Over the years I have come to understand compassion as a deep awareness of the suffering experienced by another – coupled with the desire to relieve it. Compassion is more vigorous than sympathy or empathy, compassion gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering – making compassion the essential component in what manifests in our social context as altruism.
In ethical terms, the “Golden Rule” may best embody the principle of compassion: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Compassion does not simply mean caring deeply about someone else’s suffering. Compassion actually causes you to get personally involved. Compassion manifests in the face of cruelty, moving you to say out loud, “This is wrong” – and it moves you to actually do something to end the suffering.
It is not uncommon for those of us working in animal welfare to encounter cries for help from victims of domestic violence. Domestic issues involving humans are not usually within the purview of an animal organization. However, its not uncommon to receive a call that causes us to say out loud, “This is wrong.” These calls involve women looking to escape their desperate situations – feeling like hostages in their own homes, unable to leave because their abusers threaten to harm the family pet(s) should they attempt to do so.
Finding a safe place for these pets is prerequisite to these women getting the help they need. What can animal shelters do to help when they are already overflowing with lost and homeless animals? By way of some rather circuitous routes, I have been able to help in some small ways – but I’ve learned it is important that animal shelters to not be caught so flat-footed when these needs come knocking at the door. We must be able to respond better and more quickly.
Domestic violence and partner abuse is not an animal shelter problem. Domestic violence is a community problem. Abuse comes in many forms, both verbal and physical. Verbal abuse and manipulative behavior can be as destructive to the soul as violence is to the body. Women, children and pets should never be victimized or cruelly treated regardless of the situation. To do so is wrong.
Compassion is what moves us to do something about a wrong, but we are ill-equipped to do it alone. These types of complex problems need a community response that ensures victims of violence never go unheard.
That is why I developed a program called Safety Net designed to help pets stay with their families through difficult financial times, dislocations, hospitalizations, evictions, and yes, domestic turbulence. Often families face crises that prompt abandonment of a beloved pet, even though the crisis is likely to be temporary.
When properly funded, the Safety Net program can help pet owners weather such storms by providing emergency foster placement, veterinary help, counseling and other remedies to help prevent a pet from losing its home and family because of a temporary crisis.
Sadly, we seldom have enough funds to assist people within this narrow mission. Clearly, a Safety Net program is not sufficient to meet the needs arising from domestic abuse. What is needed is a community-wide safety net – a program with financial sponsors and service and product partners. Partners able to provide human and/or pet boarding, pet grooming and supplies, veterinary services, social services and doctors are vital. We need partners who recognize that abuse and cruelty are wrong and are moved to do something to ease that suffering – rather than look the other way. Together we can create this community-wide safety net so no one has to stay in a terrible situation in order to protect a loved one.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the sixth posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of the “No-Kill Equation”. The No-Kill Equation is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable results.
This analysis compares the “No-Kill Equation” to LA’s programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the sixth recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Pet Retention.
The Ten “No-Kill Equation” Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
3. Rescue Groups
4. Foster Care
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program
6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
10. A Compassionate Director
The “No-Kill Equation” is in this blue font.
My analysis is in italic font.
VI. Pet Retention While some of the reasons animals are surrendered to shelters are unavoidable, others can be prevented—but only if shelters are willing to work with people to help them solve their problems. Saving all healthy and treatable pets requires communities to develop innovative strategies for keeping people and their companion animals together. And the more a community sees its shelter(s) as a place to turn for advice and assistance, the easier this job will be. Animal control agencies can maintain “libraries” of pet care and behavior fact sheets in the shelter and on a website. Articles in local papers, radio and television spots all provide opportunities to feature topics like solving litter-box avoidance and excessive barking. Other pet retention programs include free in-home dog behavior problem-solving by volunteers, low-cost dog training, pet friendly rental programs, dog walker referrals, and pet behavior classes.
