What we learned from Marty Crane and Eddie by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and John Mahoney
John Mahoney and “Eddie” modeled the joy and health benefits pets provide our senior citizens

Many will rightly sing the praises due the remarkable actor, John Mahoney, who died today.  However, I want to take a moment to point out the important public health service Mahoney provided through his character on the popular TV series Frazier.  “Marty Crane” and his loyal dog “Eddie”  beautifully presented the many wonderful benefits pets afford our senior citizens.

According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society there are many health benefits for seniors who have a pet or two. In fact, the Journal states there are many benefits for the seniors, the pets and society as a whole. Geriatric researchers found seniors with pets more active than seniors without pets and they score higher in their ability to carry out normal activities of daily living. Many positive effects on physical well-being are identified, including a healthy ability to fend off isolation and loneliness.

The Journal report says that pet ownership has a statistically significant effect on the physical health of older people. Further, the care-taking role involved in pet ownership may provide older people a sense of purpose and responsibility and encourages them to be less apathetic and more active in day-to-day activities. In fact, researchers found that elderly people who lacked strong social support (family and friends) remained relatively emotionally healthy during life-crises compared with non-pet-owners placed in similar situations. The evidence demonstrates that pets provide real health benefits to the elderly.

10 health reasons why pets are great for seniors

1. Pets lower blood pressure: A study of health patients showed that people over 40 who own pets had lower blood pressure than people who did not have pets. Another study showed that talking to pets decreases blood pressure.

2. Fewer trips to the doctor: Seniors who own pets go to the doctor less than those who do not. In a study of 1,000 Medicare patients, even the most highly stressed pet owner in the study had 21 percent fewer physician’s contacts than non-pet owners.

3. Less depression: Studies show that seniors with pets do not become depressed as often as those without pets.

4. Easier to make friends: Seniors with pets meet more people and like to talk about their pets.

5. Seniors become more active: Seniors with pets are generally more active than those without pets.

6. Pets are friends: Most everyone, but especially seniors, will say that pets are their friends.

7. Pets ease loss: Older people who suffer the loss of a spouse and own a pet are less likely to experience deterioration in health following that stressful event.

8. Pets fight loneliness: You are less likely to be lonely with a feline friend around.

9. Taking better care of themselves: Seniors take good care of their pets and better care of themselves when they own a pet.

10. Sense of security: Pets help seniors to feel that someone they trust is always around.

Marty and Eddie provided hundreds of examples of these benefits over nine years on the Frazier show.   If you are a senior citizen wanting to take advantage of all these health benefits please consider adopting one or two senior pets today.

A Tribute to Dogs

Ed Boks and George Graham Vest
George Graham Vest

George Graham Vest (1830-1904) served as a United States Senator from Missouri from 1879 to 1903, and became one of the leading orators and debaters of his time. This delightful speech is from an earlier period in his life when he practiced law in a small Missouri town. It was given in court in 1855 while representing a man who sued another for the killing of his dog.

During the trial, Vest ignored the testimony, but when his turn came to present a summation to the jury, he made the following speech and won the case.
* * * * *
Gentlemen of the Jury:

The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy.  His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful.  Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith.  The money that a man has, he may lose.  It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most.  A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action.  The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us, may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.  A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness.  He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side.  He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer.  He will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world.  He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince.  When all other friends desert, he remains.  When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

Ed Boks and dog on graveIf fortune drives the master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies.  And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death.

Children’s moral development influenced by adopting a pet by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Pia Salk
Dr. Pia Salk,Psychologist, Writer, Spokesperson, Animal Advocate

Psychologist, animal welfare advocate and human-animal bond expert Dr. Pia Salk is a regular contributor to Martha Stewart’s The Daily Wag. In a recent article, Salk asked the provocative question, “Can adopting a shelter animal make a difference in your child’s moral development?”

Salk offers important insight into the values we teach our children when we adopt a companion animal from a shelter. According to Salk, the very decision to devote family resources to caring for an animal in need sends a clear message to your children about who you are and what you stand for.

When you adopt a shelter pet, Salk explains, children internalize important values – “We are a family that uses the power of choice to save a life.” This teaches kids that by taking personal responsibility, their choices can affect the larger community.

