Note: The comments which Mayor Garcia supported the deletion of can be found by scrolling down.
One of the most important duties of an elected official is to uphold the freedoms of our country. Included among these duties is the commitment to uphold the rights of citizens to engage in free speech.
In a recent social media exchange, Mayor Garcia endorsed defamatory statements made about me and gave his personal stamp of approval to the suppression of free speech. The Mayor’s impropriety in this situation has prompted the following letter, which has been sent to Mayor Garcia.
OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR GARCIA
April 15, 2017
Dear Mayor Garcia,
In a recent social media exchange, a local rescuer made defamatory comments about me pursuant to my providing factual data about Long Beach Animal Care Services’ first-quarter performance. I was then blocked from correcting her untrue allegations. You subsequently commented positively on the action, effectively endorsing the untrue statements and supporting actions to silence those who pursue transparency and accountability in Long Beach government.
It is beneath you as the Mayor of Long Beach to embrace defamatory statements against citizens.
Your deployment of such undignified tactics to suppress discussion of factual data around the Long Beach animal facility is unbecoming of any elected official, let alone the Mayor of the seventh largest city in California. It is particularly egregious, however, given that you ran on a pro-animal advocacy ticket in the last election.
Your behavior is unethical and falls far short of the standards Long Beach should be able to expect from its Mayor.
Patricia Turner, Ph.D.
Stayin’ Alive Long Beach
Mayor Garcia's actions in endorsing defamatory statements and encouraging the suppression of actual data from Long Beach Animal Care Services show that he is committed to perpetuating the myth that LBACS is "doing great" and thus does not need reform. The result: Our shelter animals continue to be firmly locked up in a system mired in inefficiencies that results in LBACS' relentless continued killing of animals.
It is a troubling thing when an elected official shuts down free speech and disallows public discourse. That is bad for our democracy, and it is, beyond a doubt, bad for our shelter animals.
We encourage all of you to continue to use your voices to speak for shelter animals. Under Mayor Garcia’s administration, now, more than ever, they need us to be their voice.
The comments which Mayor Garcia supported the deletion of can be found below.
First deleted post
Patricia Turner: It's interesting that these statistics never include the number of adoptions that LBACS does because that would allow us to see the number of adoptions that LBACS DOESN'T do. Here are some additional statistics to provide a little context:
**LBACS killed 54 dogs/cats in Jan-March, many of them healthy and treatable. Even ONE healthy/treatable life killed is unacceptable.
**This is especially unacceptable when you see that Sacramento ACS adopted out 695 animals during the same time period (Sac did 1,011 adoptions if you include March).
**In Jan/Feb, LBACS adopted out only 91 animals. That is a pitifully small number when you look at Sacramento's number of 695 (that's more than 7 times the number of animals adopted out).
**LBACS adopted out 45 cats from Jan-Feb 2017.
**Sacramento adopted out 251 cats in the same period.
**If LBACS did 7 adoptions more per day, we'd be saving more than 90% of our animals.
**If LBACS did just 10 more adoption per day, they'd be able to be a receiving shelter for animals from the horrific LA County shelters and save a significant number of animals there until those shelters undergo much-needed reform.
All of this is because LBACS and the City refuse to have a viable adoption program, viable foster program, medical and behavioral rehab programs and instead let overworked rescues do their work for them.
A strong shelter with competent leadership could take some of the burden off the rescues. Instead, the City digs in its heels and distributes stats that only tell half the story.
I encourage folks to be responsible consumers of shelter statistics and inform themselves fully about what's going on at the shelter, rather than blithely accept the spun numbers that LBACS puts out in an attempt to pull the wool over the rescue folks' eyes.
Our shelter animals need US at least, to see the truth.
Second Deleted Post
Patricia Turner: If I'm not yet blocked from this page, I'd like to respond to a few of these comments. Anna Wong, thank you for going to the Sacramento website. It's important to start looking at their stats, and to do so all year (not merely during the first quarter) to see how their stats look even after kitten season, even after the 4th of July.
That said - the first quarter kill rate at LBACS is always low. It gets higher over the year, as you know. Yet the City reports these numbers in exactly this fashion (by the quarter) so that people think that they're at a 90+% save rate for dogs, and 80+% save rate for cats.
But they're not. It just looks that way during the first quarter. Because of seasonal ups and downs in the numbers, you have to consider the entire year, not just the look at it by the quarter. LBACS finished out the year last year with a live release rate of only 74%, compared to Sacramento's 84%. The year before, LBACS was again behind Sacramento by 10 percentage points, with a live release rate of only 68% compared to Sac's 78%. (By the way, the live release rate for dogs, Anna, is only as high as it appears to be because LBACS lumps puppies AND adult dogs together into their live release rate number. 90% of puppies are taken in by SpcaLA. That artificially increases the save rate for dogs. It's actually lower than that for adult dogs when you take the puppies out of the equation.)
Sacramento's higher live release rate is largely due to the fact that they have an extremely strong adoption program. It is obscene to see that LBACS has only done 135 adoptions in the first quarter when Sacramento has done nearly 8 times that in the same time period. Adoptions are an **absolutely essential** element of lifesaving - just as important as low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter. The fact that LBACS is still only doing a mind-boggling 1/8 of the adoptions that Sac has means just one thing and here it is:
Animals at LBACS are being killed for absolutely no valid reason.
And that's not just Long Beach animals. That's animals from all around the area because as I said, if LBACS learned from Sacramento and did 10 more adoptions per day, Long Beach could be a transfer-in shelter and save animals from other high-kill shelters that are not in reform mode.
