Although the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) has been providing animal shelter services to our community for 43 years, it was only five and a half years ago that YHS embraced what we have come to call our “no-kill ethic.” We define this ethic as applying the same criteria to determining a homeless pets’ fate that a pet owner or conscientious veterinarian would apply to a beloved family pet. That is, healthy and treatable animals are not euthanized (killed) simply because of a lack of resources.
Once this life-affirming ethic was implemented, the practical consequences immediately began to fall into place. Embracing and practicing the no-kill ethic has resulted in our community becoming the region in the United States for dogs and cats – for five consecutive years. Euthanasia/killing has been effectively eliminated as a tool to control pet overpopulation in our community and overcrowding in our shelter. Killing has been replaced by a robust low-cost spay/neuter and pet identification (microchip) programs. Spay/neuter programs reduce the number of unwanted pets and pet identification programs allow for the quick return of lost pets to their frantic owners.
A perfect example of an animal benefiting from the YHS no-kill ethic is Ziggy – a 2-year-old intact male Tibetan spaniel mix. Ziggy was found by animal control on Dec. 1. He was abandoned by his owners with an apparent broken leg.
Upon arrival, the YHS medical team found Ziggy had suffered severe trauma. X-rays revealed two broken legs: his right front leg had fractures of the radius and ulna and his left front leg had metacarpal fractures. We splinted both front legs and started him on pain medications. YHS veterinarian consulted with a private practice veterinary orthopedic surgeon.
The decision was made to transport Ziggy to a local veterinary hospital in Phoenix where Ziggy was examined and immediately scheduled for surgery. His multiple fractures were repaired with plates, screws and a tension splint. Ziggy’s recovery is expected to take 6 to 8 weeks and is made possible thanks to YHS’ compassionate foster care giving volunteers. The orthopedic surgeon felt the fractures could be old injuries suggesting criminal cruelty and neglect may have been involved.
Typically, the cost for this surgery would exceed $4,300; however, the private veterinarian graciously agreed to charge YHS only $2,800 for this lifesaving surgery. Ziggy is now a STAR Animal.
STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) is a donation funded program designed to ensure animals in critical need of medical care beyond the scope of the YHS budget are not denied the care they need to survive. These animals are sadly routinely euthanized in many other shelters.
If you would like to help animals like Ziggy please make sure your local shelter has a STAR Program you can make a tax deductible donation. Your donation will help ensure your local shelter has the funds available to help the next rescued animal in need of life saving medical care.
This past Friday, July 10 at the Prescott Resort, the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) was recognized by the Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce at their 2015 Community Excellence Awards ceremony. YHS was honored as “The Organization of the Year.” Among the many YHS accomplishments cited by the Chamber, the impact of our no-kill ethic was particularly singled out.
The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) celebrated its 43rd Anniversary in March, however, it was only five years ago this month that YHS first embraced its no-kill ethic.
The no-kill ethic refers to our commitment to apply the same criteria when deciding an animal’s fate that a caring pet owner or compassionate veterinarian would apply to a beloved pet. That is, healthy and treatable animals are not killed simply because of a lack of resources. Believe it or not, that was happening just five years ago.
Killing animals because of a lack of resources may be the quick, convenient and, at least from afar, the easy thing to do. But I have never, in over 30 years in this field, heard anyone argue it is the right thing to do. After all, the creatures who fill our shelters can hardly be faulted for bringing trouble upon themselves. People who excuse euthanasia in shelters often say we have to be “realistic.” But we contend such realism is best directed at the sources of the problem and at the element of human responsibility.
It is gratifying to be recognized by the Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce for the remarkable transformation the no-kill ethic has had on our community. In fact, YHS’ no-kill ethic is gaining attention in communities coast to coast. Organizations in Los Angeles, Mohave County, New York City and even the country of Israel have asked YHS for help embracing our no-kill ethic.
YHS is fast becoming a world class organization. This growth has required every member of the YHS team to expand their individual capacity, vision and expertise. Working for YHS is no longer just a job; it’s not even just a career – it’s a vocation. I’m proud of every member of our team for getting us to where we are today; but even more exciting is where we’re taking YHS in the years ahead. If you are not a part of this life affirming effort, I invite you to join the YHS volunteer team.
Other reasons cited by the Prescott Valley Chamber for selecting YHS as “The Organization of the Year” include our many lifesaving programs that ensure appropriate care is provided for every lost, homeless, sick and abused animal we rescue until we find them their forever home. YHS successfully “re-homes” 97 percent of the pets who come through our doors (compared to the national shelter average of about 40 percent). The 3 percent who are humanely euthanized are due to irremediable suffering resulting from disease or injury, or aggression that threatens public safety.
