Calling all fosters by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and foster careThere is a fundamental tenet held among most animal welfare and animal rights advocates that we accept as incontrovertible. That precept was perhaps best articulated by Mahatma Gandhi when he said, “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress is best judged by how we treat our animals”. This principle expresses the belief that when a community is compassionate enough to care about the needs of its animals there can be a reasonable expectation that the bar is raised on how we care and treat one another.

The reverse is also true. If we can dismiss the needs of our animals it becomes easier to dismiss the needs of our infirmed, aged, and needy human populations. Caring about animals serves as the ultimate litmus test for determining a community’s capacity for compassion.

This test is applied to the City of Los Angeles every day, but never more than in the spring and summer months.

Spring is the beginning of kitten season in Los Angeles. In 2008 LA Animal Services took in over 7,300 neonate kittens. Neonate means too young to survive for more than an hour or two without a mother. Sadly, most of the neonate kittens we take in are orphans. People find these babies in their garage, flowerbeds, and many other places where the mother felt safe from predators and intruders while she gave birth. Property owners find these crying babies within hours or days of birth and bring them to our Centers without the mother. Taken away from their mother they have no chance at survival without significant human intervention.

Neonate kittens represent over one-third of all the cats taken in by the Department. They also represent over 35% of all the cats euthanized and over 21% of our euthanasia rate in 2008. One in three cats and one in five animals euthanized in LA is a neonate kitten. On the up side, most of our healthy weaned kittens get adopted. So anything we can do to help our neonates reach full “kittenhood” improves the odds of their eventually finding a loving home.

Kitten season in Los Angeles starts around the end of March and lasts through September when it starts to slowly decline over October and November. That means now is the time for everyone wanting to help end the killing of these innocents to contact LA Animal Services to either volunteer to foster a litter of kittens or to make a donation to help others willing to make this commitment.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “foster” as providing parental care and nurture to children not related through legal or blood ties. If Gandhi viewed animals in general as the first rung on the compassion ladder then these little creatures must be considered the least of the least. They can be so easily overlooked and forgotten. In fact, California State Law defines “adoptable animals” as only those animals eight weeks of age or older; which means these little orphans have no legal standing in the State of California. They don’t even have to be counted in the City’s no-kill goal. Nonetheless, they are because we understand that our moral progress depends on our providing adequate care and nurture to these living souls with whom we have no legal or blood ties.

The problem is that we can’t save them all by ourselves. We need your help. During kitten season LA Animal Services can take in over 80 neonate orphans a day, over 2500 in some months. Depending on their age they may require four to 8 weeks of intense foster care. Though dozens of our dedicated employees volunteer to foster neonate litters above and beyond their daily duties, the majority will not survive without the additional help of members of the public willing to step up to the challenge. They will not survive without your help. If you are able and willing to help save these lives, LA Animal Services will provide the training, support and supplies you need to be a successful foster parent.

This is a big commitment and a true test of our compassion. Even with our best efforts not all foster babies survive. But they can all be loved. These babies need to be bottle fed every two hours around the clock for several weeks; making this the perfect family, club, or faith based organizational project. Fostering helpless neonates is an ideal way to foster compassion and respect for the true value and sanctity of all life in our community.

Have you saved a life today? Make a commitment to volunteer as a Baby Bottle Foster Parent.  Our kittens are hoping you do!

What “transparency” looks like by Ed Boks

LA Animal Services is one of the few, if not the only, animal control program in the United States that posts and updates a comprehensive set of statistics every month.

In fact, LA Animal Services was recognized by The Maddie’s Fund, the well known pet rescue foundation established in 1999 to help fund the creation of a no-kill nation, for our “transparency,” (i.e., the ready availability of information to the public). Of the over 5200 animal control programs in the United States and the tens of thousands humane societies and other animal welfare organizations, Maddie’s identified only five organizations for their transparency. LA Animal Services was at the top of this list and was the only municipal animal control program recognized.

Over the past six years, LA Animal Services has been able to boast one of the most impressive records for reducing pet euthanasia as a methodology for controlling pet overpopulation in the nation.

However, the first quarter statistics for 2008 have recently been posted, and they are disappointing. Despite the fact that live placements (adoptions, New Hope placements, and redemption’s) continue to rise to unprecedented levels historically and unequaled levels nationally (27,565 in the past 12 months for a 59% live release rate [70% for dogs and 44% for cats]) the euthanasia level also rose.

There are many possible reasons for this increase, and it is important that we understand all of them if we are to address and correct this anomaly as a community going forward.

Preface

1. I want to preface this discussion by reminding everyone that LA Animal Services’ statistics showing increased euthanasia and animal intakes during the first quarter of 2008 demonstrates that the department does not “fudge the data” or “manipulate the process to spin the numbers” as some critic’s suggest.

2. A second preface is to acknowledge that we at LA Animal Services are as disappointed with these results as are our critics. To have both the intake and kill rates drift upward in four of our shelters over the past quarter is not acceptable and we are taking steps to reverse this disturbing trend.