Children need to feel they can impact their world. Parents need to give children opportunities to do so in positive, pro-social ways. Adopting and caring for an animal can provide this opportunity.

Where should this life lesson begin? Salk suggests a family meeting to discuss if the family is willing and able to meet an animal’s needs. Together, a family should explore every facet of these questions, such as: Do we need landlord permission? How much exercise will the animal need? How will we provide medical care? Who will be responsible for feeding, training and walks? Who will care for the animal during vacations? How will a pet affect plans to move? Such conversations teach the importance of planning, navigating around potential obstacles and committing to a goal, for better or worse. This exercise is an important step in teaching children the inherent value of the animal’s life and well-being.

Answering these questions will also help you determine what sort of animal is a good match for your family. Don’t hesitate to ask your local shelter for help in making this decision.

The choice around which animal to adopt can lead to deeper discussions about family values. Perhaps your family is willing to provide a home to an older pet abandoned because of an eviction, or maybe to a cat who has lost an eye or a limb. These choices help children see past age and physical “limitations” so they appreciate another being’s intrinsic worth. This teaches acceptance and gives children a chance to witness the inspiring resilience of animals.

Perhaps your family is willing to take in a breed disadvantaged by negative stereotypes. This teaches kids to learn for themselves and not be influenced by a biased or misinformed public perception.

For kids who are adopted, adopting a pet provides an opportunity to talk about their feelings while learning more about their family’s love and compassion for others in need. Likewise, for a child who is hearing-impaired or has a condition such as diabetes, adopting an animal with a similar condition, or other special need (provided the resources exist to properly manage it), can be therapeutic and enriching for all involved.

“There is no limit to the great lessons you can teach your children when you opt to adopt,” says Salk. “These lessons benefit everyone involved and they live on in the minds of children, manifesting in a lifetime of compassionate acts.”

What better time to have this compassionate, life-saving family discussion?  Visit your local shelter today to see all the pets waiting for the perfect home – yours.

Woman sues to prove animals are ‘living souls,’ not property by Ed Boks

“Today Show” contributor Scott Stump recently reported on a New Yorker named Elena Zakharova who filed a civil suit in a New York court against an Upper East Side pet store. The store, Raising Rover, sold Zakharova a puppy that developed numerous medical complications. The suit seeks to hold the store liable for the dog’s pain and suffering, and medical bills, as if the dog were a person rather than an inanimate product.

New York law considers pets “property,’ but the complaint wants to change that definition. The goal is to help shut down puppy mills that often mass-produce animals sold in boutique pet stores like Raising Rover, where “Umka” was purchased.

“Umka is a living soul,’ the suit reads. ” She feels love and pain.’

Ownership of Raising Rover has changed since Zakharova purchased Umka.

“I know nothing about the sale. The prior owner has the records. We are careful about where we get our puppies,” Raising Rover’s new owner Ben Logan told the New York Daily News. Logan declined to provide information about the prior owner.

Zakharova is seeking compensation for surgeries and medical treatment for Umka totaling about $8,000. She also wants a full return of the dog’s sale price plus interest since the date of purchase in February 2011. Zakharova intends to donate any award to an animal charity, Lask said.

New York state has a “Puppy Lemon Law’ that allows buyers to return sick animals to a pet store within 14 days for a full refund. The law is meant to slow puppy mills’ mass production of dogs with inherent medical problems. However, Umka’s medical issues did not become apparent for months after Zakharova purchased the dog.

“The Puppy Lemon Law doesn’t cut it,’ Lask said.

If the definition of a pet is changed from property to a sentient being, it could substantially change the amount of damages awarded when an owner buys a defective dog born in a puppy mill. That could have a chilling effect on pet stores buying animals from puppy mills fearing large payouts from lawsuits.

“It’s going to put a number on my dog’s broken hips that you created because you’re negligent, you’re greedy, and you’re mass-producing puppies,’ Lask said. “Right now, even if you return it, they just kill it, which is so inhumane.’

Lask is an animal lover who owns a Chihuahua named Lincoln who was found to have a hole in his skull months after her purchase. That discovery led her to investigate the practices of puppy mills. She waited six years to find a case to help correct the larger issue.

