LA City’s Spay/Neuter Ordinance – A Life Saver! by Ed Boks

This past April, the Los Angeles City Council joined the Mayor in voting unanimously to support Assembly Bill 1634 – The California Healthy Pet Bill, – a bill designed to abate the incalculable suffering of unwanted lost and homeless dogs and cats in the State of California.

Yesterday, LA City’s Public Safety committee voted unanimously to support a spay/neuter ordinance designed to address the specific needs of the City of Los Angeles.

Many of us face the harsh realities of pet overpopulation every day as we take in, care for, and ultimately kill too many of the animals in our charge. If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then this ordinance gives us a tool to end the insanity and do something significantly different.

This Friday, February 1st, the entire LA City Council will vote on whether this ordinance should become law. If it is enacted, this ordinance will help end the cycle of frustration we all face and feel every day. This ordinance will allow us to eventually reallocate precious resources toward increasing adoption, educating the public on humane issues, and fight animal cruelty.

Several years ago, the City of Los Angeles became a national leader by committing itself to ending euthanasia as a methodology for controlling pet overpopulation. This commitment was demonstrated by an allocation of $160 million to build seven new animal care centers to manage the crushing number of lost and homeless animals rescued by LA Animal Services every year, over 50,000 animals.

This commitment was further demonstrated over the past six years by the City Council who, in concert with the Mayor, provided the support the department needed to staff the new facilities, increase our spay/neuter programs and move this city to the forefront of the nation’s drive to become truly animal-friendly.

This unflinching commitment to the health, safety and welfare of our community’s pets has taught us an important lesson: that addressing the pet overpopulation problem from the back end is expensive. Building bigger and better shelters is similar to trying to mop up a flooded basement without first fixing the broken pipe. Until we turn off the faucet that is pouring thousands of unwanted dogs and cats into our City shelters we will never gain control over the homeless animal explosion.

This new ordinance is a tool that can propel us toward a day when we can finally end the killing of animals because we lack the room in our shelters for the seemingly endless flow of 150 newcomers on average per day.

On behalf of the nearly 50,000 animals Animal Services rescues every year, and the over 400 employees, and the hundreds of volunteers and partners we have throughout Los Angeles who feel the brunt of pet overpopulation every day, I ask you to ask your City Council representative to support this important ordinance on Friday.

If you would like to voice your support in person, you are invited to attend the City Council Meeting scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Friday, February 1st, at the Valley Municipal Building (Van Nuys City Hall) 14410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys

If you can’t make it, please contact Councilmember Alarcon’s office via this e-mail: or by phone (213.473.7007) or fax (213.847.0707) to express your support of the ordinance and to thank him for his leadership on this important issue.

Pet Selling Laws by Ed Boks

Federal Income Tax: Income from animal sales is the same as other ordinary income and must be reported for federal income tax purposes. The IRS encourages the reporting of any persons who evade income tax liability by offering a reward of up to 15% of the taxes received.

Always get a receipt for the price paid for an animal and try to avoid paying cash. Write a check instead. A seller’s insistence on cash can be based on a desire to avoid paying income taxes or even a desire to keep you from having recourse if there are problems with the animal. Never buy an animal offered in a public place, swap meet, parking lot, etc.

California Income Tax: The above is also true for purposes of California resident income taxes. California sales tax must be reported and paid by sellers of more than two animals during any year.   If you’re buying a family pet (except from someone re-homing a single family pet), ask for the seller’s sales permit number.

California Puppy and Kitten Lemon Laws:
Summary of Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act: This law requires pet dealers (i.e. retail sellers of more than 50 dogs or cats in the previous year; not including animal shelters and humane societies) to have a permit, maintain certain health and safety standards for their animals, sell only healthy animals, provide written spay-neuter, health, animal history and other information and disclosures to pet buyers and also makes them liable for your damages up to specified limits if:

1. The dealer has not maintained specified health, safety and comfort standards for all animals in his/her care (please read the law at the link below so you will know what to look for)
2. A veterinarian states in writing that the animal became ill within 15 days of purchase, or
3. A veterinarian states in writing that within a year of purchase the animal has a hereditary or congenital disease that requires hospitalization and from which the animal is unlikely to recover

If the dealer refuses to pay, the most effective way to recover your damages is usually through a small claims court action. Please check with your local small claims court as they can provide information to guide you through the process.

This law also requires pet dealers to only have dogs that are at least 8 weeks old and to provide dogs with decent food, water, sanitary living conditions, socialization, exercise and prompt veterinary care. They must also have each dog checked and treated as necessary by a vterinarian before s/he is sold. Dealers must also maintain records of each animal sold for a period of one year. Non-compliance with this law is punishable by a civil fine of up to $1,000 per violation, with possible additional penalties for certain offenses as high as $10,000 and a ban from selling pets for up to one year. Violations should be reported to your local animal control agency and, if necessary, your local district attorney’s or city attorney’s office.