To be fair, it should be understood that when you normalize* the statistics and compare the intake statistics to the euthanasia rates in the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2007 there was only a 1.49% increase in euthanasia.

But no matter how you assess the numbers, everyone agrees that no increase in euthanasia is desirable, and we will continue to do everything we can to return to our long standing trend of reducing the killing. As was explained in my last message, we have hit the proverbial “wall” and will need the help of the entire animal loving community going forward.

(* Normalization is the process of removing statistical error in repeated measured data. For us, that means comparing the euthanasia rate relative to a fluctuating intake rate.)

3. Statistics do not exist in a vacuum and there are reasons why things are as they are, some reasons are more subject to department control than are others. The bottom line, however, is that there is a lot of work to do and hysteria, hand-wringing and finger pointing does not save lives.

Operational Circumstances

4. The department recently completed a major shelter management reassignment that has impacted almost every shelter. This was done to match the abilities of some of our most experienced managers with jobs we feel they can do well. These changes bring with them adjustment periods as managers learn about their newly assigned, and in some cases, newly opened facilities. These managers must determine how they want to tackle the many challenges they face in their respective shelters. I will soon announce the selection of a new Assistant General Manager of Operations who will work directly with them on these challenges. In the meantime, we started posting statistics by shelter in the hope this information will help the community better target its resources to help the animals most at risk.

LA Animal Services opened three new facilities in the last ten months and we are scheduled to open two more in the next three months. This is the fastest and largest increase of any City Department in LA City history and represents a significant learning curve during a time of intense scrutiny and fiscal instability.

5. Center managers are responsible for determining the optimal animal capacity for their shelter. This is a delicate balance between wanting to save lives and not wanting to be perceived as “warehousing” animals. If a shelter experiences a short-term surge in new arrivals, it could lead to an urgent need to move more animals out of the shelter one way or another. Unfortunately, when that doesn’t happen via adoption, New Hope rescue, or transfer of animals within our shelter system or partnering shelter systems, it’s likely to happen via euthanasia.

Adoptions and Rescues

6. There is a spirited national debate going on about whether shelters can “adopt their way” to No-Kill status. Perhaps we can, but it takes the whole community working together. As noted earlier, adoptions at LAAS shelters were also up during the first quarter of 2008 and, on a month-over-month basis, has been up for 12 consecutive months by a range of from 10-30% depending on the month. That is encouraging.

7. The numbers of dogs and cats placed by our wonderful New Hope rescue partners during the first quarter of ‘08 is up by about 5% over last year. This is also encouraging coming after a year in which New Hope rescue placements were down. Our New Hope partners do all they can to help save animals but sometimes they run out of capacity too, so any month when they are able to increase the number of transfers that is a plus.

8. Increasing animal adoptions can be a challenge when the most easy-to-adopt animals, such as puppies, kittens and purebreds, are scooped up almost immediately after they come into the shelters. That leaves the harder to adopt big and older dogs, so-called aggressive breeds and injured or sick animals that place a larger burden on the casual would-be adopter.

These animals must be marketed more aggressively and creatively, and the simple fact is that marketing is not our strong suit at the moment. We don’t have a public relations staff, nor do we have a volunteer coordinator at the moment to run our mobile adoption program. These tasks are being done on an ad hoc basis by extraordinary employees whose primary responsibilities lie elsewhere.

We’ve been struggling to find a new PR person and volunteer coordinator through the City’s civil service system and have yet to turn up a suitable candidate with the requisite experience and skills. We’ll keep trying to rectify that as soon as we can, and under the new pressures of a deficit-driven City hiring freeze. But in the meantime, getting the word out about our shelter animals, and getting those animals out to a wider public, remains a challenge. The importance of doing so, however, was made very clear by the 52% jump in adoptions at our shelters in the week following Oprah Winfrey’s April 4 show on puppy mills which featured our South LA Animal Care Center.

Ed Boks and Riester Advertising Agency
Riester Advertising Agency generously donated creative ads to Ed Boks in Maricopa County, NYC and LA

Riester Ad Agency has generously donated a series of adoption campaign ads that are downloadable from our website. LA Animal Services asks everyone with access to a neighborhood newspaper, LA animal blog, local or business bulletin board to help us get the word out by posting these ads.

Intakes

9. Some have pointed to the first quarter upsurge in intakes as indicative of some systemic failure on the department’s part, though they offer no logical explanation for this allegation. It is impossible at this point to know if this increase in intakes is a reversal of a long standing trend or if it is a short term reaction to the recent housing market collapse.

To be sure, we are dealing with a unique phenomenon this year – widely documented in the media – and that is the unprecedented upsurge in pet relinquishment’s resulting from families losing their homes to foreclosures or evictions. Many are finding that they are unable to afford to keep their pets or, alternately, to find a new home they can afford where pets are allowed. Intakes system wide were up by 447 animals in March 2008 over March 2007, and it makes sense that housing and economic displacement contributed substantially to that increase. People leaving their pets at our shelters have made that clear.  The solution: A House is not a Home without a Pet program.