“It’s much bigger than this case,’ she said. “I am looking to shut down the puppy mill world.’

The main issue will be proving to a judge that pets are living souls who experience feelings of pain and emotion. “Human beings have treated other humans as property in history before recognizing it was wrong,” said Lask, “so it’s not too much of a stretch to ask the courts to change the definition.”

“It’s already a felony to abuse an animal. If animals have criminal rights, why not put rights on a damaged leg or a heart condition? If we’re not equating (an animal) to a human being, and we’re not equating it to a table, there has to be something in the middle.’

The suit brings to light the practices of puppy mills and their damaging effects on animals and their human owners. A 2011 investigation by The Humane Society of the United States revealed that Raising Rover, where Umka was purchased, was one of 11 upscale pet stores that purchased animals from Midwestern puppy mills with horrendous conditions.

The moral of the story is buyer beware! Experts agree consumers should opt to adopt from shelters to avoid the trauma that comes from paying exorbitant fees for pet store animals with hidden defects.

No-Kill Ethic gives every dog a chance by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Xena
Behavior rehabilitation saves lives! Visit: Bound Angels for more information.

There are moments on this job that make all the heartbreak and disappointment worthwhile. Recently Sandy Nelson, who had adopted one of our shelter animals a few months ago, called me to say, “Thank you for believing Xena (pronounced Zeena) deserved a chance to live.” That was one of those moments.

When I first arrived at the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) in July, I found Xena on the euthanasia list. Alone in her kennel, surrounded by barking dogs and abandoned by her family, she was understandably frightened. She responded to her new surroundings the only way she knew how – by demonstrating a behavior known as “fear-based aggression,” which is not uncommon in shelter dogs when they first arrive.

Although we knew she was acting out her fear, her behavior was so fearsome that our most experienced animal handlers were unable to handle her. One of them admitted that, in all his years at YHS, Xena was the only dog that actually scared him. By the time I arrived that first week in July, it had already been determined that there was no chance Xena would ever be adopted. She was marked for euthanasia.

Public safety is the primary focus when evaluating dogs for adoption. With nearly 30 years experience in animal control and welfare, I understand better than most that there are dogs who are dangerously aggressive – dogs who should never be adopted out. Was Xena such a dog?

Imagine what must go on in the mind of a dog abandoned by her guardian. You wake up as you do every morning at the foot of your master’s bed – but tonight you inexplicably find yourself alone in a cold concrete cell surrounded by excited barking dogs and strange people. Wouldn’t you lash out in fear to defend yourself?

How do you discern a truly dangerous dog from an estranged pet?

Ed Boks and Robert Cabral
Robert Cabral (Bound Angels) provides the training shelter staff and volunteers need to save the lives of behaviorally challenged dogs.

Fortunately for Xena, renowned Malibu-based dog trainer and behaviorist Robert Cabral came to the rescue. Waiving his $250 per hour fee and all the expenses he incurred from driving himself and his two dogs, Silly and Goofy, to Prescott, he came to help staff and volunteers learn his life-saving techniques.

Cabral is not your typical dog trainer. His focus is not training beloved pets how to sit and stay in your backyard. His expertise is rehabilitating behaviorally challenged shelter dogs. He has been called upon to rehabilitate dogs adjudicated as “vicious” by city magistrates – dogs most of us wouldn’t want to be in the same town with, much less on the same leash.

Believing that even these dogs deserve a chance at life is the essence of the no-kill ethic. These dogs do not come by this behavior naturally; they are trained directly or through neglect to be aggressive. The no-kill ethic asserts that every shelter animal deserves a chance at life. That means YHS will strive to treat animals in need of medical care as well as animals in need of behavioral rehabilitation in the effort to find each animal a loving home.

It was this ethic that saved Xena. The no-kill ethic created a way for the Nelsons and Xena to meet and fall in love. Today, Xena is in dog obedience classes, she happily sits for treats and she devotedly follows the Nelsons around their beautiful ranch in Chino Valley.