LA Animal Services’ volunteers regularly provides behavioral training classes in new exercise yards built into the newly opening animal care centers and at the South Los Angeles Animal Care Center Annex. The most sophisticated volunteers augment staff in counseling pet owners and would-be adopters whenever feasible and receive training to enable them to engage in relinquishment counseling. Informational flyers on various pet behavior topics and a variety of animal issues are available in each shelter and on the Department’s informative website, and popular humane community publications featuring information on services and products pet owners can use to enhance their pet guardianship experience are also available free of charge at the centers. When available, donated pet food and pet toys are given to new owners when they’re adopting from LA Animal Services. In addition, LA Animal Services volunteers and staff routinely provide training and grooming services to dogs in the shelters to make relinquished pets more attractive and adoptable.
Roughly 35% of all pets taken in by LA Animal Services are relinquished by their guardians. To meet this reality, the department is developing and slowly implementing a program called “Safety-Net”. The program is identifying and bringing together all the resources available in our community that can help pets and people stay together. Often pets are relinquished for reasons that seem out of the control of a pet guardian, such as a death or serious illness in the family, or an eviction or job termination. In many of these cases pet guardians just need time to sort through the difficulty. If given the option and opportunity to keep their pet they will indeed choose to retain their pet. Safety-Net will make these resources available on our website, in our Animal Care Centers, and in our Call Center so that they are made readily available to those in need.
Safety-Net will require a great deal of organizational and community infrastructure to support it, but such programs have been successfully implemented in several communities across the United States. We are confident Safety-Net LA will be a tremendous help to frantic guardians who are really only looking for some compassionate assistance to work through a very difficult time in their lives and the lives of their pets. Safety-Net will be a welcome change from the condemnation that is all too often ignorantly leveled against pet relinquishers simply looking for help.
This is the fifth posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of the “No-Kill Equation”. The “No-Kill Equation” is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable success.
This analysis compares the “No-Kill Equation” to LA’s programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the fifth recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Comprehensive Adoption Programs.
The Ten “No-Kill Equation” Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
3. Rescue Groups
4. Foster Care 5. Comprehensive Adoption Program 6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
10. A Compassionate Director
The “No-Kill Equation” is in this font.
My analysis is in italic font.
V. Comprehensive Adoption Programs Adoptions are vital to an agency’s lifesaving mission. The quantity and quality of shelter adoptions is in shelter management’s hands, making lifesaving a direct function of shelter policies and practice.
As one commentator put it, “if each pet lives 10 years, on average, and the number of homes grows at the same rate that homes are lost through deaths and other attrition, then replacement homes would become available each year for more than twice as many dog and slightly more cats than enter shelters. Since the inventory of pet-owning homes is growing, not just holding even, adoption could in theory replace all population control killing right now–if the animals and potential adopters were better introduced.”
In fact, studies show people get their dogs from shelters only 15% of the time overall, and less than 10% of the time for cats. If shelters better promoted their animals and had adoption programs responsive to the needs of the community, they could increase the number of homes available and replace population control killing with adoptions. In other words, shelter killing is more a function of market share, than “public irresponsibility.” Contrary to conventional wisdom, shelters can adopt their way out of killing.
Ed’s Analysis: LA Animal Services’ animal care centers have always strived to increase adoptions and have done so every consecutive year for the past six years. As the new and expanded facilities continue to open as targeted during 2008, they will be among the most inviting animal adoption environments in the nation. Even prior to the opening of all of the new or expanded, environmentally-sustainable facilities, the work of dedicated shelter staff and volunteers working in the Department’s existing shelters and at mobile adoption events have made it possible for LA Animal Services to adopt out or release to rescuers more animals than any other municipal shelter system in the U.S in 2007.
LA Animal Services has operated mobile adoption events since the late 1990s and continues to hold five to ten or more such events every month in locations all around Los Angeles, in addition to speaking engagements and information distribution regarding adoption at community events. Department volunteers work with staff to accomplish these activities and also engage in follow-up marketing of the animals that are not adopted from the mobile events. The Department’s goal is to substantially increase the number of these mobile adoptions and outreach efforts in the coming years.
While the “No Kill Equation” asserts a largely unsubstantiated theory (especially in large public shelter systems) that “shelters can adopt their way out of killing,” the reality is that as long as people fail or refuse to spay and neuter their pets, treat their pets as disposable and relinquish them to shelters or abandon them in the streets, favor specific purebred animals over mixed breeds and thus continue to buy animals from breeders and pet stores, there will always tend to be more pets than adoptive homes to care for them.