10. Spring and early summer is traditionally a problem for every animal shelter, as kitten and puppy season brings more neonates through our doors. Hundreds of orphaned neonate kittens are taken in every month at this time of year, and they are the primary focus of our life saving efforts. They require careful around-the-clock care that no shelter is equipped to provide, either in terms of facilities or available staff. Dozens of staff members have, however, stepped up to take on the challenge of fostering litters of kittens, as have more than 100 volunteers, but if a dedicated caregiver can’t be found for an orphaned litter of neonate kittens, they will probably be euthanized. We don’t make excuses for this, and we welcome every new volunteer foster caregiver we can recruit.

It should be understood that LA Animal Services is not the only organization in the greater LA region facing this crisis. All our sister jurisdictions and rescue partners are inundated with hundreds of neonate kittens at the same time. We are all exhausting our limited resources as we take in, care for, and try to place these animals.

11. Apart from a regularization of the real estate market which is probably a number of months away, one thing that must be done to arrest this trend is to create more opportunities for people to keep their pets when they have to move. The local humane community has been discussing this issue and is working on ideas that might help, including providing landlords with financial indemnification against pet-related damage, and/or other incentives that would motivate them to allow pets in the units they own and manage. In a city where 62% of the residents are tenants, increasing the availability of pet-friendly rental units is an issue that deserves much more attention than it is getting.

Spay/Neuter

12. Some blame the upsurge in intakes on the department’s alleged failure to spay and neuter everything in sight, as if that were possible. But LA Animal Services is doing what it can, and may well lead the nation’s shelters in our commitment to provide spay/neuter as a tool for reducing pet overpopulation.

With the generous support of the Mayor and City Council, we’re able to fund upwards of 40,000 surgeries a year, using our two currently operational spay/neuter clinics, the Amanda Foundation and Sam Simon Foundation mobile clinics, and the network of private veterinarians who take our discount vouchers.

As this is written, we have a Request for Proposals (RFP) soliciting operators for the five new spay/neuter clinics nearing completion in our new shelters. Additionally, others in the humane community who have an interest in spay/neuter are preparing to launch new community-based spay/neuter efforts in and around Los Angeles.

The City’s pioneering spay/neuter ordinance that became law on April 8th is already generating a surge in voluntary compliance at various clinics. We have begun to gear up the information and enforcement efforts that will be needed to make the ordinance effective and we expect it to generate results that will become clear in our statistics over the next few years.

13. All that being said, we definitely have not been able to sterilize all the feral and stray cats we want. This is because of a lawsuit threat from an environmental group opposed to the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) methodology used to control feral and stray cat populations in many locales, including cities contiguous to Los Angeles. This has forced LA Animal Services to undertake a lengthy environmental study process before trying to establish a formal TNR program here. This could take up to another year to accomplish.

In the meantime, valiant community TNR volunteers do what they can to manage the problem in various locations, but untended, unsterilized stray cats can undo much of the progress these diligent volunteers achieve. Many of the neonate litters we see come from this source and, absent the ability for the department to legally conduct TNR, unadoptable feral adults and their kittens will continue to account for hundreds, if not thousands, of the unfortunate cats who are euthanized every year.

Finally…

14. I don’t offer these explanations as excuses for what we have experienced in our shelters so far in 2008. We share the frustrations of the entire humane community when statistics don’t trend positive, and we should be held accountable when all is said and done. But our larger job is to bring the community together to find solutions, to seek new resources when the City budget can’t provide them, and find new ways to overcome the challenges few communities have ever had to face on the scale we see in Los Angeles.

We hope to soon gather the community together to try to do just that. We will continue to work on identifying new resources to help us meet the challenges posed by the spay/neuter law, make more homes welcoming to pets, get the word out that big, older dogs and neonate kittens make lovable pets, and provide adopters with the support they need to ensure that is the case.

If you would like to help, please consider joining our Volunteer Program or make a donation towards one of our many life saving programs.

Help LA Avoid a Cat-Tastrophe by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and foster careLA Animal Services is calling upon all Angelenos to help the City of Angels reach a No-Kill status. During this time of year LA’s Animal Care Centers are inundated with lost and homeless cats. These cats have little chance of survival unless loving Angelenos find room in their heart and homes to adopt a cat or two. Cats are social animals and two are always better than one!

Many cats coming into our Animal Care Centers are orphaned neonate kittens; kittens too young to survive without their mother unless they are cared for by a foster care giver. LA Animal Services is asking for people unable to adopt a cat to consider caring for these young ones until they are old enough to be placed through adoption. Fostering orphaned kittens is a great family project. It teaches our kids the value of life and the importance of caring. It also demonstrates how we can all make a difference.

For more information on LA Animal Services Foster Care Program click on this link.

Compassion: Our Last Great Hope by Ed Boks

I was recently asked what my last Blog about “compassion” has to do with fulfilling Animal Services’ mission to “promote and protect the health, safety and welfare of animals and people in the City of Los Angeles.”

I was surprised when this seemingly compassionate person stated she was not comfortable with the General Manager of LA Animal Services espousing “religion” to express the idea of enlarging the circle of compassion to include all species, especially our companion animals and local wildlife.

