Our motto at the Yavapai Humane Society is “Every Animal Counts.” We work hard to live up to that because we know that lost, homeless, abused and neglected animals count on YHS to intervene and reverse their plight.
Unfortunately, we can’t save them all – at least not without broad community support. Too often, and for too many animals, our limited resources become exhausted and we are forced to make the difficult decision to take the life of an animal before their time.
The good news is that euthanasia at YHS is down drastically! Following a recent change in YHS leadership and policy, the killing was reduced 42.23 percent when compared to the same period last year. Remarkably, this was accomplished despite a 3 percent increase in the number of animals taken in during this same period.
Some believe that killing shelter animals is the unavoidable by-product of providing efficient municipal services to residents. But these pragmatists might consider a state of Minnesota Legislative report, which found that for each dollar invested in spay/neuter programs, $20 in animal control costs could be saved over 10 years.
People who excuse euthanasia in shelters often say we have to be “realistic,” but such realism is best directed at the sources of the problem. Effective spay/neuter programs to assist pet owners who are poor, elderly on a fixed income, or living in remote or underserved areas is a far better use of public and private funding than catching and killing lost and homeless pets.
YHS is engaged in a quest to achieve “no-kill.” No-kill is defined as consistently applying the same criteria a loving pet owner or compassionate veterinarian would use to determine if or when to euthanize a shelter animal. That is, no healthy or treatable animal would be killed simply because of a lack of shelter space or resources.
To help orchestrate a more strategic no-kill effort, YHS is announcing a community-wide spay/neuter initiative called “The Big Fix.” The Big Fix is a program that will provide low- or no-cost spay/neuter services for pets of needy families as well as pets adopted from YHS shelters.
The Big Fix will be funded by donations and grants – and it desperately needs your help to get started. While the reduced killing over the past two months represents a good start in the right direction, we have a long way to go. Your check or online donation to YHS, with an annotation for “The Big Fix,” will help fix the problem of pet overpopulation so we can more quickly achieve No-Kill!
So where is YHS in achieving this goal today? The industry standard for calculating a community’s progress toward no-kill is determined by the number of pet deaths in local shelters annually per 1,000 human residents. The national kill rate in 2009 was 13.5. This is based on an estimated human population of 300,079,939 and 4,157,918 recorded animal deaths.
In the Southwest (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah), the kill rate was 15.2, based on an estimated human population of 19,048,000 and 289,530 recorded animal deaths.
Our quad-city region has an estimated human population of 110,000. With 1,892 shelter deaths in 2009, our kill rate was a staggering and unacceptable 17.25.
For years, the animal welfare community thought no-kill would be achieved when killing was reduced to 5 deaths per 1,000 residents, recognizing there will always be terminally ill and injured animals and dangerously aggressive dogs that require humane euthanasia.
However, in recent years, New York City and Los Angeles reduced their kill rates to 2 and 3.7, respectively, demonstrating we really don’t know how far we can go in this life-saving quest. And if you think things work differently in small towns or rural communities, consider the fact that Reno, Nevada, has reduced their kill rate to 5.4.
As a community, we can choose to pay the relatively modest cost to fund targeted spay/neuter programs designed to fix the problem on the front end, or we can continue to pay the ever-increasing costs of catching and killing animals on the back end. We prefer the more proactive front-end approach, and we hope you will agree by sending in a donation today for “The Big Fix,” so we can help low-income pet owners spay and neuter their pets. For more information contact me.
Recently Nathan Winograd mischaracterized a portion of an email from me as suggesting LA’s spay/neuter law is a failure. This is typical of the divisive sniping endemic in all of Nathan’s self-aggrandizing philosophy.
There is a fundamental tenet held among most animal welfare and animal rights advocates that we accept as incontrovertible. That precept was perhaps best articulated by Mahatma Gandhi when he said, “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress is best judged by how we treat our animals”. This principle expresses the belief that when a community is compassionate enough to care about the needs of its animals there can be a reasonable expectation that the bar is raised on how we care and treat one another.
The reverse is also true. If we can dismiss the needs of our animals it becomes easier to dismiss the needs of our infirmed, aged, and needy human populations. Caring about animals serves as the ultimate litmus test for determining a community’s capacity for compassion.
This test is applied to the City of Los Angeles every day, but never more than in the spring and summer months.
Spring is the beginning of kitten season in Los Angeles. In 2008 LA Animal Services took in over 7,300 neonate kittens. Neonate means too young to survive for more than an hour or two without a mother. Sadly, most of the neonate kittens we take in are orphans. People find these babies in their garage, flowerbeds, and many other places where the mother felt safe from predators and intruders while she gave birth. Property owners find these crying babies within hours or days of birth and bring them to our Centers without the mother. Taken away from their mother they have no chance at survival without significant human intervention.