The Chamber also called attention to YHS humane response to the significant increase in the number of animals rescued from hoarding situations (over 70 animals in the past 12 months compared to 20-30 animals in previous years); the recent expansion of the YHS New Hope program, which enables YHS to rescue animals from kill lists in shelters across the Southwest – effectively exporting the no-kill ethic; and YHS plans to include homeless equines in its rescue mission as early as 2016.
It is gratifying to be recognized as our community’s “Organization of 2015” for providing a broad and compassionate safety-net for animals in greatest need. This award is deeply appreciated by the Board of Directors, employees and volunteers of YHS.
The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) is celebrating its 42nd anniversary, and we hope to further expand our “no-kill” ethic in 2014. Many still ask what no-kill means, while others ask if it is even possible.
I define “no-kill” as applying the same criteria to deciding a shelter animal’s fate that a devoted pet owner or conscientious veterinarian would apply to a beloved pet. That is, healthy and treatable animals are not killed simply because we lack the resources to care for them.
YHS is not a no-kill shelter; however, since the YHS Board of Directors and management team embraced the “no-kill ethic” in July 2010, we achieved a 93 percent decrease in shelter killing. If no-kill were an Olympic event we would no doubt rejoice in our success. However, while achieving no-kill is similar to an Olympic moment, sustaining no-kill is a marathon – and each day presents many life-and-death challenges to continue to hold the line.
YHS is the largest animal rescue organization in northern Arizona. We are increasingly known for our many life-saving programs, which are responsible for making central and western Yavapai County the safest region for pets in the United States.
So effective are our life-saving programs that often the only animals most at risk of euthanasia or delayed care are those with medical issues we are challenged to diagnose because we lack the necessary blood analysis equipment.
Consequently, YHS must rely on local labs to provide these services at considerable cost. Often YHS just can’t afford these lifesaving services, and when we can it requires YHS staff or volunteers to spend precious time transporting samples to the lab and awaiting results. Many times an animal doesn’t have the time it takes to get those results.
Historically, YHS euthanized suffering animals when we were unable to determine the full extent of an illness. If YHS had a blood analysis machine the likelihood of a rescued sick pet’s survival would increase exponentially.
To ensure every ill animal that YHS rescues has a fighting chance at quality life requires this equipment on-site. This vital equipment will allow YHS to treat these critical needs animals efficiently and humanely – and it will save more lives.
In just the first quarter of 2014, YHS submitted 55 samples to local labs for analysis at an average cost of about $65. The cost for this equipment is about $20,000. If YHS had this equipment on site it would pay for itself 18 months.
This is YHS’s 42nd Anniversary. If 42 individuals could find it in their heart to give $475, YHS could secure this equipment this year. What a 42 Anniversary present for our community’s neediest animals!
If you are able to help in this life-saving effort, please mail your donation to the Yavapai Humane Society’s STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) Program.
If you can’t afford $475, any gift towards this essential need will be greatly appreciated. Any monies above the $20,000 will go to the STAR program which provides critical medical care to sick and injured homeless animals.
Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society.
The Auburn University School of Pharmacy estimates 3 to 8 percent of the American human population have hypothyroidism, and the incidence increases with age. I was surprised by this number because when I conduct a poll among friends and acquaintances the percentage seems much higher. Everybody I asked seems to be on thyroid medication. So I’m hoping Roseanne’s story finds an empathetic audience.
Roseanne is a 7-year-old female Labrador Retriever mix surrendered to YHS by her owner because of Roseanne’s medical condition. This happened on Saturday, June 17. From day one, Roseanne captured the heart of employees and volunteers alike. To say Roseanne has personality is an understatement. In fact, she is borderline mischievous – with a heart of gold.
Roseanne is the most popular dog at YHS. Everybody who meets her wants to adopt her on the spot. That is, until they learn she has hypothyroidism.
The YHS medical team diagnosed Roseanne’s hypothyroidism after noticing a slight head tilt that gradually became worse. Hypothyroidism is a common disease in dogs and occurs when the thyroid gland produces insufficient hormones to regulate the metabolism. This causes a variety of symptoms including weight gain or obesity, hair loss and skin problems. Most hypothyroid dogs respond readily to treatment.
Roseanne has been on treatment (a pill in his food morning and night) for several weeks and her desire to play and be more active is palpable; and her coat has improved too. Many dogs suffer from a low thyroid hormone level for years without treatment. If your dog has recurrent skin problems, or unexplained weight gain, she may be suffering from hypothyroidism and you should talk with your veterinarian.