Its interesting that the word “religion” means to “reconnect” as in fixing something that is broken. One does not need to be religious to want to fix a broken system. Clearly our animal welfare community is broken, and as the renowned Veterinarian/Philosopher Leo K. Bustad demonstrated throughout his life and teachings, “Compassion is our last great Hope“.

Finding fault with compassion, however it is expressed, is serious evidence of a broken society for all the reasons cited in my last Blog.

This person’s misguided concern over how or where compassion is discussed reminded me of an excerpt from “The Velveteen Rabbit”, when the Rabbit asked the Skin Horse what it means to be “Real”. The Skin Horse responded:

“Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real… It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

To people who don’t understand the importance of Compassion, everything must appear ugly, which probably explains why they can only espouse ugliness and intollerance in all their discourse.

I’m convinced most Angelinos are persuaded by better angels – after all, (forgive the religous reference), we are the City of Angels…

The Good News is, we are not unique, as this recent article in Time Magazine indicates:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1573345,00.html?cnn=yes

According to David Favre, a professor at the Michigan State University College of Law, who has studied animal rights laws for 20 years, what we are experiencing in Los Angeles is a “grass roots movement” of compassion occuring across the United States – from a concern for feral cats, spaying and neutering, and local shelters. “It is not unlike the environmental movement when I was in law school. Animal welfare is a growing social interest”, explains Favre.

Every movement has started with a small group of enlightened individuals calling attention to an injustice. When these people expressed a valid concern, it would touch the hearts and compassion of others and a movement would grow until it reached a tipping point. Once a movement hit a tipping point, and more people were aware of an injustice than those who were not, it was then time to shift gears and focus attention on solving the problem.

We get it. Killing animals is bad. Now lets work together to figure out real solutions to end it. We have passed the “tipping point” in Los Angeles. Unlike so many communities in the United States, we have a Mayor, a City Council, an Animal Services Commission and a General Manager who all champion this noble goal and are calling upon the entire community to rally together until it is finally achieved. There is no going back. No-Kill in LA is inevitable.

Curiously, the most vocal in calling attention to the “catch and kill” injustice practiced by our community, now refuse, when the opportunity for success is greatest, to devote their resources and energy to actually achieving “no-kill”.

With the American Revolution as a rare exception, it seems most revolutionaries find it easier to continue casting stones after winning the day than they do stopping to gather stones together. (Is this a religious reference or a Pete Seeger song popularized by the Byrds?) Why do some only see ugliness and refuse to understand that this is the time they have been waiting for? Why do they argue while animals are still dying, when together we could end it quicker!

The City of Los Angeles has established a challenging goal – to make Los Angeles the first major “no-kill” city in the United States. We know that each year millions of lost and homeless pets are euthanized in the United States for no other reason than there are not enough loving homes for them. Los Angeles Animal Services is committed to ending this barbaric practice once and for all.

This is not a new goal. Los Angeles has made the greatest progress towards achieving No-Kill when compared to any other community in the United States by reducing euthanasia 50% over the past 5 years and another 14.6% in 2006 in the case of our canine friends! Animal Services experienced nearly a 70% live release rate for dogs in 2006! (A 2006 Annual Report is forthcoming and will include data on all species and programs.)

To achieve “no-kill”, Animal Services has and will continue to initiate innovative and progressive programs. Not the least of which is the opening of six new, state of the art Animal Care Centers. These centers look more like botanical gardens than animal shelters and will be the pride of Los Angeles as they set the gold standard for municipal animal shelters. Animal Services is already the largest animal rescue and pet adoption agency in California, and these new shelters will greatly increase the number of pets placed into loving homes.

With the new Centers we are also opening six new state of the art spay/neuter clinics. A year ago, these clinics were not even scheduled to open until 2008 at the earliest. Today, they are on the fast track to completion and will all be open before this summer. Each clinic is designed to surgically alter 20,000 pets annually. With Animal Services altering 120,000 pets each year, Los Angeles will quickly see a reduction in the number of lost and homeless pets coming into our shelters. This decrease in the number of unwanted pets in Los Angeles will allow us to provide even greater care to the animals still finding their way into our new Care Centers.

Animal Services is an all inclusive organization willing to work and partner with any organization or person wanting to make a constructive difference. We currently partner with over 70 animal welfare organizations in the greater LA area in a program called “New Hope“. This program truly offers new hope to nearly 7,000 animals that would have had no hope at all without the help of these great organizations.

Beginning in 2006, Animal Services made thousands of animals available to our New Hope Partners at no cost, including free spay/neuter surgery, free vaccinations and medical care up until the time of release (and sometimes afterwards) and free microchips. Partners are provided 24/7 access to the Centers to evaluate and work with the animals, and even have a “personal shopper” in each Center who alerts them to animals they are interested in helping.

Animal Services’ Big Fix Program provides spay/neuter services to our community’s most needy pet owners to ensure no pet is left unaltered just because the owner can’t afford the pet’s surgery. Feral cats are also provided spay/neuter through Operation FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-termination).