Neonate kittens represent over one-third of all the cats taken in by the Department. They also represent over 35% of all the cats euthanized and over 21% of our euthanasia rate in 2008. One in three cats and one in five animals euthanized in LA is a neonate kitten. On the up side, most of our healthy weaned kittens get adopted. So anything we can do to help our neonates reach full “kittenhood” improves the odds of their eventually finding a loving home.
Kitten season in Los Angeles starts around the end of March and lasts through September when it starts to slowly decline over October and November. That means now is the time for everyone wanting to help end the killing of these innocents to contact LA Animal Services to either volunteer to foster a litter of kittens or to make a donation to help others willing to make this commitment.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “foster” as providing parental care and nurture to children not related through legal or blood ties. If Gandhi viewed animals in general as the first rung on the compassion ladder then these little creatures must be considered the least of the least. They can be so easily overlooked and forgotten. In fact, California State Law defines “adoptable animals” as only those animals eight weeks of age or older; which means these little orphans have no legal standing in the State of California. They don’t even have to be counted in the City’s no-kill goal. Nonetheless, they are because we understand that our moral progress depends on our providing adequate care and nurture to these living souls with whom we have no legal or blood ties.
The problem is that we can’t save them all by ourselves. We need your help. During kitten season LA Animal Services can take in over 80 neonate orphans a day, over 2500 in some months. Depending on their age they may require four to 8 weeks of intense foster care. Though dozens of our dedicated employees volunteer to foster neonate litters above and beyond their daily duties, the majority will not survive without the additional help of members of the public willing to step up to the challenge. They will not survive without your help. If you are able and willing to help save these lives, LA Animal Services will provide the training, support and supplies you need to be a successful foster parent.
This is a big commitment and a true test of our compassion. Even with our best efforts not all foster babies survive. But they can all be loved. These babies need to be bottle fed every two hours around the clock for several weeks; making this the perfect family, club, or faith based organizational project. Fostering helpless neonates is an ideal way to foster compassion and respect for the true value and sanctity of all life in our community.
Have you saved a life today? Make a commitment to volunteer as a Baby Bottle Foster Parent. Our kittens are hoping you do!
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.
LA Animal Services is striving to make further advancement toward our No-Kill Goal, a goal we define as our being able to use the same criteria a compassionate veterinarian or a loving pet guardian uses when determining if/when an animal is to be euthanized. In other words, no animal would be euthanized or killed because of a lack of space, time or resources and only irremediably suffering and dangerously aggressive animals would be euthanized.
Over the past several years, the City of Los Angeles has demonstrated one of the nation’s steepest declines in dog and cat euthanasia. The dog and cat kill rate fell over 17% in 2002, over 10% in 2003, over 17% again in 2004, over 11% in 2005, over 6% in 2006, and an unprecedented 22% in 2007.
According to the industry standard for calculating a community’s euthanasia rate, in the year 2007 the City of Los Angeles euthanized 4.3 dogs or cats for every 1,000 human residents. This is one of the lowest euthanasia rates of any community in the United States with the exception of San Francisco, New York City, and a couple of smaller communities.
In the drive to achieve No-Kill there are two commonly recognized hurdles to clear. A community’s progress towards No-Kill will usually stall at the first hurdle which is typically found when its pet euthanasia rate is reduced to between 12 and 10 shelter killings per 1,000 human residents annually (12.5 is the current national average).
Once a community achieves this rate, further significant reductions are stalled until the community decides to implement aggressive spay/neuter programs to achieve further euthanasia reduction goals. With effective, targeted spay/neuter programs progress to the second hurdle can be steady. This has been the case in the City of Los Angeles.
The first hurdle becomes apparent after a community has successfully persuaded all the people who are likely to fix their pets to do so. The challenge then is to persuade the more difficult populations, which include the poor, the elderly on fixed income, individuals with negative attitudes about spay/neuter, people who speak languages other than English, and those who live in relatively remote areas.
To break through the first barrier, the City passed a differential licensing ordinance to provide an incentive and LA Animal Services developed free and low-cost spay/neuter programs for our community’s needy pet guardians, and free spay/neuter for the pets of our low income senior citizens and disabled residents, as well as cat specific spay/neuter programs. These programs account for well over 40,000 spay/neuter surgeries annually. We have two spay/neuter clinics in operation today and five new clinics coming on line in the coming months. In addition, the City of Los Angeles recently enacted a spay/neuter ordinance that requires all dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered unless they qualify for an exception.