The “No Kill Equation” chooses to blame shelters and their directors for the fact that animals show up in shelters, are not always adopted, and sometimes are euthanized. This is comparable to excoriating a doctor for the fact that he or she has patients. To be sure, the doctor can and should be held accountable for how he treats those patients once they arrive, but it’s not his or her fault that the patient got sick or injured in the first place.
A variety of factors come into play and, yes, one of them is irresponsible pet guardianship. Some guardians simply refuse to have their animals sterilized and let them run loose, where they can breed in an uncontrolled manner. Others willfully breed their animals thinking they can make a few bucks selling puppies and kittens. Shelter directors and the entities that employ them can, and have, used every method available to them to try and persuade people to behave otherwise, but some will never change. To insist otherwise is to be naïve and counterproductive.
That is why the push for No-Kill must include focus on all the factors and influences that contribute to the flow of homeless animals into the shelters, from the need for more spay/neuter, to backyard breeding and puppy mills, to dog fighting and more. If we don’t include these as part of our collective focus, we’ll find ourselves perpetually frustrated by what seems like an inability to truly get to the root of the problems.
To achieve No-Kill requires communities to both stem pet overpopulation and build robust pet adoption programs. It is not either/or, it is decidedly both. I have managed the three largest pet adoption agencies in the United States, and I can assure you that the “Equation’s” contention that shelters can “adopt their way out of the killing” reveals only a naïveté. To focus only on pet adoption is like running on a treadmill expecting foolishly to reach some distant destination.
Indeed, tactical programs (like Adoption and New Hope) are important, but without strategic programs (like Big Fix, FELIX, Safety Net, and legislation like AB 1634) shelters are doomed to be gathering places for our communities’ lost and unwanted pets. We must rise above the simplistic solutions of the so-called “No-Kill Equation” and implement multi-focused strategies to effectively end pet euthanasia as a method of pet overpopulation control.
In a recent LA Times article a local animal advocate was quoted as stating that the number one reason pets are relinquished to shelters is because the pets are too sick or too old.
While that may be true in other communities, that reason actually ranks number 8 for cats and number 7 for dogs in Los Angeles. The data below is being included in the development of a program called “Safety Net”. Safety Net is being designed with the help of several partner organizations to help keep pets and guardians together during difficult times negating the need for relinquishment.
So, just what are the Top Ten Reasons guardians give for relinquishing their pets in the City of Los Angeles? The rankings differ slightly for cats and dogs. It should also be mentioned that a percentage of pet relinquishers either refuse to give a reason or for some other reason this data was not obtained.
1. GUARDIAN HAS TOO MANY PETS (1,324) LA Animal Services does follow up on many of these relinquishments and many spay/neuter vouchers are distributed and as appropriate citations issued.
4. GUARDIAN HAD TOO MANY PETS (600) LA Animal Services does follow up on many of these relinquishments and many spay/neuter vouchers are distributed and as appropriate citations issued.
5. GUARDIAN TOO ILL TO CARE FOR DOG (350)
6. GUARDIAN DIED (327)
7. GUARDIAN COULD NOT AFFORD THE MEDICAL COSTS FOR SICK OR INJURED DOG (323)
8. DOG TOO AGGRESSIVE WITH OTHER ANIMALS (304)
9. DOG TOO AGGRESSIVE WITH PEOPLE (290)
10. GUARDIAN HOMELESS (256)
The June 07 and Fiscal Year 06/07 Statistics are posted on the website. I want to thank everyone who helped us achieve these remarkable numbers. An analysis will be posted later this week.
Please remember to contact your California Senator Monday and/or Tuesday to ask him or her to support AB 1634, The California Healthy Pets Act. They need to hear from you now! It’s crunch time! The California Healthy Pets Act is to be heard in the Local Government Committee on July 11th at 8:00am. It must pass out of this Committee to get to the full Senate.
