What does a government shutdown mean to our nation’s animals? by Ed Boks

There has been a lot of talk concerning a government shutdown in Washington- which begs the question, how would such a shut down affect our nation’s animals?

Here is a brief outline describing how the following animal welfare-related duties would be affected during a government shutdown:

Puppy Mills: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) would not be able to perform all of its duties under the Animal Welfare Act. Specifically, it could not inspect puppy mills or pet dealers. During this break in oversight, untold harm could be done to commercially bred animals simply because no one is empowered to monitor their safety. The puppy mill industry is notorious for egregious animal abuse and neglect; the mind reels at what these animals would suffer without any oversight.

Horse Soring: Soring involves the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s legs or hooves to force the horse to perform an artificial, exaggerated gait. Caustic chemicals and blistering agents like mustard oil, diesel fuel and kerosene are applied to the horse’s limbs, causing extreme pain.

Another form of soring, known as pressure shoeing, involves cutting a horse’s hoof almost to the quick and tightly nailing on a shoe, or standing a horse for hours with the sensitive part of his soles on a block or other raised object. This causes excruciating pressure and pain whenever the horse puts weight on the hoof.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is charged with enforcing the Horse Protection Act to combat the abusive practice of horse soring. APHIS oversees the inspection of at-risk show horses to ensure they have not been sored and assesses penalties for violations. Suspension of the APHIS program will allow unscrupulous trainers to take advantage of this lapse in oversight.

Animal Slaughter: The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) uphold the requirements of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act related to the treatment of animals prior to and during slaughter. This has been deemed a necessary function, so FSIS inspectors will continue to monitor food safety and humane treatment of animals in slaughterhouses during a shutdown.

Wild Horses: Federal agencies periodically round up and remove large numbers of free-roaming wild equines on public rangelands. This policy often results in tens of thousands of wild horses languishing in holding facilities. Roundups would suspended during the shutdown, and caretakers for the horses already confined will remain on the job.

Zoos/Circuses: Exotic animal exhibitors are regulated by the Animal Welfare Act; unfortunately, the welfare of these animals would be suspended during a government shut down.

Animals in Laboratories: The USDA enforces the AWA to ensure minimum standards of care for animals in laboratories. While employees are on the job maintaining the animals, there would be no USDA watchdog ensuring that minimum standards of care are met. This is another industry whose history is seriously tainted by egregious animal abuse and neglect. The temporary lack of oversight would put these animals at great risk.

Here’s hoping a shut down is avoided.

The most dangerous week of the year for pets By Ed Boks

Ed Boks and dogs and pets and fireworksThe next 10 days is the most fun and raucous time in most communities.  The festivities culminate around the 4th of July with outdoor celebrations, picnics, barbecues, and of course, fireworks. Before you pack up to the lake or the outdoor arena, stadium or even your own front yard to enjoy the pyrotechnic delights of the holiday, be aware of your pets’ needs and fears.

Animal shelters across the nation experiences a significant increase in the number of lost (and injured) pets brought into their facilities after every July 4 holiday.

Even pets who are normally calm and obedient can show unpredictable behavior when frightened. Dogs and cats can become frightened or confused by the excitement and loud noises of the holiday. I have rescued terrified pets who have chewed through their tethers, jumped through plate glass windows or over fences, and escaped “secure” enclosures.

Dogs attempting to flee the frightening, and even painful noises of the fireworks may lose their sense of direction and run long distances risking injury or death as they dart in and out of traffic. This is one of the most dangerous times of year for your pets.

Up close, fireworks can burn or injure your pets, but even if they are far away, they still pose a unique danger to your companion animals.

To minimize the danger to your pets take these few simple steps before you set out to celebrate this Fourth of July:

• Keep pets indoors in an enclosed area that they are familiar with to minimize fear. If possible, turn on a radio to mask the noise of the fireworks or other celebratory noises.

