It is commonly understood that any serious initiative to end shelter killing has to focus on ending the “supply side” of the surplus animal equation. The only way to do that is to preemptively spay/neuter those animals most likely to “supply” (give birth to) animals most likely to die in animal shelters.We
The three categories of animals dying in the largest numbers in most shelters throughout the United States are feral cats, pit bulls/pit bull mixes, and Chihuahuas.
February is National Spay/Neuter Awareness month. Awareness can sometimes be uncomfortable. For instance, are you aware that 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed in American animal shelters every year? Are you aware that many of these deaths are unnecessary? Are you aware that few societal problems are easier to solve than pet overpopulation?
It’s true. While most of us say we understand the importance of spay/neuter programs, too many of us still find excuses to not spay/neuter our own pets. This inaction often directly contributes to the 2.7 million deaths in American animal shelters every year.
Let me try to illustrate the scope of the problem. Imagine 7,776 beans in a jar. This is the number of offspring a single un-spayed dog can produce in five-years.
That’s right, one un-spayed dog and her offspring can produce over 7,776 puppies in just five years (calculating six female puppies per litter bred every 12 months).
This awareness helps us understand how easily pet overpopulation can get out of hand. The reason more than 2.7 million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters each year is due to our reluctance to have our own pets spayed or neutered.
The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) urges pet guardians to do the right thing – get your dog or cat fixed. To help encourage you to make this life-saving decision, let me help you overcome some of the reasons used for not making the life-affirming decision that directly helps solve the pet overpopulation problem in our community.
Are you aware of the many benefits a spayed or neutered pet enjoys? Spay/Neuter neutralizes the many bothersome behaviors of pets in heat, such as howling, spraying, fighting, and the urge to roam and the risk of getting lost.
Are you aware that spay/neuter surgery helps keep your pet healthier? A spayed or neutered pet is protected from certain cancers. Are you aware that, according to a USA Today report, a neutered dog lives 18 percent longer than an un-neutered dog? And a spayed dog lives 23 percent longer than an un-spayed dog. This reason alone makes spay/neuter a no-brainer.
Were you aware that having your pet spayed or neutered could result in so much good?
Another reason a pet guardian might choose to not have their pets spayed or neutered is the cost. But are you aware of the very low cost of spay/neuter at the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic?
And when you schedule an appointment in National Spay/Neuter Awareness month you will receive an additional 20 percent off our already low cost to have your pet spayed or neutered.
Call the YHS Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic today to schedule an appointment in February. Low-cost spay/neuter surgery is offered by appointment Tuesdays through Thursdays all year round. When you call, ask if you might qualify for a free spay/neuter surgery through the YHS Big Fix program.
February is our one chance each year to “beat the heat” and reduce the number of pets able to multiply the number of shelter pet deaths throughout the rest of the year.
There are few societal problems easier to fix than this one. All you have to do is pick up the phone to schedule your pet’s appointment, thereby helping to save lives and solve this problem. Beat the heat; call before the puppy and kitten season. Schedule an appointment in February and you not only save lives, you save 20 percent off our already low prices!
The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic in Prescott, will celebrate its fourth anniversary on Sept. 17 – and this facility has given our entire community tremendous cause to celebrate.
During the decades before opening this clinic, our community rounded up nearly 6,000 lost and homeless animals annually – and then struggled to “re-home” them. We were often forced to euthanize nearly half just to make space for the constant flow of incoming animals.
In less than three years, the number of lost and homeless animals rescued annually in our community declined 45 percent (from 5,887 to 3,254), and the number of animals euthanized each year plummeted 92 percent, from 1,602 to 133.
The importance of the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic may be better understood by drawing on the following analogy. Imagine a large broken water pipe flooding your basement. It would be silly to run down into the basement to start mopping up the mess without first turning off the water. However, that was precisely what our community did for decades prior to September 2009.
From the day the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic opened its doors, it has been turning the water off and helping establish our community among the safest in the nation for pets.
The quality care provided by the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic is second to none and was nationally recognized with the prestigious Humane Alliance Certification in February.
In celebration of its fourth anniversary, the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic is making a commitment through its Big Fix program to deny no pet spay/neuter services just because the pet’s guardian can’t afford it.