Cabral has a slogan: “You can’t save all the dogs in the world, but you can save one. Join the revolution.” Xena is one of many dogs benefiting from Cabral’s life-saving training. YHS staff applied what we learned and Xena responded. She overcame her fear, was removed from the euthanasia list and was adopted by the Nelsons in July.

Isn’t it time you joined the life-saving revolution? Adopt a shelter animal today.

FIV-positive cats can lead long, healthy lives by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and FIV cats
Pushkin as many good years of love to give, despite FIV

In the quest to achieve No-Kill (applying the same criteria a loving pet guardian or conscientious veterinarian would apply when deciding a shelter animal’s fate), one of the challenges we must overcome is the widespread belief in many myths regarding shelter animals.

The fact is some shelter animals have issues. Equally true is the fact that these issues are seldom the animal’s fault and they can almost always be resolved. Knowingly adopting an animal with special needs is one of the noblest acts you will ever perform; you are truly saving a life.

Let me give you an example of a myth responsible for unnecessarily killing far too many animals: “cats infected with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) should be euthanized.” The truth is FIV cats often live long, healthy lives with no symptoms at all.

FIV is an endemic disease found in domestic cats worldwide; it is a lentivirus, meaning it progresses slowly, gradually affecting a cat’s immune system. Cats are typically infected through a serious bite, usually inflicted by a stray male cat – earning it the moniker the “fighting cat” disease (a good reason for keeping your cat indoors).

The most well-known lentivirus in humans is HIV – but there are major differences between FIV and HIV. HIV cannot infect cats and FIV cannot infect humans – in fact, there is no evidence that FIV has ever infected a human in the 6,000 years humans and cats have lived together.

The fear concerning FIV cats came to my attention recently when my shelter rescued a loving 3-year-old American shorthair named Pushkin. Pushkin was surrendered by a family not because of his disease, but because they were moving out of state and sadly could not afford to take him along. Pushkin is so sweet that my team fell in love with him and tried earnestly to find him a new home. However, when potential adopters learn Pushkin has FIV, they immediately lose interest in him.

Being the proud guardian of an FIV cat named Oliver who lives happily with my other cat, Beau Bentley, I am distressed by the apprehension I find among so many cat lovers regarding FIV.

As long as FIV cats are not exposed to diseases their immune system can’t handle, they can live relatively normal lives. When kept indoors, as all cats should, health risks are significantly reduced. FIV is not easily passed between cats either. It cannot be spread casually – in litter boxes, water or food bowls, or when snuggling and playing. It requires a serious bite to transmit the disease.

Before we knew FIV existed, shelters routinely placed these cats into loving homes where they often lived long, normal lives. With the discovery of FIV in 1986 came an undeserved stigma that has since made placing them unduly difficult.

Dr. Susan Cotter, professor of hematology and oncology at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, is helping counteract these misinformed fears. “I would not advise getting rid of a cat that tests positive for FIV,” she says. “If the cat is young and healthy, it could be years before anything changes.”

Best Friends Animal Society veterinarian Dr. Virginia Clemans says “the one important thing is to keep your FIV cat healthy.”

That, of course, is good advice for all cats. In fact, the very advice we offer FIV cat owners is equally appropriate for all cats. That is, all cats should be kept as healthy as possible; kept indoors and free from stress; fed a high-quality diet; and medical problems should be treated as soon as they arise.

If you already own a cat, ask your veterinarian about early detection to help maintain your cat’s health and to help prevent the spread of this infection to other cats.

Although many FIV cats live long, happy lives, some may need periodic medical care or ongoing medical management. This is why adopting a special-needs animal is such a noble and selfless act. If you can find the room in your heart and home for a cat like Pushkin, please contact your local shelter  – because every animal counts.

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.

LA Animal Services Changes Black Cat Adoption Policy by Ed Boks

Black cats awaiting adoptions from local shelters are in luck this Halloween.

For the first time in over 10 years, LA Animal Services is adopting out black and white cats this month. Animal Services reversed a previous policy in hopes of placing more animals in homes.

Some shelters do not adopt out black or white cats in October, for fear they will be tortured or used as a Halloween decoration or part of a costume.