You should be prepared to carefully document any complaints with provable facts as government agencies may not have the time or resources to do so.

If a breeder is breaking the rules, it’s important that you bring this to the attention of the proper authorities. The animals can’t, and its they who suffer and die at the hands of breeders operating in violation of animal protection laws. Please speak up for those who have no voice.

Summary of Polanco-Lockyer Pet Breeder Warranty Act: This law offers protection similar to that of the Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act, except that it applies only to dog breeders who sold or gave away either three litters or 20 dogs in the previous year. Cats are not covered. Breeders subject to this law are not covered by the Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act.

California Cruelty to Animals Laws: California prohibits cruelty to animals and defines it very broadly. A violation of these laws is a felony punishable by a lengthy prison term. There are also rules for pet shops to insure that animals are treated decently. For a summary of these laws,

Cruelty to animals should be reported to your local police or sheriff’s department. In the City of Los Angeles report cruelty to the LA Animal Cruelty Task Force at 213.847.1417.

Local Laws: Every city and county in California has the right to pass laws that can affect animal breeders and sellers. These include:

1. Zoning laws (for example, use of a residence zoned only for residential use to conduct a pet breeding/sale business).
2. Laws on the maximum number of animals that can be at a given address.
3. Business license requirements, including licenses specific to animal sellers.
4. Health and safety rules for animals.
5. Noise control ordinances.
6. Mandatory spay/neuter laws.
7. Laws punishing cruelty to animals.
8. Other restrictions on animal breeders and sellers.
9. Anti-animal fighting laws.

You can learn about these laws and file complaints against violators at the local government agency with responsibility for the subject matter.

Federal Law – The 1970 Animal Welfare Act: This law requires, among other things, licensing of breeders who have four or more breeding dogs or cats and who sell their puppies or kittens, or other breeders who sell puppies or kittens raised by other breeders. These breeders are required to maintain minimum health, safety and welfare standards for animals in their care. The text of the law can be found at

While complaints about unlicensed breeders and conditions at licensed breeders can be made to the USDA, their resources to deal with violations are limited and legal action against violators is rare. Complaints made under state and local laws are more likely to result in effective action.

A Big Thank You to attorney Sandy Ettinger for helping me put this important information together for all of us.


This is the tenth posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of a so-called “No-Kill Equation”. The “No-Kill Equation” is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable results.

This analysis compares the “No-Kill Equation” to LA’s programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the tenth recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is A Compassionate Director.

The Ten “No-Kill Equation” Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
3. Rescue Groups
4. Foster Care
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program
6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The No-Kill Equation is in this blue font.

The analysis will be in italics.

X. A Compassionate Director
The final element of the No Kill equation is the most important of all, without which all other elements are thwarted—a hard working, compassionate animal control or shelter director not content to regurgitate tired clichés or hide behind the myth of “too many animals, not enough homes.” Unfortunately, this one is also oftentimes the hardest one to demand and find.

But it is clear—as better than a decade of success in San Francisco, Tompkins County, and now elsewhere demonstrates—that No Kill is simply not achievable without rigorous implementation of each and every one of these programs and services. It is up to us in the humane movement to demand them of our local shelters, and no longer to settle for illusory excuses and smokescreens shelters often put up in order to avoid implementing them.

This analysis was provided by Mayor Villaraigosa’s office:  LA Animal Services’ current General Manager Ed Boks, hired in January 2006, is a retired pastor and former organizational development consultant.  Boks brings a unique blend of management competencies to the Department, including more than three decades of animal welfare experience where he successfully introduced and implemented No Kill principles and programs as described in the “No-Kill Equation” in two of the largest animal care and control programs in the United States, Maricopa County, Arizona and New York City.

While in Maricopa County and New York City, Boks received numerous awards and recognitions for his “groundbreaking work to introduce his No-Kill mission, educate and involve the community, and protect the lives of lost and homeless pets now and for years to come.”

Boks is nationally recognized by such organizations as In Defense of Animals (IDA) who presented him with a lifetime achievement award for “an extraordinary life of kindness, compassion, commitment and achievement dedicated to ending homelessness and for providing compassionate care for homeless animals.” Alley Cat Alliance recognized Boks for his “vision and foresight to recognize TNR as the effective, ethical solution to feral cat overpopulation.”

His compassionate philosophy and programs have been profiled in USA Today, The New York Times, The New York Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Arizona Republic, and Newsweek, Best Friends, and Cat Fancy magazines.