• If your pet is excitable, consult with your veterinarian ahead of time to arrange administration of a proper calming drug.

• If you have to be away for an extended time, board your pets with family or friends you trust and can assure you that the pet will be kept confined and cared for.

• Always be sure your pet has a current microchip. A microchip is the best identification for a pet because it is always with him and it makes it easier for YHS to find you should the unthinkable happens and your pet manages to escape.

• Even if you think your pet is ok with fireworks and noise, do not let him out when fireworks are being lit and set off. The pet may run at them and sustain serious burns, or bolt and run.

If your pet happens to escape during the holiday festivities, be diligent in visiting your local shelters every day, and posting “Lost Dog” or “Lost Cat” signs and canvassing surrounding neighborhoods. Place a yard sign in front of your house with a picture of your pet and your phone number. People who find lost pets will often walk or drive around the area attempting to find the owner.

Remember, fright can drive an animal to new and unfamiliar grounds, many miles from your home. So exhaust all avenues. This 4th of July holiday can be the best ever if you take these precautions to keep your pets safe and happy while you enjoy the festivities without having to worry about the family pet.

Life-saving microchips can be purchased at most shelters.  Please protect your pets this 4th of July.

Pet friendly landlords key to attaining and sustaining “no-kill” status by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and landlordsIf achieving no-kill is likened to an Olympic moment then sustaining no-kill is a marathon. Ending killing as a method to control pet overpopulation requires the involvement of an entire community. We are all responsible for its use, and we can all play a role in its abolition.

For instance, landlords can play an important role in attaining and sustaining a no-kill status. According to a report issued by The Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare, 50 percent of all rentals nationally prohibit pets.

Pet-forbidding landlords should consider these findings: 35 percent of tenants without pets would own a pet if their landlord permitted; tenants in pet-friendly housing stay an average of 46 months compared to 18 months for tenants in rentals prohibiting pets; the vacancy rate for pet-friendly housing is lower (10 percent) than “no pets allowed” rentals (14 percent); and 25 percent of applicants inquiring about rentals in non-pet-friendly housing are seeking pet-friendly rentals.

According to economic theory, in perfectly functioning markets (where people make rational, profit-maximizing decisions, with full information and no significant transaction costs), pet-friendly housing should be available to renters willing to pay a premium to cover any extra costs to landlords. So, why do so many landlords overlook opportunities to increase profits by providing pet-friendly housing?

With nearly half of American households having companion animals and more than half of renters who do not have pets reporting they would have pets if allowed, why are there so few pet-friendly rental units available?

Well, among landlords who do not allow pets, damage was the greatest concern (64.7 percent), followed by noise (52.9 percent), complaints/tenant conflicts (41.2 percent) and insurance issues (41.2 percent). Concerns about people leaving their pet or not cleaning common areas were rarely cited (5.9 percent).

Although 85 percent of landlords permitting pets reported pet-related damage at some time, the worst damage averaged only $430. This is less than the typical rent or pet deposit. In these cases, landlords could subtract the damage from a pet deposit and experience no real loss. In fact, the report finds landlords experience no substantive loss with little difference in damage between tenants with and without pets.

Other pet-related issues (e.g., noise, tenant conflicts concerning animals or common area upkeep) required less than one hour per year of landlord time. This is less time than landlords spend for child-related problems and other issues. Whatever time landlords spend addressing pet-related problems is offset by spending less marketing time on pet-friendly units by a margin of eight hours per unit.

The study finds problems from allowing pets to be minimal, and benefits outweigh the problems. Landlords stand to profit from allowing pets because, on average, tenants with pets are willing and able to pay more for the ability to live with their pets.

Animal shelters across the United States are experiencing a huge increase in the number of pets surrendered because of the housing crisis. Imagine if all landlords permitted pets.  That would create a demand far greater than the number of pets dying in our shelters, allowing our communities to end pet euthanasia to control pet overpopulation altogether.