Our STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) Program is designed to help the hundreds of animals rescued by Animal Services who are sick, injured, abused, or neglected. These animals would have been euthanized if not for this life saving program!

Animal Services’ Bottle Baby Program is designed to provide bottle feeding to the hundreds of orphaned neonate puppies and kittens who are brought into Animal Services each year. Before this program was established these animals had no chance at survival. We are also in the process of finalizing our Evidence Animal Foster Program which will for the first time permit evidence animals (victims of cruelty crimes) to be placed in the homes and care of compassionate volunteers so they don’t languish in a shelter for months or longer while the case is being adjudicated. Today Animal Services’ volunteers and staff provide Foster Homes to orphaned neonates, sick, injured, abused and neglected animals relieving them of the trauma of long term shelter confinement and thus making room for other animals to have longer periods of time to be adopted.

Animal Services is about more than just pets, we are about people too. In 2007 we will launch our Teach Love and Compassion (TLC) Program. This program is designed to assist “at risk” kids by providing them an opportunity to care for “at risk” animals. Many of our community’s kids are all too aware of the harsh realities of abuse or neglect, and many know what it means to have a loving foster home to go to. TLC will enlarge the circle of compassion by allowing these kids to care for lost and homeless pets that have been abused, neglected, and are in need of foster care.

Later this program will be expanded to include our community’s senior citizens and others making our Animal Care Centers true community centers in every sense of the word, and all rotating around LA’s love for it’s lost and homeless pets!

This is just a sampling of the programs of LA Animal Services, with many more to come. For more information about LA Animal Services and how you can help, visit www.laanimalservices.com

2007 is a golden opportunity for LA to come together as a community to maximize all our efforts and resources to expand the circle of compassion to effectively help our community’s lost and homeless animals and finally achieve No-Kill for all the dogs, cats, rabbits, pocket pets, wildlife, farm animals and exotics who come through the doors of Animal Services. I’m hoping you will decide to be part of the solution by helping Animal Services help the animals in our care.

Compassion is our last great hope!

Report to the Mayor: Part III by Ed Boks

This is the third and last part of my blog containing excerpts from my six month Report to the Mayor. This blog identifies some of the programs Animal Services is relying on to help ease the overcrowding of our current shelters and reduce our community’s euthanasia rate. These programs substantially depend upon our employees, volunteers, partners, donations and community support to succeed:

At the same time Department of Animal Services is opening the new Centers described in yesterday’s blog, we have also renewed our commitment to our community’s expectation to end euthanasia as a means to control pet overpopulation. Animal Services is demonstrating this commitment through the implementation of several new programs. The following programs are either fully implemented, partially implemented, or in the planning stage:

The Big Fix is the consolidation of the many and sundry programs to provide low/no cost spay/neutering services for pets in low-income households. A description of these many programs can be found on our website. Animal Services will soon have a Request for Proposals (RFP) on the street for managing and operating our six new Spay/Neuter Clinics. These clinics will provide spay/neuter surgery to Animal Services’ adopted animals and the pets of our community’s low-income pet owners and feral cat colony managers. Animal Services is also working with the Amanda Foundation to increase their aggressive mobile spay/neuter services. At the same time, we are working with the Sam Simon Foundation to immediately initiate operation of our South LA spay/neuter clinic until an RFP for these services can be awarded. This arrangement – turning over the mobile clinic operation to the Amanda Foundation and the South LA Clinic to the Sam Simon Foundation – is a win/win for the animals, the City, and our partner organizations. Animal Services experienced a 35% increase in voucher subsidized spay/neuter surgeries in Fiscal Year 06 compared to Fiscal Year 05 and a 50% increase in feral cat surgeries during this same time period. Thanks to the City commitment to Animal Services Big Fix spay/neuter programs dog and cat intakes are down 24% over the past past five years, and down another 7% in the first six months of 06. Expanding Big Fix exponentially remains one of our primary goals.

New Hope is a program designed to partner with the vast network of pet rescue, support and adoption agencies throughout Southern California and beyond in the process of locating homes for the animals that Animal Services rescues. We now have over 70 New Hope Partners and expect to double that within the next six months. This program gives New Hope Partners 24/7 access to the shelters to select animals from the New Hope Alert at no charge. This includes spay/neuter surgery, microchip, and vaccinations. It is Animal Services hope that this program will permit all our partners to maximize their limited resources in our shared mission to save lives. Each Center has one employee designated as the New Hope Coordinator. This employee is available to all New Hope Parnters by cell phone and serves as their “personal shopper”. New Hope Partners also get a daily email of all animals at risk of euthanasia that they can have at no charge. Animal Services and HLP have also made a sophisticated animal management software program available to New Hope parnters at no charge. If all partners take advantage of this offer, it would represent nearly a $500,000 gift to the rescue community.

Safety Net helps pets and their families stay together through difficult financial times or relocations by networking the entire animal LA welfare community through Animal Services Call Center. The Call Center will serve as a referal service for all animal welfare issues, including pet friendly apartments, attorneys specializing in pet law and landlord disputes, low cost boarding, behaviorists, etc.