If you live in the district for any of the five Local Government Committee Members, please act immediately, fax and call now:
Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod (Chair)
916-651-4032 Office, 916-445-0128 Fax
Chino Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Colton, Fontana, Montclair, Ontario, Pomona, Rialto, San Bernardino
Senator Dave Cox (Vice Chair)
916-651-4001 Office, 916-324-2680 Fax
Fair Oaks Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra Auburn, Elk Grove, Fair Oaks, Folsom, Galt, Mammoth Lakes, Orangevale, Placerville, Rancho Cordova, Roseville, Sacramento, Shingle Springs, South Lake Tahoe, Susanville, Truckee, Valley Springs
Senator Tom Harman
916-651-4035 Office, 916-445-9263 Fax
Orange Orange, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Westminister
Senator Christine Kehoe
916-651-4039 Office, 916-327-2188 Fax
San Diego, Del Mar, Lemon Grove
Senator Michael Machado
916-651-4005 Office, 916-323-2304 Fax
Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Yolo Davis, Fairfield, Manteca, Stockton, Tracy, Vacaville, West Sacramento
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:
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.
Everyday people ask me how they can help LA Animal Services achieve its No-Kill Goal. The key to achieving this goal is funding life saving programs, programs we may not be able to afford through our budget. Animal Services has many life saving programs and giving opportunities. And now, making a donation to one of our life saving programs has never been easier.
TO MAKE A DONATION all you have to do is clickHere
The two main funds that LA Animal Services accepts donations through. They are:
The Animal Welfare Trust Fund
The Animal Sterilization Trust Fund
Funds may also be donated for specific programs and services and shelter operations.
LA Animal Services has developed and will continue to develop programs designed to reduce LA’s euthanasia rate as we increase our live animal placement rate through adoptions, our New Hope program, returning lost pets to their frantic owners, and by humanely reducing feral cat populations in our neighborhoods.
If you would like to help join Animal Services war on pet euthanasia, please send a tax deductible financial gift to:
LA Animal Services
221 N. Figueroa Street Suite 500
Los Angeles, CA 90012
You can designate your gift to the general Animal Welfare Fund or to any one or more of the specific programs described below:
Big Fix sponsors low/no cost spay/neutering services for pets in low-income households.
New Hope is a network of over 70 of LA’s pet rescue, support and adoption agencies in Southern California who work with LA Animal Services in the process of locating permenant loving homes for the animals Animal Services rescue.
Safety Net helps pets and their families stay together through difficult financial times or relocations.
STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) program provides medical treatment to severely injured, abused, and neglected animals rescued by Animal Services.
TLC (Teach Love and Compassion) provides at-risk youth with the employment training in animal care. This is an intergenerational program in which our community’s elders work with our youth teach love and compassion through the care and love of animals.
Volunteer Dog Training Program trains Animal Services volunteers to improve the quality of life and adoption rate of sheltered dogs through behavior training provided by our community’s most reputable volunteer dog trainers.
FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-terminations)provides low or no cost spay/neuter service to feral cats managed by a trained feral cat colony manager trained by one of Animal Services feral cat partner organizations.
Foster Program trains volunteers to provide temporary homes for special needs animals until they are healthy enough for adoption.
If you would like your donations to be used for specific programs and services, please specify.
Please make your check or money order payable to:
Department of Animal Services
221 N. Figueroa Street, 5th floor
LA, CA 90012
Your donations are tax deductible and your generosity will be acknowledged.
Even if you cannot make a financial contribution today, there are other ways you can help. Our Animal Care Centers always need blankets, newspaper, and other items. For more details, take a look at our six Animal Care Centers to understand their specific needs. And of course we always need volunteers.
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!
We have often heard the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. The same advice holds true for solving our pet overpopulation and animal cruelty problems. Its going to take all of us working together to solve the animal welfare issues in Los Angeles. A few days ago the LA City Council announced their acceptance of a $200,000 donation from Best Friends Animal Society.
Clearly Best Friends Animal Society shares LA Animal Services’ commitment to helping end the killing of adoptable animals in Los Angeles. They are funding an independent, professional assessment of the scope, causes and contributors of pet overpopulation in Los Angeles. The independent assessment will be conducted by LA City Controller Laura Chick and a team of professionals.