Although the onset of clinical signs is variable, hypothyroidism most commonly develops in middle-aged dogs between the ages of 4-to-10 years. The disorder usually affects mid- to large-size breeds, and is rare in toy and miniature breeds. Breeds that appear predisposed to the condition include the Golden Retriever, Doberman Pinscher, Irish Setter, Miniature Schnauzer, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel and Airedale Terrier. German Shepherds and mixed breeds appear to be at a reduced risk for contracting the disease.
Hypothyroidism in dogs is easy to treat. Treatment consists of placing the dog on a daily dose of a synthetic thyroid hormone called thyroxine (levothyroxine). The dose and frequency of administration of this drug varies depending on the severity of the disease and the individual response of the dog to the drug. A dog is usually placed on a standard dose for her weight and blood samples are drawn periodically to check her response and then the dose is adjusted accordingly. Once therapy is started, the dog will need to be on treatment for the rest of her life. Usually after the treatment is started, the majority of the symptoms resolve.
Roseanne’s improvement is obvious; she lost 17 pounds, weighing in now at a svelte 79 pounds. Her head tilt has also vanished. She is ready to be adopted into an understanding home. If you are interested in adopting Roseanne, come by YHS at 1625 Sundog Ranch Road in Prescott, off the Prescott Parkway for a get acquainted meeting. Roseanne is a senior dog so adoption fees are waived for citizens 59 years of age; $40 for all others.
If you would like to make sure dogs like Roseanne get the medical care and treatment they need, please make a donation to the Special Treatment And Recovery (STAR) program at your local shelter.
The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. I launched the year with a column explaining how wonderful it would be if YHS could celebrate this milestone year with a new X-ray machine.
Thanks to the generosity of several individuals and a significant gift from a foundation wishing to remain anonymous, YHS was able to purchase this life-saving equipment. I want to publicly thank all those who made this miracle a reality!
An X-ray machine significantly enhances YHS’s ability to diagnose and treat critical-needs animals more efficiently and humanely – resulting in more lives saved. The X-ray machine helps ensure every critically injured or severely ill animal YHS rescues has a fighting chance at a quality life.
Now that YHS has this wonderful tool, I am making a special plea for donations to our Special Treatment and Recovery (STAR) fund. Donations to the STAR program provide funds to care for the medical needs of animals that might be euthanized otherwise. The STAR fund is where we go when we need special medicines, X-rays, medical tests and reconstructive surgeries that our budget just can’t support.
Through the STAR program the entire community can participate in making sure injured and sick animals receive the care they need. Please consider making a contribution to this special program.
Speaking of our 40th anniversary celebration, be sure to save the date for this year’s Reigning Cats & Dogs Dinner and Auction Gala on Saturday evening, Sept. 8, at the Prescott Resort.
A special feature this year is the 40th anniversary essay contest called “40 Years of Saving Lives, 40 Years of Memories.”
You are invited to share your personal heart-warming animal story in the form of an essay (500 words or less), poem, song, video or photograph. Humorous or heart-tugging entries with a direct association with YHS are welcomed. Entries are limited to three. Entries will be submitted to the judges anonymously, making the contest open to all, including volunteers and former and current employees. There are no age limitations.
The grand prize is two tickets to the Reigning Cats & Dogs Gala where the winning entry will be recognized ($200 value).
The first runner-up will win a certificate for a free spay or neuter surgery for a family pet or a friend’s pet at the YHS Spay/Neuter and Wellness Clinic (up to $100 value). The second runner-up will win a $25 gift certificate to the YHS Thrift Shop. All winners and honorable mentions will be featured on the YHS website.
Entry deadline is Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012; winner notification is Friday, Aug. 17, 2012. Be sure to include your name, address, phone number and email address. By submitting your entry, you permit YHS to reproduce it on the YHS website and other media.
Local shelters and rescue organizations exist to help save the lives of lost and homeless pets who have no one else to turn to.
Sally is such a case. Sally is a 3-year-old female sharpei-chow mix, although she behaves more like a giant teddy bear. It is difficult to understand how someone could lose such a sweet animal. Animal Control first spotted Sally running the streets in late April. Tried as they might, she proved elusive despite what appeared to be a broken leg.
Fortunately, persistence paid off, and Sally was finally rescued on May 3 and brought to YHS. Unfortunately, she did indeed have a broken left hind leg. Both her tibia and fibula were broken in two. She was also badly flea-infested. The flea infestation was easily remedied. Not so easy to remedy was her broken leg.
To save her leg, Sally required a surgical repair that included placement of a bone plate to realign the bone fragments, immobilize the fracture and allow healing. She also had entropion – a chronic eye condition resulting from her eyelids rolling inward. This condition can result in ulcers and even blindness if left untreated. Corrective surgery to her eyelids was also necessary.