Each year, LA Animal Services is faced with either holding the cats until after the holiday or euthanizing them. Because there is little documentation of animal tortures and a growing number of cats, Animal Services decided to adopt them out.

This policy shift is consistent with LA’s no-kill goal. Typically, Animal Services rescues over 100 lost and homeless dogs and cats each day and is almost always at capacity.

In the entire history of humane work, no one has ever documented or demonstrated any relationship between adopting out either black or white cats, or cats of any other color, and cats being killed or injured. There are no studies of the matter, and no relevant data.

According to ANIMAL PEOPLE the belief that adopting out black or white cats to “witches” will result in ill consequences for the cat may be traced to three sources:

“1) Ignorance of the actual beliefs and practices of paganism. Witches do not harm their ‘familiars,’ who are supposed to be their eyes and ears in the spirit world. To harm a familiar would be to blind and deafen oneself, regardless of whether one is a ‘white’ witch, a ‘black’ witch, a purple witch, or any other kind of witch.

2) Misunderstanding predator behavior. Alleged sadists and Satanists were sought for purportedly stealing, killing and dismembering cats and dogs in at least nine states as Halloween 1998 approached. The supposed crimes drew sensational media coverage, lent emphasis to humane society warnings against letting pets run at large, and rewards of up to $10,000 were posted in some cases for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers.

An accurate description of the suspects, however, in all but a handful of the animal deaths and disappearances, would include either four legs and a tail, or wings, and none would be either werewolves or griffons.

Similar panics have developed each summer since. They coincide with the emergence of young foxes and coyotes from their mothers’ dens and with the first hunting by newly fledged raptors. The panics gain momentum approaching Halloween as public attention to witches, ghouls, goblins, and other things that go bump in the night rises toward a crescendo.

The panics virtually stop each year after Halloween distinctly unlike cases involving actual human sadism.

Trained to investigate human-inflicted cruelty, police detectives and humane officers typically have little background in predator behavior. Veterinarians tend to expect –wrongly–that injuries done by coyotes, the most frequent wild predator of pets will resemble those done by domestic dogs.

Forensic evidence is thus misread by sincere people, acting in good faith, who incite witch-hunts at possible expense to professional credibility.

Predators, in contrast to human sadists, are astonishingly quick and efficient. Except in instances when predators take disabled but still living prey back to a den or nest to teach young how to kill their own food, predation victims tend to make little sound, if any, rarely even having time to know what hit them. Predators try to avoid wasting time and energy inflicting unnecessary injuries.

Their teeth and claws usually cut more cleanly than any knife. Predators don’t leave much blood behind: that’s food. If interrupted in mid-attack, they run or take flight with the parts they most want to eat. If able to eat at their leisure, they consume the richest organs, such as the heart, and leave what they don’t want.

Coyotes and foxes typically attack small prey such as cats and rabbits from behind and to one side, with a scissors-like jaw snap to the backbone and midsection that frequently cuts the victim in half. If startled, they tend to flee with the larger back half and whatever internal organs come along, leaving the head and forepaws. These are among the cases most often misread by investigators, who mistake the discovery of the head as an indication of ritualistic crime.

Coyotes have an entirely different attack pattern against prey larger than themselves, such as sheep and deer. Against these animals, they go for the throat and belly. They then consume the viscera first.

Cats, both wild and domestic, tend to leave inedible organs in a neat pile. Cats also have the habit of depositing carcasses, or parts thereof, at the doorsteps of other cats or humans they are courting. When cats kill much smaller animals, such as mice, they consume the whole remains, but when they kill animals of almost their own size, such as rabbits, they may leave behind heads, ears, limbs, and even much of the fur.

Tomcats, especially interlopers in another tom’s territory, often kill kittens. Instead of eating them, however, kitten-killing toms sometimes play with the carcasses as they would with a mouse, and then abandon the remains in an obvious place, possibly as a sign to both the mother and the dominant tom.

Coyotes, foxes, and both wild and domestic felines often dispatch prey who survives a first strike with a quick skull-crunching bite to the head. ANIMAL PEOPLE actually resolved several panics over alleged sadists supposedly drilling mysterious parallel holes in the skulls of pets by suggesting that the investigators borrow some skulls of wild predators from a museum, to see how the mystery holes align with incisors.