When this assessment is complete it will be up to Animal Services to orchestrate the implementation of the solutions and recommendations made by these professionals. This assessment will be the basis of a subsequent No-Kill Strategic Plan that will organize the city’s resources – both internal and across the community- toward realistic, sustained reductions in the causes and contributors of pet overpopulation.
This is wonderful news, but it doesn’t stop here. There is a growing synergy in LA towards achieving No-Kill. Over the past several months an organization of well informed, compassionate LA residents formed a new 501c3 animal welfare charity called SALA (Shelter Animals of Los Angeles). SALA also means “living room” in Spanish and reflects the goal to help find loving homes for all of our companion animals in Los Angeles.
SALA’s purpose is to support, on an exclusive basis, LA Animal Services in a joint mission to save animals’ lives and find permanent, loving homes for the thousands of lost, homeless, abandoned, neglected and abused companion animals rescued by LA City Animal Services every year. The ultimate goal of SALA is to assist LA Animal Services achieve “no kill” in all of our city shelters.
SALA believes a functional and efficient city shelter system that receives much needed private funding will ultimately benefit everyone: from pet owners to rescue organizations and, most importantly, the animals themselves.
Through the Big Fix Program, SALA will aggressively invest in spay/neuter with high volume clinics in all of the new Animal Care Centers, funding more mobile spay/neuter vans and offering spay/neuter/vaccine services to low income residents and asking for donations only, rather than charging a low fee that depends on proof of income. We are also partnering with Western University’s Veterinary School on including cutting edge intern and residency programs using LA Animal Care Centers as teaching schools for up and coming veterinarians.
Through the STAR Program (Special Treatment & Recovery),SALA will provide funding to help sick and injured animals rescued by LA Animal Services. Any animal treated in the STAR Program will not be euthanized.
Through Operation FELIX (Feral Education & Love Instead of X-termination)SALA will work with groups and individuals to help maintain feral cat colonies by implementing strong TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) programs and ultimately create a comprehensive database system that will help track all feral colonies in the LA area.
SALA will establish a Safety Net Outreach Program to help all citizens of Los Angeles including our non-English speaking residents by conveying the importance of spay/neuter, as well as promote adoption and foster care. SALA will also provide outreach programs that will guide the public to resources that will help pet guardians better care for their companion animals. This outreach effort can be achieved in a variety of ways. Articles, stories, ads in newspapers and on local TV and radio, billboard messaging, educational workshops at community centers, and networking community resources to help residents responsibly keep and care for their pets are just some of the ways to get the message to the people who need to hear it most.
Volunteers are the backbone of any organization, and shoring up the LA Animal Services Volunteer Program is an important item on SALA’s agenda. Besides the important work of providing care for the animals in the shelters and at mobile adoptions, volunteers can also work as Adoption Counselors to help people find their new best friend. Volunteers can also participate in the previously mentioned outreach programs that can be conducted in community centers, churches, youth centers, etc. to teach people how to be great pet guardians.
Other projects SALA has under development include:
Shelter Dog Training Program: A partnership with trainers who will assist in socializing dogs in the shelter and prepare them for their forever home. Since behavioral issues are at the top of the excuse list for owner surrender, easy access to accredited trainers while the dogs are in the shelter, as well as help in settling them into their new home, will promote pet retention rates.
A House is Not a Home Without a Pet Program: An alliance with all rental homes, apartments, and senior citizen homes, etc., to provide incentives to encourage landlords to welcome residents with pets. SALAwill also provide mediation assistance for neighbor and landlord/renter disputes that involve pet issues, etc.
Teach Love and Compassion (TLC): To promote humane education programs in the LA school district that will ultimately become part of the regular curriculum to be taught in all our elementary and middle schools. TLC will also provide learning opportunities for “at risk” kids by teaching love and compassion for “at risk” animals in our Animal Care Centers.
Animal Services and all of LA is deeply indebted to Best Friends Animal Society, SALA, our New Hope Partners, Volunteers, Employees, and donors for their commitment, dedication and compassion for the lost and homeless pets of Los Angeles. When a community rallies together for the animals we truly demonstrate what it means to be a humane society as we commit ourselves to making LA the safest City in the United States for our pets.