These medical needs qualified Sally for our STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) program. STAR provides medical care to abused, neglected, injured and sick animals rescued by the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS). Lost, homeless and abandoned pets with poor medical conditions tend to be dismissed as adoption candidates by many shelters even though these animals could be treated if only the funds were available.
Thanks to our STAR Program, funded by donations from generous supporters, YHS is able to provide animals like Sally the time and treatment they need to recover. This is done with the help and support of local veterinarians and foster care families able to provide safe haven to an animal for the recovery period.
Sally was particularly fortunate in that she had two veterinary “champions” volunteering to help with her surgery. YHS is thankful for and dependent on our veterinary partners. Without their support, animals like Sally would have no chance at survival. Our local veterinarians are truly every day heroes!
Sally’s surgery was successful saving her life. She is now in foster care until her recovery is complete, at which time she will be available for adoption.
A local veterinarian’s compassion made Sally’s surgery possible. But it would not have been possible without your donations to our STAR program. If you want to help animals in distress, animals like Sally, please make sure your local shelter has a life-saving STAR Program you can help support. Without a coordinated commpassionate community veterinarian partners and shelter volunteers, these animals would truly be hopeless. By working together your community can be among the safest communities in the nation for pets – owned, lost, and homeless.
Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society.
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 seventh posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of a so-called “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 seventh recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation.
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.
The analysis is in this italic font.
VII. Medical and Behavior Rehabilitation A shelter begins helping treatable animals by closely analyzing statistics. How many animals entering a shelter are treatable? What types of injuries and illnesses are most common? The answers to these questions will determine what types of rehabilitation programs are needed and how to effectively allocate resources. For example, one community may have many underage kittens in its shelters. Another may have substantial numbers of cats with upper respiratory infections, or dogs with kennel cough. Yet another may find that a large portion of treatables are dogs with behavior problems. Each will need a different lifesaving program.
These can include creating a fund dedicated solely to medical and behavioral rehabilitation. Such a fund lets the public direct their donations and allows a shelter to demonstrate what they are doing to help treatables. In addition, the shelter can establish relationships to have local veterinarians come to the shelter to do rotations. These veterinarians can supplement the work of a staff veterinarian and veterinary technicians and help diagnose animals, give vaccinations, and administer medication and treatment.
A relationship with a veterinary college can allow veterinary students to volunteer at the shelter on a regular basis, providing the students with real life on-the-job training, while shelter animals receive high-quality care under the direction of the veterinary college faculty. Finally, it is impossible to overstate the importance of a foster program for underaged kittens and puppies, under-socialized animals, and those recovering from medical treatment.
Ed’s Analysis: LA Animal Services has long provided in-house and contract medical services to the animals in its care. Its new facilities feature modern, fully-equipped medical clinics and medical wards and the Department is reinvigorating its in-house veterinary team with compassionate, highly-qualified veterinary professionals. These efforts will substantially expand its ability to provide a full range of medical services, including emergency care, surgeries and disease control programs.
By the end of fiscal year 2008, there will be seven such clinics in the system, staffed by a total of at least seven veterinarians and over two dozen veterinary technicians (most of whom are fully-accredited veterinarians in other countries seeking the same status here while they work for the Department). Additionally, the Department routinely contracts with dozens of outside veterinarians to provide both preventive and remedial care for thousands of animals a year.
The Department has established a relationship with Los Angeles Pierce College to provide internship opportunities for pre-veterinary students and is negotiating with Western University veterinary school to create a formal internship program that will augment care in the shelters and introduce future veterinarians to the practice of shelter medicine.
Since 1987, the Department has maintained the Animal Welfare Trust Fund to be used to underwrite medical expenses for animals requiring special treatment. The Department has established a network of professional behavioral trainers to work on a voluntary basis with dogs who are nervous or scared and can mistakenly appear aggressive when entering unfamiliar shelters, to ease their stay and enhance their adoptability. Scheduled sessions are held at various animal care centers along with individualized training programs for specific animals on an ad hoc basis.
LA Animal Services is a data-driven department. Data creates the link between assessment, planning, and results. Data-driven animal care and control agencies design targeted programs based on their shelter intake data. For example, in LA, data is used to develop and implement a multi-pronged sterilization program to ensure adopted shelter animals are sterilized prior to release, free or low-cost spay/neutering services are available for the pets of our needy, senior and disabled populations, and that cat specific sterilization programs are accessible.