During Boks’ tenure in Los Angeles he has been recognized by Fred Bergendorff’s The Pet Place television show for “coming to the aid of animals and in doing so displaying selfless acts of courage, heroism and compassion” and by Voice For The Animals Foundation for his leadership role in “protecting the welfare of animals” through the Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Task Force.

Boks demonstrably possesses the knowledge and experience to guide LA Animal Services in the No Kill direction and has actively promoted a philosophy comparable to that expressed in the “No Kill Equation” for many years.

Boks brought in a new human resources team to institute vigorous performance review and disciplinary procedures consistent with City requirements that the Department had not routinely followed for many years. Training in a variety of skills and information areas is being offered to staff on a regular basis. “Secret shoppers” visit the animal care centers and critique conditions, customer service, signage and other aspects of operations to aid management in fine-tuning those operations and upgrading staff performance.

The Department’s veterinary team has been completely reconstituted and its management and administrative teams re-structured, rebuilt and reinvigorated. Additionally, the Department is systematically pursuing legislative amendments to improve its ability to promote adoptions and retention, fight animal cruelty and illegal animal sales, and address other issues of concern to the humane community and pertinent to the pursuit of its No Kill goal.

Since coming to Los Angeles Boks has applied his expertise to feral cat issues, spay/neuter issues, rescue groups and foster care programs, adoption and pet retention efforts, medical and behavioral rehabilitation, public relations and community involvement. The Department continues to progress via increasing adoptions and reducing euthanasia since his arrival.  In fact, in 2007 under Boks’ leadership the Department achieved its most significant decrease in euthanasia in any one-year period – 22%, which confers upon the City of LA one of the lowest euthanasia rates in the nation.


This is the ninth posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of a so-called “No-Kill Equation”. The “No-Kill Equation” is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable results.

This analysis compares the “No-Kill Equation” to LA’s programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the ninth recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Volunteers.

The Ten “No-Kill Equation” Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
3. Rescue Groups
4. Foster Care
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program
6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The No-Kill Equation is in this font.

The analsys evaluation will be in italics.

IX. Volunteers
Volunteers are a dedicated “army of compassion” and the backbone of a successful No Kill effort. There is never enough staff, never enough dollars to hire more staff, and always more needs than paid human resources. That is where volunteers come in and make the difference between success and failure and, for the animals, life and death.

In San Francisco, a community of approximately 800,000 people, volunteers spend over 110,000 hours at the shelter each year. Assuming the prevailing hourly wage, payroll taxes and benefits, it would cost the San Francisco SPCA over $1 million dollars annually to provide those services. In Tompkins County, a community of about 100,000 people, volunteers spend over 12,500 hours walking dogs, grooming cats, helping with adoptions, and doing routine but necessary office work, at a cost savings of approximately $85,000 if the SPCA were to pay for those services at the entry level hourly rate.

The purpose of a volunteer program is to help a shelter help the animals. It is crucial to have procedures and goals in mind as part of the program. In Tompkins County, for example, the agency required all dogs available for adoption to get out of kennel socialization four times per day. This could not be accomplished by staff alone and therefore volunteers were recruited, trained and scheduled for specific shifts that would allow the agency to meet those goals. It became quickly apparent that having volunteers come in whenever they wanted did not serve those goals and so all volunteers were given instructions and a specific schedule.

Ed’s Analysis:  LA Animal Services’ 1,076 active volunteers contributed over 150,500 hours in 2007 in a wide variety of tasks, including shelter clean-up, grooming, dog walking, rabbit exercising, adoption assistance and counseling, assisting staff at mobile adoptions, community information booths and special events, and other valuable tasks.

According to Independent Sector, a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of approximately 575 charities, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs, collectively representing tens of thousands of charitable groups in every state across the nation, the 2006 estimate for the value of a volunteer hour in California is $20.36 per hour. The 2007 value estimate will be released this spring.

Independent Sector calculates the hourly value of volunteer time based on the average hourly wage for all non-management, non-agriculture workers as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a 12 percent increase to estimate for fringe benefits.

Using Independent Sector’s 2006 calculation for California, LA Animal Services estimates that its volunteers conservatively donated well over three million dollars worth of volunteer service in caring for the animals in its six Animal Care Centers in 2007.