Landlords are hearing from their own colleagues and professional journals that permitting pets makes good business sense. Many landlords may be overlooking a significant, low-risk opportunity to increase revenue, tenant pools and market size just by allowing pets.

Certainly, the benefits to the homeless pets who are dying for the lack of a home each year cannot be overstated. Landlords can make a profitable, life-saving choice simply by permitting pets.

Setting the record straight by Ed Boks

Over the past few days the LA Daily News misrepresented LA Animal Services on two occasions. The first instance was an article by Rick Orlav entitled, “Valley’s horse-rescue plan needs work”.

While I’ll agree that all emergency response plans need to be subject to constant review and improvement, the article suggests LA Animal Services’ role in the Sayres Fire is not clearly understood. LA Animal Services was there. LA Animal Services rescued over 400 horses. However, no mention was made of the fact that LA County Animal Care & Control was a no show until the rescue effort was nearly complete.

The only confusion during this entire episode resulted from whether LA Animal Services should go into the County to rescue horses outside of our jurisdiction or wait until County Animal Care & Control arrived. When it was clear horses would be lost if we didn’t act quickly, we of course went in – and as a result no horses were lost.

I made the recommendation to include a representative from Animal Services in the Emergency Operations Center to Councilman Dennis Zine nearly two years ago but to date he has taken no action and seems unaware of LA Animal Services critical role in these matters.

LA Animal Services performed exceptionally well and effectively saved hundreds of horses. They should be recognized for this heroic achievement – not criticized for the shortcomings of another department that couldn’t even get there on time.

The next article was an op-ed piece that appeared a few days earlier. I understand editors apply less scrutiny to want-a-be reporters, but LA Animal Services is such an open book that at any time the Daily News could simply have made a phone call to verify the facts before propagating the malicious myths manufactured by a chronic critic.

I refer to the piece entitled, “Finally, the end of an Ed Boks era.”  The author suggests LA Animal Services is somehow broken and “spiraling out of control” and the only remedy is to follow his inexperienced advice. So, is LA Animal Services broken? Let’s look at the facts.

Keep in mind this partial list of accomplishments was achieved while the Department experienced its most historic growth and most severe budget cuts and staffing shortages simultaneously; a significant challenge for any manager.

Still, we built the highest volume pet adoption program in the nation; achieved the lowest euthanasia rates in the Department’s history; opened six LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified animal care centers; increased staff size 100%; and recruited a record number of volunteers.

We firmly established the Animal Cruelty Task Force; improved Pet Shop and Circus Animal Regulations raising the standards for humane care; formed a coalition of over 100 animal welfare organizations to enhance our adoption efforts; produced two animal welfare television programs, and established an exceptional veterinary medical program and executive team.

Not only is LA Animal Services not broken, it is better positioned than ever to help establish LA as the most humane city in the nation.

If you would like to be part of a winning team please consider volunteering with LA Animal Services and/or by making a donation to one of LA Animal Services life-saving programs.

Comparing California Oranges to the Big Apple by Ed Boks

In the autumn of 2005 I did what few department directors voluntarily do. I asked for a top to bottom City audit to be conducted on my former agency, Animal Care & Control of New York City.

I hoped the audit would point out to New York City leaders the need for more resources to be invested in the operation. The City had conducted a scathing audit in 2002 that led to my being recruited to NYC to help turn the situation around. After two years and a 130% increase in adoptions, formation of over 150 New Hope partnerships, and a 30% decline in the euthanasia rate, I felt it was time to assess our progress with a full understanding of our shortcomings.

We still needed help, and we simply were not getting it from New York City.

Consider NYC Animal Care & Control has a $7.2 million budget to serve 8.2 million people. NYC has three animal shelters that the City had to condemn and take away from the ASPCA to give to a newly formed under budgeted and understaffed animal control program. NYC AC&C staff wages are 40% below the national average and the City does little to nothing to address this issue each year. Both NYC and LA handle roughly the same number of animals each year.