Call Center will provide a “one-stop shop” for any and all animal questions, concerns, and problems. It will serve as the clearing-house to help Angelinos find the solutions they seek to pet, animal and wildlife related issues and problems. The development of a centralized Call Center in one location will also free six field officers who now man six separate dispatch stations, one in each Animal Care Center, to respond to problems in the field. The Call Center will also serve as the Field Operations Dispatch. This program brings much-needed efficiency to the department, allowing shelter staff to focus on the customers and animals in their Centers rather than being pulled away from these important responsibilities to answer the phone. And it frees Field Officers to serve the public and the animals out in the community. It will also dramatically reduce the waiting time the public experiences on the phone.

STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) program provides medical treatment to severely injured, abused, and neglected animals rescued by Animal Services. This program provides treatment for animals that historically may have been euthanized because they were beyond the capacity of Animal Services to treat. This program also includes many partner veterinarians in the community. Soon Animal Services will have an x-ray machine in every Center that will seriously enhance the triage capabilities of the department in helping animals with life threatening injuries.

TLC (Teach Love and Compassion) provides at-risk youth with employment training in animal care. This program, currently in development, is designed to be intergenerational allowing our staff and community’s elderly to work with our youth to teach love and compassion through the care and love of animals. TLC will be an umbrella program dealing with many animal welfare issues, such as hoarding, the link between domestic violence and animal abuse, humane education, and much more.

Anti-Cruelty Task Force is a partnership with LAPD and the City Attorney. Together we investigate animal cruelty and abuse complaints, including dog and cock fighting, as well as cases of physical abuse and neglect. A database for tracking and reporting on these cases is being developed, and these statistics will be in each month’s General Manager Report to the Commission, which is also available to the public on our website. As could be expected with any multi-departmental effort, there are some coordination and growing pains, but we are working diligently with our partners to address them.

Volunteer Dog Training Program trains Animal Services’ employees and volunteers to improve the quality of life and adoption rate of sheltered dogs through behavior training provided by our community’s most reputable dog trainers.

Orange Dot Program is designed to identify and encourage improved behavioral response from shy dogs in a shelter environment; this program is effectively used in other shelters to help ensure dogs are provided every opportunity to be safely placed in a loving home.

My Castle, My Crate is a program using kennel crates for dogs in isolation or with behavioral problems to provide a stress free “safe house” in the kennel. Benefits include improved recovery time from illness, injury or improved behavioral manifestations caused by stress. The new shelters provide this safe space in all the kennels.

FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-terminations)provides low or no cost spay/neuter service to feral cats managed by trained feral cat colony managers trained by one of Animal Services feral cat partner organizations. Animal Services experienced a 50% increase in voucher subsidized spay/neuter feral cat surgeries to date in Fiscal Year 06 compared to the same time period in Fiscal Year 05. FELIX will play an important role in our pending Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program, currently in development. Animal Services is partnering with almost all the local feral cat organizations, and welcomes any not now participating.

Foster Program trains volunteers to provide temporary homes for special needs animals until they are healthy enough for adoption. There are several facets to this program which includes our Bottle Baby Program to provide care for neonate orphanes. Animal Services provides training to volunteers interested in providing this life saving care. Animal Services has also started an Evidence Animal Foster Program. Historically, animals rescued from abusive or neglectful conditions were left to languish in shelter kennels for months while the legal proceedings were under way. Today, animal victims of cruelty and neglect can be fostered into loving homes until a judge decides in the matter. Overall, the Foster Program provides a safe place for animals that Animal Services historically could not properly care for or had to euthanize. This program will only be as successful as the community wants it to be because it relies on the community to provide this much needed love and care to our neonate, sick, injured, abused, and neglected animals. All the animals would have been killed in prior years. Volunteers developed a 7 minute informational CD for foster parents.

FEV Testing and Vaccination Program has been implemented as a pilot program. Designed to enable new cat owners the opportunity to determine any “at risk” factors that may affect their newly adopted cat and any cats at home upon introduction. Animal Services is also providing free dog vaccinations in all our Centers thanks to a donation received for that purpose. By making vaccinations more readily available to our community’s pets we will see less disease in our shelters.

Make-Over Program is in development phase to include outside vendor participation. At this time, Center personnel and volunteers that have grooming experience provide grooming for animals that need such attention. Best Friends volunteers continue to support grooming needs for large-scale adoption events.

Legal Issues: Animal Services is working with the City Attorney’s office and members of the public on no less than 30 legal issues, statutues, ordinances and/or programs, such as a new animal control ordinance dealing with mandatory spay/neuter; the aforementioned TNR program designed to humanely reduce the number of feral cats in LA; a possible rooster ban in LA to curtail cock fighting; allowing evidence animals to be fostered in a loving home rather than languish in our shelters; and neighborhood intervention programs that solves problems with potentially dangerous dogs before anyone is hurt or bitten, and much more.