Any common predator, but especially coyotes and raptors, may be involved in alleged ‘skinned alive’ cases. The usual victims are dogs who–perhaps because parts of their bodies were hidden in tall grass–are mistaken for smaller prey. The predator holds on with teeth and/or claws while the wounded victim runs. The result is a set of sharp, typically straight cuts that investigators often describe as “filets.” The editor of ANIMAL PEOPLE once saw a cat pounce and nearly skin a rabbit in such a case, and unable to intervene in time to prevent the incident, euthanized the victim. The attack occurred and ended within less than 30 seconds.

Raptors tend to be involved in cases where viscera are draped over cars, porches, trees, signs, and mailboxes: they take flight with their prey, or with a road kill they find, and parts fall out. They return to retrieve what they lose only if it seems safe to do so.

Birds, especially crows, account for many cases in which eyes, lips, anuses, and female genitals are removed from fallen livestock. Sometimes the animals have been killed and partially butchered by rustlers. Others are victims of coyotes or eagles. The combined effects of predation and scavenging produce ‘mutilations’ which may be attributed to Satanists or visitors from outer space, but except where rustlers are involved, there is rarely anything more sinister going on than natural predators making a living in their normal way.

3) Fan behavior during some of the first World Series games ever played. Early 20th century New York Giants manager John McGraw was notoriously superstitious, so fans (especially gamblers) would sometimes pitch black cats in front of the Giants’ dugout to jinx him. In response to this, some early humane societies suspended adopting out black cats during the World Series, which was and is played just before Halloween.

An informal baseball rule was adopted during this time against continuing a game if an animal is on the field. Major League Baseball, Inc., made this rule official in 1984, after then-Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield threw a ball that killed a seagull during a game in Toronto. The rule has multiple purposes, one of them being to keep expensive ballplayers from getting hurt.”

Animal Fair Interview by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Wendy Diamond
Wendy Diamond, Animal Fair publisher, editor Entrepreneur, Leading Pet Lifestyle expert, Best Selling Author, TV Personality and Endangered Animal and Rescue Advocate.

The following are excerpts from a recent interview with Animal Fair Magazine on the opening of Animal Services new state of the art animal care centers. For more information on Animal Fair Magazine visit them at: http://www.animalfair.com/

1. What makes these new shelters different from all the other shelters?

Our new shelters are more like botanical gardens than dog pounds. Over 30% of the grounds are landscaped with lush vegetation, flowers, trees, and greenery. There are park benches to relax on while enjoying the animals. There are fountains and works of art to enjoy. There are misters to keep the animals cool when the weather is hot and radiant heating in the kennel floors when the weather gets cold. There are large park like get acquainted areas where Animal Services will host special adoption events with our many partners as well as sponsor dog obedience and agility training. There are community rooms for meetings and educational activities. These shelters are not your father’s animal control, they are spacious and beautiful and will serve as pet adoption centers of choice for all Angelinos and surrounding communities.

2. Is this the first step in getting the city to be no kill? What are the other steps?

This is definetely a significant step to achieving no-kill. These new Centers will increase our holding capacity by over 400%, allowing us to hold animals for longer periods of time. But the new shelters are just one step in a very comprehensive strategic no-kill plan. Along with the new shelters we are building spay/neuter clinics designed to handle 20,000 surgeries per year. With six new clinics that represents 120,000 surgeries per year. These surgeries will have a profound impact on the number of unwanted pets being born each year. We call our spay/neuter program The Big Fix because we recognize that spay/neuter is the ultimate “fix” to the vexing problems associated with pet overpopulation.

Along with our shelters and clinics we have a program called New Hopewhich is a partnership with over 70 local animal welfare organizations that allows these groups to take animals from our euthanasia list at no cost to them. These animals are already spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. We keep our shelters open 24 hours per day seven days per week for our New Hope Partners. We soon hope to be able to help our partners with the actual transport of the animals.

Animal Services is also initiating Project Safety Net which will coordinate the many resources in LA to help people keep their pets during times when they may feel relinquishment is their only alternative. Often times dog training, behavioral counseling, or legal advice is the only thing between keeping a pet and having to give a pet up. By making these resources more readily available we hope to help more families keep their pets.