The YHS Big Fix program provides free and low-cost spay/neuter services to pets belonging to owners who meet certain income criteria. In addition, pets belonging to active-duty military and all military veterans pre-qualify for free spay/neuter services.
This is an enormous commitment, and YHS will need your help to keep it. The good news is we are not alone. Petsmart Charities recently committed to help YHS by granting YHS enough funds to offset the cost of 1,200 spay/neuter surgeries. The grant is restricted to dogs residing in Prescott Valley, Dewey/Humboldt and Mayer, and dog owners must meet certain income eligibility criteria. Call the YHS Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic to see if you qualify.
If this program proves successful, Petsmart Charities may include cats in future grants.
What about all the pets residing in the many other regions of our community, including the City of Prescott? To meet this need, YHS is partnering with another foundation that wishes to remain anonymous. This foundation is challenging our community to match a $15,000 gift to the YHS Big Fix spay/neuter program.
This challenge gift means your tax-deductible donation will be twice as effective in helping YHS turn the supply of unwanted pets off once and for all. If we can meet this challenge, YHS will have $30,000 to help our community’s most at-risk pets’ access this life-saving service.
YHS envisions the day when every pet born has a good home and is well cared for all its life.
When you make a donation of any size to the YHS Big Fix program during this challenge, you can double your impact in making this future vision our reality today.
This Thanksgiving the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) is thankful to all our volunteers, supporters and partners. Every one of you plays a crucial role in solving our community’s pet overpopulation problems.
With a live release rate of 95 percent some might be fooled into thinking these problems are already solved. But they are not; and that is why I am also grateful to our New Hope partners.
The New Hope program is how YHS cooperates with and supports the efforts of partner animal rescue organizations in our shared vision to find homes for our community’s homeless pets.
YHS rescues around 3,500 homeless animals each year. When YHS is unable to find a loving home for one of our animals we call upon our New Hope partners for an assist. YHS partners with 58 New Hope organizations throughout the southwest in our effort to find every animal a loving home.
In the past twelve months ending in October, our New Hope partners saved the lives of 237 animals; that’s 6 percent of all the animals rescued by YHS. The top five New Hope organizations assisting YHS in its life-saving mission are Miss Kitty’s Cat House in Prescott (20), Second Chance Center in Flagstaff (17), Dewey Dog Rescue (16), Arizona Chihuahua Rescue in Phoenix (15), and Ark Cat Sanctuary in Flagstaff (14). YHS appreciates all our partners who help to place our local homeless animals into loving homes.
The New Hope program recently expanded exponentially thanks to Todd Underwood, a commercial pilot, who generously volunteers to airlift YHS animals to out of state partner shelters and sanctuaries.
Pet overpopulation is an expensive societal problem requiring a coordinated community response; and our local response is a tribute to our community.
Another solution to pet overpopulation is adoption. When you adopt from YHS you directly save the life of a local homeless pet who is altered and will never contribute to this problem. Sadly, some local rescues prefer to import and adopt animals from other communities. YHS feels strongly that we owe it to our community’s homeless pets to fix the problem here before compounding it by bringing animals in from outside communities.
Of course, the easiest and most cost efficient fix is for every pet owner to have their pet(s) spayed or neutered. When pet owners demonstrate this level of responsibility we’ll be able to solve the pet overpopulation problem within two to three years. That’s why I will ask the City of Prescott, Prescott Valley and Yavapai County to allocate funds to the YHS Big Fix program next year. Big Fix provides spay/neuter to pets belonging to our community’s indigent population for just a $25 co-pay. Studies have found that for every tax dollar invested in spay/neuter programs $20 is saved in animal control costs over ten years.
Low-cost spay/neuter is especially important for our community (feral) cats. This year YHS rescued kittens every month instead of just in the typical spring “kitten season.” This suggests our community is experiencing a serious cat population explosion.
To make sure affordable spay/neuter services are available to every pet in our community, YHS operates the low cost Spay/Neuter and Wellness Clinic. You can schedule an appointment for your pet today and help end the killing of unwanted pets.
In closing, a special thank you to every pet owner who spayed or neutered their pet(s); every person and family who adopted a pet from YHS; and every New Hope partner who re-homed a YHS pet. Each of you is directly helping transform our community into a truly humane society.
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.
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.
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%.