Nick Cullen, CAWA
Director, Kern County Animal Services
Nick started his career in animal welfare as an Animal Control Officer with the County of Kern in 2005. As an Officer, Nick was able to get a first-hand account of the challenges that Kern County faced at the time. Some of those challenges still exist, some have been overcome, and others are on their way to resolution. It is the challenges that still exist that keep him up at night.
In 2011, against all rational logic, Nick volunteered to accept a promotion to supervise all 3 animal shelters that were operated by the County of Kern. With an annual intake of over 30,000 animals at the time, and a correspondingly awful number of shelter deaths eclipsing 21,000, Kern County was one of the worst animal sheltering systems in the state. Through the applications of staff engagement, community appreciation, progressive adoption promotions and practices, social media management, and the development of a number of supportive programs intended to provide the tools pet owners need to be successful, trends in Kern County began to turn around.
In 2013, Nick was appointed Interim Director of Kern County Animal Services, and several months later the title became permanent. Since that time, a team of like-minded and forward-thinking humans have joined forces within the organization to bring about meaningful change. That same year, the City of Bakersfield developed its own sheltering mechanism, effectively sharing the responsibility for care and custody of Kern County’s homeless and unwanted animals. Together, community stakeholders have managed to gradually and systematically reduce Kern County Animal Services’ annual intake down to less than 14,000 animals, while producing live-outcomes for just over 80% of the pets that are handled by the amazing staff each year.
Nick and his life-partner Amber make their home in Bakersfield, where their recently adopted Beagle “Lulu” destroys their backyard with impressive consistency, their not-recently adopted 3-legged Maltese “Emma” follows them around every waking moment expecting a meal, and their Chihuahua “Joplin” stares at both of them while plotting their ultimate demise.