NYC’s three shelters serve 8.2 million residents. Queens, the fifth largest city in the United States has no shelter at all, neither does the Bronx. Staff are forced to transport animals over vast areas to the three full service, albeit, dilapidated shelters.

Compare this to LA with a $20.2 million budget serving 3.9 million residents with eight new state of the art animal care centers soon to be opened throughout the City. These facilities will rival the finest humane animal shelters anywhere in the country. While NYC’s Animal Care & Control’s budget never comes up in the NYC budget process, we were able to increase LA’s Animal Services budget by 11.6% this coming budget year, with an additional $3.3 million for one time tenant improvement monies, not to even mention the $150 million bond funding for constructing the new facilities and their campuses.

Clearly LA leaders and residents understand the importance of animal welfare in a community.

I requested the audit before I left New York City to highlight the lack of animal compassion in that community and to focus on three significant needs: 1) the need for more and better facilities, 2) the need for more and better trained and paid staff, and 3) the need for an adequate budget to fund humane, non-lethal programs. This audit does all of that and just in time for the current contract negotiations when this information is most needed.

This audit is now available and I believe it did exactly what I’d hoped it would do: It showed we were making progress despite the dearth of funding and support, but that there was much remaining to be done. You can read about the audit in the New York Daily News coverage via the link below, and view the audit itself via the other link.

Three important programs were inexplicably terminated shortly after my departure from NYC, the results of which are reflected in the audit. One was the termination of our PR program which helped keep the needs of the agency in the public eye every day. The second was a nationally recognized Shelter Dog Training Program that trained one hundred volunteers at a time to train shelter dogs making them more adoptable. The third was the elimination of the development department whose mission was to help offset the City’s inability to pay for these programs by conducting its own fund raising, a program recommended by the City Comptroller in the 2002 audit.

It is my hope this recent audit will be used by the current administration as it was intended, to make a compelling argument for more resources to save lives!

Soon after my arrival in LA, I met with LA Comptroller Laura Chick to discuss a similar audit of LAAS. We are working out the details and timing for that process. Audits, when used properly, are merely a compass. They tell you how far you’ve come, where you are, and how far you yet have to go. I’m hoping we can begin this process in LA Animal Services soon.

Dog-Gone Cat-tastrophe Averted! by Ed Boks

The Daily News ran a great article on East Valley’s Dog-Gone Cat-tastrophe Adoptathon! The event ran from Friday, May 19 through Monday, May 22. Last year LAAS adopted 42 animals on the third weekend in May. This year, thanks to this promotion, adoptions were up 159%. 109 dogs and cats found loving homes from our East Valley Animal Care Center in North Hollywood.

Several radio and tv stations and newspapers came by to report on the event. The Daily News article follows:

Adoption options  Looking to adopt a pet? You should have checked out the Dog-Gone Cat-tastrophe Adoptathon last weekend at the East Valley Animal Shelter in North Hollywood. 

Missed it? No worries. The Los Angeles Animal Services Department now keeps city shelters open on weekends. 

The schedule makes sense: Most would-be pet owners can’t make it to shelters during the week. They have jobs; their kids have school. Opening up the shelters on weekends helps facilitate adoptions, which is good for the animals, the owners and the city alike. It should also help to cut down on the number of animals euthanized at city shelters. 

For more information, check out LAAS’ Web site (http://www.laanimalservices.com/).

LAAS wants to thank the media, the public, and our wonderful partners for the overwhelming response to this pressing need! Thanks to the public’s response to LAAS’ needy animals LA’s euthanasia rate has been reduced over 30% compared to the same time period in 2005! All stats are on the LAAS website.

But the crisis is far from over. LAAS is still rescuing over 100 lost and homeless dogs and cats every day! Please help get the word out that there are many wonderful pets waiting to lavish unconditional love in return for a home. Please visit our website or any one of our six Animal Care Centers.