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 1000 human residents annually (12.5 is the current national average). Once a community achieves this rate, further significant reductions are stalled and require the implementation of aggressive spay/neuter programs to achieve further euthanasia reduction goals. With effective, targeted spay/neuter programs, progress to the second hurdle can be fairly quick.
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 this first barrier, 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 over 45,000 spay/neuter surgeries annually.
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 is an often overlooked strategy to a community’s breaking through the 10 shelter killings per 1,000 humans barrier. LA Animal Services has 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.
The second hurdle in the drive to achieve No-Kill has been characterized by Peter Marsh, (founder of Solutions to Overpopulation of Pets – STOP), 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 five and 2.5 shelter killings per 1000 human residents annually (LA City is at 4.3 as of June 07). Hitting “the wall” tells a community that 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 reveals 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. Breaking through the wall requires taking the information-based targeting approach to the next level.
As a result, the Department is focusing its efforts on saving these at-risk animal populations. The feral cat/neonate kitten side of the equation is fairly straight forward and can often be handled through volunteer programs. However, to be successful, it does require a significant amount of volunteer time and dedication coupled with meaningful animal care and control support. LA Animal Services is fortunate to have such an army of life saving volunteers and employees staffing robust neonate/foster care programs, as explained in Part IV of this series. We are also working hard to make Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) a mainstream methodology for controlling feral cat populations in LA, as explained in Part I of this series.
The pit bull side of the equation is more difficult. According to Animal People magazine, San Francisco is currently the only major city in the US experiencing a decline in pit bulls. San Francisco credits local pit bull-targeted spay/neuter legislation for this decline, which may largely be the case. However, other factors may also contribute to this decline. For instance, it is much more difficult for dogfighters and backyard breeders to go underground in San Francisco compared to most other cities. It has been said that a dog can’t bark in San Francisco without 100 neighbors complaining, while a hundred dogs can bark in parts of Los Angeles and not be heard above the noise of the freeways.
LA Animal Services’ volunteer trainers provide much in the way of good citizenship dog training for pit bulls and other breeds. LA Animal Services adopts out more pit bulls than any other dog breed. In addition to our neonate, feral cat, and pit bull strategies, LA Animal Services is also aggressively working to save as many treatable animals as possible.
The “Animal Welfare Trust Fund” supports the Department’s STAR(Special Treatment And Recovery) Program. Many animals come into our care centers healthy and eager to be reunited with their families, or to find new families. Sadly, we also receive many sweet and loving animals that have been injured, abused, neglected, or have an illness that requires extensive treatment. When an animal is not irremediably suffering and will respond to treatment, we undertake all measures we can to make that animal healthy again. The STAR program showcases some of these STAR animals in need on our website. Treatments may take weeks or months, require special medicines, or involve one or more complicated surgeries — all at an expense that exceeds the Department’s usual budget allotment. The public can help these animals with donations to our LA Animal Services’ STAR Program, which is used exclusively to pay for special veterinary services on animals with surgery or special treatment needs.
Thanks to our STAR program and a newly assembled, highly competent and compassionate medical team, LA Animal Services for the first time ever has the capacity to treat many animals that historically would have been euthanized or outsourced to private veterinarians. Today our staff veterinarians remove tumors, treat pyometra, repair hernias, perform dentistry, treat animals with intravenous fluids, non-narcotic, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and narcotic pain-relieving drugs, and through the use of our state of the art digital X-ray machines, they are able to successfully mend fractures, and so much more.
As is the case in any hospital, attempts at life saving treatments are not always successful and these efforts have predictably resulted in a higher mortality rate than occurred when we did little to nothing to help these animals before euthanizing them. But to focus on the Department’s mortality rate alone is to miss the larger point that not only is our euthanasia rate at an all time low, the overall death rate is also moving downward.
Fewer animals are dying in Los Angeles today than at any other time since statistics were first kept. Thanks to the outpouring of public support for LA Animals Services that resulted in the City’s $160 million investment in new animal care centers equipped with modern clinics and isolation and holding wards, animals in need can now receive care for longer durations as they recover and await adoption or as explained in Part IV of this series, they may be placed in our Foster Program until they recover.
LA Animal Services has veterinarians familiar with clinical behavioral medicine who strive to help find solutions to behaviorally-challenged pets before and after entry into the animal care centers.
LA Animal Services understands that to break through “the wall” will require remedial programs as well as preventive ones, such as training programs for dogs with behavioral issues, foster care for neonatal kittens, veterinary care for injured or sick animals, etc. While preventive programs can get you to “the wall”, they alone can’t get you through it. Its going to take all of us working together to break through the wall and make LA the first major metropolitan No-Kill city in the United States.
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.