Rabbit Brigade: rabbits have become the number 3 preferred pet in Los Angeles. Animal Services rescues hundreds of rabbits annually. All rabbits are now spayed or neutered prior to release. Animal Services partners with a number of rabbit rescue organizations and volunteers under the leadership of the nationally respected House Rabbit Society.

LAAnimalServices.org – nothing demonstrates the transformation of Animal Services more than our new website. Designed to make information easily accessible with a look that is easy on the eyes and is intuitive in function. Much more detail can be found on our website including a Blog from the General Manager, a 20 plus page monthly report from the GM, and details on all of Animal Services many programs and initiatives. Animal Services’ and the City’s websites both feature a Pet of the Day function to help improve adoptions. It is our hope other City departments will put this feature on their website. Instructions for doing so are available at www.laanimalservices.com.

Pet of the Month program initiated by Council member Herb Wesson highlights the City Council’s support of Animal Services’ efforts to increase adoptions and reduce euthanasia. Every animal featured at a City Council meeting since the practice of showcasing them at Council meetings on alternate Fridays was instituted early this year is now in a loving home! Check out our website to find instructions on how to put this feature on your website.

Lost and Found Bulleting Board: Animal Services is working with partner organizations to develop a lost and found bulletin board that will allow good Samaritan citizens to reunite lost pets with their owners without the animals ever having to suffer the trauma of a shelter experience. Keep your eyes open for that!

Match Maker: Animal Services has initiated its own Match Maker program. By going to our on-line Match Maker program found on our website, you can describe the type of pet you are looking for. Every time a pet matching your description becomes available, you will be notified by e-mail with a picture and description of the animal and its location.

Home Shopping Petwork is a high quality, 30 minute television program on Channel 35 that highlights the programs, events, employees, volunteers, and most importantly the animals of Animal Services. The program can be viewed several times per month. For a listing of the show schedule, visit http://www.lacity.org/ita/itacv1.htm

SALA – (Shelter Animals of Los Angeles) is a 501c3 Animal Services fund raising organization comprised of influential volunteers, residents and business owners wanting to help Animal Services raise funding for the life saving programs described above which are designed to facilitate achieving LA’s no-kill goal. The SALA Board is currently in formation.

Dog Licensing Program: Another reason for our declining euthanasia rate is that Animal Services has one of the highest success rates in the country for returning lost pets to their grateful owners, a rate four times higher than other large cities. Animal Services returns over 4,500 lost dogs and cats to their owners each year. 100% of the animals that Animal Services rescues with a current license go home, unfortunately, 90% of the animals we rescue come in with no identification and never go home again.

License Canvassing program: Animal Services is asking the Mayor’s Office and the City Council to reconsider funding the License Canvassing program that was deleted in this year’s budget. Conservatively, there are an estimated 700,000 pet dogs in the City of Los Angeles. Only 120,000 dogs are licensed and this number decreases each year. The program consisted of 15 Department personnel who go door-to-door and collect canine license fees.

This program was not functioning properly until February 06. Since then we immediately began to show positive results. Beginning in March 06 additional staff was recruited for the program and the number of licenses and revenue began to increase from 790 new and renewal dog licenses representing $24,373 in revenue in March to 2,498 new and renewal dog licenses representing $84,093 in revenue in June. Animal Services projects with a full contingency of fifteen canvassers we could conservatively generate $750,000 in license revenue in the first year. Because licenses must be renewed annually this revenue will continue to increase and compound per annum. This revenue would greatly supplement Animal Services budget and allow us to better provide the level of care LA residents expect.

Animal Services is deeply committed to achieving the Mayor, City Council and our community’s ultimate goal of ending institutional euthanasia as a method for controlling pet overpopulation! The above-mentioned programs combined with established initiatives and programs under the Mayor, City Council, and Commission’s leadership are already producing significant demonstrable results. 

Together we are making LA the safest city in the US for our pets! Thanks to everyone playing a constructive role in this exciting challenge!

The Case For Mandatory Spay/Neuter by Ed Boks

The month of May 2006 came in like a lamb but went out like hundreds of sick and dying neonate kittens. I doubt any stronger case can be made for mandatory spay/neuter than what you are about to read.

North Central Animal Care Center experienced an unprecedented number of neonate euthanasias during the last week of May. This was due to an unusually high number of orphaned neonates presenting clinical symptoms suggestive of infectious diseases such as Notedris cati, chylmydia, panleukopenia, and corona virus etc. Diagnostics were performed through blood work and complete dermatology exams for infectious skin diseases confirming these diseases.

254 orphaned neonates were euthanized in the month of May in North Central with well over 100 in the last week. South LA Animal Care Center euthanized 247 neonates in the month of May, and the entire LAAS organization euthanized a total of 823 orphaned neonates of the 2,035 dogs and cats euthanized.

That represents 40% of the May euthanasia rate!

This situation points out three critical needs:

1) the need for more foster homes to care for neonates in our Bottle Baby Program,

2) the need for broader implementation of our Safety Net Program to help support people relinquishing neonates with the resources they need to bring them through the weaning process, and

3) more aggressive Big Fix Spay Neuter Programs throughout the City especially during the winter months. LAAS is working on approaches to address all three of these needs and will report on our progress in future reports.

