a dog on the street still call animal control. Depending on the adoptability of the dog it could still get a chance at getting adopted but don’t be surprised if animal control leaves the dog where it is.