Volunteers have always been a vital and valued part of LA Animal Services’ work and the volunteer program formalized with the creation of Volunteers in Service to Animals (VSA) in the 1970s. VSA disbanded in the 1990s and was replaced by an official Department volunteer program headed by an on-staff volunteer coordinator. The overall volunteer program was reviewed during 2007 and recommendations for refinements are forthcoming. The recommendations are expected to focus on improving the volunteer experience and resolving issues that arise between volunteers and staff. A new volunteer coordinator is expected to join the staff early in 2008, filling a void that has existed for much of 2007. This addition will strengthen the program by restoring direct management oversight to a network of hard-working animal care center-based volunteer coordinators. Recruitment of new volunteers is ongoing and will be a priority for the new volunteer coordinator.

IMPLEMENTING THE NO-KILL EQUATION IN LOS ANGELES – Part VIII: Public Relations/Community Involvement

This is the eighth posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of a so-called “No-Kill Equation”. The “No-Kill Equation” is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable results.

This analysis compares the “No-Kill Equation” to LA’s programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the eighth recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Public Relations/Community Involvement.

The Ten “No-Kill Equation” Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
3. Rescue Groups
4. Foster Care
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program
6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The “No-Kill Equation” is in this font.

The analysis is in this black italic font.

VIII. Public Relations/Community Involvement
Rebuilding a relationship with the community starts with redefining oneself as a “pet rescue” agency. The community must see improvement at the shelter, and improvements in the area of lifesaving. Public contact with the agency must include good customer service, more adoptions, and tangible commitments to give the shelter the tools it needs to do the job humanely. Public contact, however, is not necessarily a face-to-face encounter. The public has contact with an agency by reading about it in the newspaper, seeing volunteers adopting animals at a local shopping mall, or hearing the Executive Director promoting spay/neuter on the radio. It means public relations and community education.

The importance of good public relations cannot be overstated. Good, consistent public relations are the key to getting more money, more volunteers, more adoptions, and more community goodwill. Indeed, if lifesaving is considered the destination, public relations are the vehicle which will get a shelter there. Without it, the shelter will always be struggling with animals, finances, and community recognition.

Increasing adoptions, maximizing donations, recruiting volunteers and partnering with community agencies comes down to one thing: increasing the shelter’s exposure. And that means consistent marketing and public relations. Public relations and marketing are the foundation of all a shelter’s activities and their success. To do all these things well, the shelter must be in the public eye.

Indeed, a survey of more than 200 animal control agencies, conducted by a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine, found that “community engagement” was one of the key factors in those agencies who have managed to reduce killing and increase lifesaving. One agency noted that “public buy-in is crucial for long-term improvements” placing primary importance on “the need to view community outreach and public engagement as integral to the agency’s overall purpose and programs rather than simply as an add-on accomplished with a few public service announcements…”

Ed Analysis:  LA Animal Services has aggressively pursued opportunities to publicize and promote its animals, services and activities. In October 2007, the Department received authorization to establish a new, full-time public relations staff position to formalize this effort and enhance its ability to promote its animals and activities. Additionally, the Department has utilized outside public relations professionals to good effect to market special events and adoptable animals over the past two years. The citizen Animal Services Commission provides a unique forum for public dialogue with the Department regarding policies and operations that are integral to the welfare of the animals, and provides opportunities for rescuers, volunteers and the general public to regularly communicate with the Commission and Department at its bimonthly meetings.

LA Animal Services’ animals are regularly seen on local television newscasts. Department staff routinely discuss spay/neuter, pet adoption, animal cruelty prevention and other important topics on local television and radio and in local newspapers, as well as meet with neighborhood councils, associations and other organizations to discuss these issues. The pending re-establishment of an in-house public relations staff for the first time since 2005 is intended to enhance the Department’s ability to communicate with both the media and the public.

LA Animal Services is receiving a lot of positive feedback to the “No-Kill Equation” series from people around the City and the country who were not aware of the effective programs and remarkable progress LA is making in transforming itself into the nation’s most humane city.

This feedback points to a significant departmental need, the expert staff to help effectively tell our compelling story. LA Animal Services is one of the largest and most effective animal rescue organizations in the nation, rescuing between 100 and 200 lost and homeless animals everyday. Many of these animals are rescued from abusive or neglectful situations and are either sick or injured. As a department we are so focused on helping the hundreds of animals in our care at any given moment that we have not always been as successful in sharing these remarkable life saving stories with the community.

That will all change in several ways in 2008, some of which I am not at liberty to share right now, but there is one change I can share. LA Animal Services is now actively recruiting to fill a Public Relations Specialist position. The Department has been unable to fill a public relations position since 2005 and we are eager to fill it for all the reasons stated above.

The City of Los Angeles launched their animal department nearly a century ago as a humane program. LA Animal Services is the true successor to that humane vision, with our emphasis on re-uniting lost pets with owners, helping people adopt new family pets, enforcing laws that keep animals and people safe, and educating the public about responsible pet ownership and co-existing with wildlife.