Animal People magazine conducted a survey in 1994 that found transportation problems represent 40% of the total reasons why pets are not fixed, equal to monetary considerations. This data suggests that providing spay/neuter transportation or mobile spay/neuter clinics can play an important role in a community’s breaking through the 10 shelter killings per 1,000 humans barrier. LA Animal Services used this data to provide over 12,000 mobile spay/neuter surgeries annually throughout the City’s underserved areas by partnering with the Amanda and Sam Simon Foundations, along with the Coalition for Pets and Public Safety and others since the program’s inception several years ago.
The second hurdle in the drive to achieve No-Kill has been characterized as “the wall”. Few communities have been able to break through “the wall”. A community hits “the wall” when it reduces its pet euthanasia rate to between 5 and 2.5 shelter killings per 1,000 human residents annually (LA City further reduced its euthanasia rate to 4.0 as of December 31, 2007).
Hitting “the wall” tells a community it has come to the point where most of the animals dying in its shelters are irremediably suffering due to sickness or injury, demonstrate dangerously aggressive behavior, or are feral or neonate cats, or pit bulls.
Hitting “the wall” signifies the success of an earlier generation of effectively targeted programs. To break through “the wall” requires a new generation of programs to address the needs of special populations not met by earlier programs. The paradigm remains the same: comprehensive data collection, assessment, and implementation of programs targeted to meet the special needs of residual populations. Finding more creative and effective ways to reach out to the public and market the adoption of hard-to-place pets becomes an even greater priority, and keeping the spay/neuter programs humming along remains paramount.
Breaking through “the wall” requires taking the information-based targeting approach to the next level. As a result, LA Animal Services is focusing its efforts on saving at-risk animal populations on a community by community basis. To do this more effectively, LA Animal Services is expanding its monthly reports to show the adoption, New Hope, redemption, died, and euthanized rates in each of its Animal Care Centers. It is our hope that anyone interested in helping LA achieve its No-Kill Goal will have sufficient data to help us identify the problem areas and assist in developing meaningful programs.
LA Animal Services is committed to continuing the positive trends of recent years and doing even better in 2008 and beyond, and we recognize we need everyone’s help to do that. More information on how more individuals, groups, and communities can be involved in finding solutions will be coming soon.
The LA Times trumpeted the news in today’s edition, “The Los Angeles City Council voted 10 to 1 today to approve mandatory sterilization of most pets at the age of 4 months or older – a decision greeted by cheers and applause from the crowded room at the Van Nuys City Hall – where the council meets the first Friday of every month.”
Los Angles is the largest city in the United States with such an ordinance.
On behalf of LA Animal Services, and the tens of thousands of lost and homeless animals we care for every year, I want to thank everyone who was able to attend Friday’s City Council meeting and anyone who played any role in helping to get the long awaited Spay/Neuter Ordinance passed.
This is a victory for the entire community, whether they were there or not, and whether they know it or not. Soon we’ll have an important tool with which we can make significant progress toward the goal we all aspire, ending euthanasia as a method of pet overpopulation control.
This is a monumental accomplishment and, on behalf of the Department, I congratulate and thank you all.
This past April, the Los Angeles City Council joined the Mayor in voting unanimously to support Assembly Bill 1634 – The California Healthy Pet Bill, – a bill designed to abate the incalculable suffering of unwanted lost and homeless dogs and cats in the State of California.
Yesterday, LA City’s Public Safety committee voted unanimously to support a spay/neuter ordinance designed to address the specific needs of the City of Los Angeles.
Many of us face the harsh realities of pet overpopulation every day as we take in, care for, and ultimately kill too many of the animals in our charge. If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then this ordinance gives us a tool to end the insanity and do something significantly different.
This Friday, February 1st, the entire LA City Council will vote on whether this ordinance should become law. If it is enacted, this ordinance will help end the cycle of frustration we all face and feel every day. This ordinance will allow us to eventually reallocate precious resources toward increasing adoption, educating the public on humane issues, and fight animal cruelty.
Several years ago, the City of Los Angeles became a national leader by committing itself to ending euthanasia as a methodology for controlling pet overpopulation. This commitment was demonstrated by an allocation of $160 million to build seven new animal care centers to manage the crushing number of lost and homeless animals rescued by LA Animal Services every year, over 50,000 animals.
This commitment was further demonstrated over the past six years by the City Council who, in concert with the Mayor, provided the support the department needed to staff the new facilities, increase our spay/neuter programs and move this city to the forefront of the nation’s drive to become truly animal-friendly.