As a result of this unfortunate and tragic anomaly in the North Central Animal Care Center, the overall organizational month of May euthanasia rate increased 12% compared to May ‘05, but decreased 10% compared to May 04.

East Valley showed a 17% decrease in euthanasia.
Harbor showed a 29% decrease.
South LA had a 1% increase.
West LA had a 2.5% decrease.
West Valley had a .05% increase.

North Central was on track to show a decrease in euthanasia in May until the Center was literally inundated with sick and dying neonates during the last week of May. Rescue efforts were complicated by that being a Holiday weekend and by a shortage of qualified Bottle Baby Foster Care Givers.

The month of May Cat Euthanasia rate is up 19% compared to May 05 but down 6% compared to May 04.

The month of May Dog Euthanasia rate is down 2% compared to May 05 and down 13.5% compared to May 04.

If there is a silver lining to any of this news, it is that the Calendar 06 Year To Date Euthanasia rate for dogs and cats is down nearly 17% compared to the same time period in 05 and down 29.5% compared to the same time period in 04.

Calendar Year 06 Cat Euthanasia is down 7.6% compared to the same time frame in 05, and down 24% compared to the same time frame in 04.

Calendar Year 06 Dog Euthanasia is down 26% compared to the same time frame in 05, and down 35% compared to the same time frame in 04.

Of the 2,020 dogs rescued by LAAS in the month of May, 68 were either dead on arrival or died of natural causes. Four dogs were stolen for a remainder of 1,948. 731 were adopted, 333 were New Hoped, 299 were returned to their owners, 16 are in foster for a total of 1,379 live releases. That is an extraordinary 70% live release rate for dogs! Only 20 neonate dogs were euthanized.

Of the 2,646 cats rescued by LAAS in the month of May, 81 were either dead on arrival or died of natural causes. Six cats escaped and nine were stolen for a remainder of 2,560. 508 were adopted, 355 were New Hoped, 21 were returned to their owners, 55 are in foster for a total of 939 live releases. That is a dismal 37% live release rate for cats. 803 neonate cats were euthanized. Neonate cats represent 55% of the cat euthanasia rate. Clearly we can see where we as a community must focus our efforts to end the killing! We must turn the faucet off on the sheer number of unwanted cats being born in our community.

May 06 Dog and Cat Adoptions combined were up 7.25% compared to May 05 and up 6.25% compared to May 04.

May 06 Cat Adoptions were down 2.5% compared to May 05 but up 10% compared to May 04.

May 06 Dog Adoptions were up 15.5% compared to May 05 and up 3.5% compared to May 04.

The Calendar 06 Year to Date Dog and Cat Adoptions are up nearly 8% compared to the same time period last year and up 9.6% compared to the same time period in 04.

May 06 Dog and Cat New Hope Placements were down 10% compared to May 05 but up 22.5% compared to May 04.

May 06 Cat New Hope Placements are down 26% compared to May 05 but up 10.25% compared to May 04.

May 06 Dog New Hope Placements are up 18.5% compared to May 05 and up 39% compared to May 04. This is a welcome increase in the New Hope trend for dogs this year and coincides with the final stages of implementing the New Hope program.

The Calendar 06 Year to Date Dog and Cat New Hope Placements are down 16% compared to the same time period in 05 and down 7.5% compared to the same time period in 04.

(For all of these statistical categories, raw numbers are available in the statistical reports posted on the LAAS websitewww.laanimalservices.com.)

It is our sincere hope and expectation that with the community’s continued help the Bottle Baby, Foster, Safety Net, and New Hope Programs will help right this temporary reversal in our continued progress towards lowering the kill rate. Other efforts are underway with the help of various community partners to help get the word out to help LAAS in its lifesaving mission. Clearly, we will never adopt our way out of this crisis. It is time for all Angelinos to get serious about spaying and neutering their animals.

Rescue organizations too must be held accountable. No rescue organization should adopt an animal out that is not spayed or neutered. If such an adoption does occur the rescue organization must follow up until the sterilization has been confirmed. This holds true for LAAS as well. We will be monitoring every intact animal released to any rescue group or individual for medical reasons to ensure the animal is altered as soon as it is healthy enough.

In order for LA City to achieve its No-Kill goal we must add a No-Birth initiative to our strategic plan as exemplified by LA County’s recent spay/neuter law, even if it is for a limited number of years, long enough to get a handle on this problem. At some point we have to turn the faucet off. There are simply too many unwanted kittens being born.

We must also bolster our Operation FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-termination) Trap/Neuter/Return Program and our Big Fixspay/neuter efforts for cats. It is my hope that all Angelinos will support any responsible initiative that will help us as a community to end the killing.

I understand very well that this is a controversial issue for some, but I hope we can all agree that the misguided accidental and deliberate backyard and puppy/kitten mill breeding must be stopped if we ever expect to end the killing.

(The May LAAS GM Report is now available on-line.)