Operation FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-termination) is our Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) program. This program is currently conducted in partnership with LA’s many feral cat organizations but as our spay/neuter clinics come on line we intend to be even more directly involved in humanely helping to reduce LA’s feral cat population with this non-lethal methodology.

We hope to soon initiate our TLC program that will help teach “at risk” kids love and compassion for our communities’ “at risk” animals. Many of the animals rescued by Animal Services are lost, abused or neglected, and many are in need of foster homes. Many of our kids are in similar situations and are very empathetic to the plight of our animals. This empathy is a building block to help these kids to learn how to more freely express love and compassion. This program can be expanded to include our community’s senior citizens and other disenfranchised populations.

3. How are you working to get more pets adopted in LA?

We are very fortunate that one of the nation’s foremost ad agencies has agreed to help Animal Services with an ad campaign to promote adoptions. Riester, based in Phoenix, has an LA office and their “cause marketing” genius is helping us to get the word out that Animal Services is daily creating happiness by bringing pets and people together! Riester shares Animal Services’ commitment to make LA the nation’s first major no-kill city in the United States.

In addition, many celebrities and influential people are helping Animal Services create a 501c3 animal welfare charity called “SALA” which stands for Shelter Animals of LA. SALA is also Spanish for “living room” and is symbolic of the “living room” LA’s residents are making in their hearts for our shelter animals. SALA will help raise funding for Animal Services many life saving programs.

We also partner with Humane Rescue Alliance and many other animal welfare organizations all of whom share our vision to end pet euthanasia and help us find loving homes for our lost and homeless pets.

4. Is there anything special about the event that you would like me to include in the article?

I think it is worth mentioning that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attended this event to once again voice his wholehearted commitment to ending euthanasia as an acceptable method to reduce pet overpopulation. He was joined by several City Council members and other public officials. To the best of my knowledge he is the only mayor of a major city to take such a courageous and compassionate stand and it is our hope he will inspire mayors and public officials across the United States with his vision!

Halloween Do’s and Don’ts by Ed Boks

Residents and “Trick-or-Treaters” need to take special safety precautions during Halloween to ensure the holiday is safe and enjoyable for the entire family including companion animals.

Halloween can be a frightening time for many animals. Each Halloween, Animal Services rescues pets with injuries that could have been avoided. The noise, costumes and activity of Halloween can be a threatening and bewildering experience – with unexpected results. Constant intrusions by ‘Trick-or-Treaters’ can make a normally friendly dog frightened or aggressive and cause a complacent house cat to dart out an open door.

LA Animal Services suggests pet guardians remember to take these safety precautions for a safe Halloween:

* Leave Pets at home. Do not take them trick-or-treating.

* Keep all pets indoors – including those that normally live outside. This will help prevent them from escaping and becoming victims of pranks or abuse.

* Keep pets in a secure and quiet room – as far away as possible from Halloween activity.

* Keep children away from animals. Otherwise friendly animals may be frightened and behave unexpectedly.

* Keep candy out of pet’s reach. Candy can be harmful to pets and chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs.

* Have traceable identification on pets at all times. Remember that frightened animals tend to run and may run away from home. Identification/license tags and microchips help reunite owners with their companion animals.

* Keep pets away from decorations. Flames in jack-o-lanterns and candles can quickly singe, burn or set fire to a pet’s fur. Pets can become tangled in hanging decorations like streamers and can choke on some decorations if they chew on them.

* Resist the urge to put your furry friend in a costume. Most pets dislike the confinement of costumes and masks, and flowing capes can cause injuries if the pet gets caught on something.

If your pet becomes lost, begin searching immediately.  You should visit your local Animal Care Center – beginning with the nearest one, as often as possible. If a lost animal is brought to an Animal Care Center, Animal Services personnel will call the owner if the animal has a license, microchip or identification. If you love your pet, license your pet!

LA Animal Services rescues and cares for over 40,000 lost and homeless animals annually. This Halloween adopt a lucky dog, cat or rabbit and provide him or her a loving home. Together we can make LA the safest City in the United States for our pets!