This unflinching commitment to the health, safety and welfare of our community’s pets has taught us an important lesson: that addressing the pet overpopulation problem from the back end is expensive. Building bigger and better shelters is similar to trying to mop up a flooded basement without first fixing the broken pipe. Until we turn off the faucet that is pouring thousands of unwanted dogs and cats into our City shelters we will never gain control over the homeless animal explosion.
This new ordinance is a tool that can propel us toward a day when we can finally end the killing of animals because we lack the room in our shelters for the seemingly endless flow of 150 newcomers on average per day.
On behalf of the nearly 50,000 animals Animal Services rescues every year, and the over 400 employees, and the hundreds of volunteers and partners we have throughout Los Angeles who feel the brunt of pet overpopulation every day, I ask you to ask your City Council representative to support this important ordinance on Friday.
If you would like to voice your support in person, you are invited to attend the City Council Meeting scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Friday, February 1st, at the Valley Municipal Building (Van Nuys City Hall) 14410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys
If you can’t make it, please contact Councilmember Alarcon’s office via this e-mail: Councilmember.Alarcon@lacity.org or by phone (213.473.7007) or fax (213.847.0707) to express your support of the ordinance and to thank him for his leadership on this important issue.
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.
This is the second in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of the No-Kill Equation. The No-Kill 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 second recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter.
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 will appear in this font.
The analysis of LA Animal Services’ efforts will follow in italics.
II. High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
Spay/neuter is the cornerstone of a successful lifesaving effort. Low cost, high volume spay/neuter will quickly lead to fewer animals entering the shelter system, allowing more resources to be allocated toward saving lives. In the 1970s, the City of Los Angeles was the first to provide municipally funded spaying and neutering for low-income pet owners in the United States. A city study found that for every dollar it was investing in the program, Los Angeles taxpayers were saving $10 in animal control costs due to reductions in animal intakes and fewer field calls. Indeed, Los Angeles shelters were taking in half the number of animals after just the first decade of the program and killing rates in the city dropped to the lowest third per capita in the United States. This result is consistent with results in San Francisco and elsewhere.
Research shows that investment in programs balancing animal “care” and “control” can provide not only immediate public health and public relations benefits but also long-term financial savings to a jurisdiction. According to the International City/County Management Association, “An effective animal control program not only saves cities and counties on present costs—by protecting citizens from dangerous dogs, for example—but also helps reduce the costs of animal control in the future. A city that impounds and euthanizes 4,000 animals in 2001… but does not promote spaying and neutering will probably still euthanize at least 4,000 animals a year in 2010. A city that… [institutes a subsidized spay/neuter program] will likely euthanize significantly fewer animals in 2010 and save on a host of other animal-related costs as well.
Ed’s Analysis: It is fitting and appropriate that the No-Kill Equation cites the City of Los Angeles as a national model and leader for spay/neuter initiatives. After a number of years of reduced spay and neuter activities, the Board of Animal Services Commissioners in 1998 initiated a differential cost dog license ordinance to incentivize dog guardians to spay/neuter their pets. The City Council and Mayor adopted the ordinance into law in 1999 and LA Animal Services immediately committed to substantially expanding its subsidy of spay/neuter via discount vouchers and mobile clinics. Since then, those activities have grown impressively. During the same time period, impounds have declined more than 25% and euthanasia by more than 60%, contrary to recent false assertions that L.A.’s differential licensing law has failed.
Today, via the Department’s “Big Fix” program, approximately 45,000 subsidized spay/neuter surgeries are accomplished annually, including over 12,000 performed in fully-equipped and professionally-staffed mobile clinics operated by the nonprofit Amanda Foundation and the Sam Simon Foundation, primarily in underserved neighborhoods. The City of Los Angeles commits $1.2 million annually to the department’s spay/neuter programs. Additionally, long-dormant spay/neuter clinics in two of the City’s shelters re-opened in 2007 and five more high volume City spay/neuter clinics are scheduled to open by summer 2008. LA Animal Services has been responsible for approximately half a million total surgeries so far this decade and over 85,000 surgeries since January 2006 alone. This number does not include surgeries performed independently by private veterinarians for pet guardians in the City.
During 2006-2007, the Department spearheaded the development of statewide legislation mandating the expansion of spay/neuter (AB 1634) and is also helping with the development of similar legislation specifically for the City of Los Angeles. LA Animal Services advocates spay/neuter as the most effective tool available to reduce the flow of homeless animals into public shelters over time and enjoys the full support of all the City’s elected officials in that belief.
While not fully embraced by all, the decision to combine all the City’s disparate spay/neuter efforts into one identifiable program called “The Big Fix” in 2006 appears to have helped. Since the launch of “The Big Fix” the City’s annual spay/neuter rate, which had experienced only modest increases in previous years, rose over 60%.
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.