As for the demographics of Sacramento, Claudia, Sacramento has almost exactly the same population numbers, ethnic make-up and median income as Long Beach. Demographics is really no excuse for the killing in Long Beach. I encourage you to do your own research on the numbers.
Regarding your question about "should we start with impound numbers." The answer to that is a resounding no. Starting with impound numbers is a "neuter and spay is the only way" approach to saving lives. Relying massively on neuter and spay and ignoring other programs means that animals in the shelter today, who need our help, are being killed. Start with designing a roadmap for getting every healthy and treatable animal out of the shelter. Then, use proven programs -- adoption, foster, rehab, volunteer to do it. LBACS is extremely weak in all of these areas. Spay/neuter is ONE way to do it, and your group does a great job - but it can't be the ONLY angle for attacking the problem. You have to work at it from all angles.
As for my qualifications for commenting on the situation in Long Beach, Claudia, and specifically, as to whether I've rescued in Long Beach, "boots on the ground," as some like to say, I lived and paid taxes in Long Beach for 10 years. During that time I worked with a rescue group that rescued hundreds of animals per year, and I personally fostered and rescued a large number of those. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars of my own money on rescuing animals, specifically Long Beach animals. I have literally stopped my car, parked on the side of the road and run through Compton chasing a dog that an LBACS truck was watching and then drove away from. And I rescued that dog, got her spayed and found a home for her. I also hold a professional certification in Animal Shelter Management. Claudia, believe me. I am MORE than qualified to comment on the situation in Long Beach.
But none of that matters. Anyone who knows that a shelter is killing unnecessarily (and even illegally in some cases at LBACS) needs to speak up. It doesn't matter where you live or what you do. We ALL need to be their voices.
Mayor Garcia uses rescue groups who don't speak up as a shield to deflect criticism for not reforming LBACS. As long as rescues don't speak up, don't complain, don't loudly and repeatedly tell him and City Council that the adoptions need to happen and the killing needs to stop, he will continue to allow LBACS to continue killing.
And Long Beach will slowly weave and stumble toward a save rate that could have been achieved years ago. Since Mayor Garcia was elected, more than 4,000 animals have been killed - it's probably more like 5,000 now. The unnecessary killing could stop with just 7 more adoptions a day. With a strong adoption program, a viable foster program and appropriate behavioral enrichment and rehab programs, this could happen. But until folks start speaking up, Garcia will just let the animals die.
The shelter animals need us to know the facts (not just the half of the story Garcia wants us to know) and demand change.
The chances that anyone who is angry at me will read this post are unlikely. I hope that folks who have read this far will consider what I've said with an open mind and truly consider all of the facts.
WE are the animals' only hope.
Someone made a misleading statement on our Facebook page the other day, and I'd like to set the record straight. This page has been known to say that Long Beach could be No Kill in 3 months if the right programs were in place. Don't get us wrong - we don't mean half-heartedly put in place, done in half-measures or done only here and there. (That's the current practice). We mean FULLY put in place, vigorously pursued with a STRONG and KNOWLEDGEABLE leader, using data that is readily available or gatherable to inform staff practices.
We stand by that claim. Here's why:
LBACS killed 1662 animals last year. That means that in order to save all of those animals, LBACS would need to do approximately 7 more adoptions per day each day that the shelter is open than they currently do.
That number may even be slightly lower since some small percentage of the animals at LBACS are truly incurable or unable to be helped medically.
Now - let's look at the population of Long Beach. Approximately 500,000 people live in Long Beach.
In a city the size of Long Beach, it is absolutely, beyond the shadow of a doubt, completely feasible for a City agency with more than $4 million budget at its disposal to do 7 more adoptions per day than they are currently doing.
LBACS doesn't have an animal INTAKE problem; it has an animal ADOPTION problem. LBACS simply does not maximize its ability to do adoptions. It doesn't have a lifesaving culture at the higher levels of management, and the lower levels of staff and volunteers are left scrambling.
Sacramento has a lifesaving culture with a knowledgeable leader who makes lifesaving a priority and pushes hard for it each and every day she wakes up and goes to work.
Austin has a lifesaving culture - same situation as Sacramento, but their lifesaving plan is codified by a city ordinance (Bravo, Austin - that will save animals' lives for decades to come).
Washoe County, NV has a lifesaving culture -
Petaluma, CA has a lifesaving culture -
Pike County, KY has a lifesaving culture -
Jefferson County, OH has a lifesaving culture -
The list goes on and on.
So - don't let it be said that we can't go No Kill in LB and do so immediately.
But we don't. And Ted Stevens has set as his goal for the coming year to "shoot for under a thousand" euthanasias. That is NOT the mindset we need in our city shelter. Life-affirming is what we need. We need to shoot for 1662 lives SAVED, not lives killed.
That's why people need to raise awareness of what's going on at the Long Beach shelter. Even as we wait for the Audit to happen, there is no guarantee that it will result in change (more on this in a later post).
Please write to your city council member and tell them you want a STRONG adoption program that is separate from SpcaLA at the Long Beach shelter.
Contact info for LB City Council is here: https://goo.gl/y7QqpF
They NEED our help.
As a reminder of what needs to change at Long Beach Animal Care Services - today, we’re telling Mopsy’s story.
Mopsy was a 5-year-old brown and white pekingese who arrived at LBACS last October 16 as a stray. LBACS records indicate that on arrival, Mopsy’s fur was matted, she had overgrown toe nails and she had crust on her eyes. She was itching due to a suspected skin allergy, and she had crust on both ears, likely from an ear infection.
Mopsy must have felt awful going into the shelter, feeling sick and rundown in a loud, scary shelter environment. However, all of her issues were treatable, so in a humane shelter with an adoption/foster safety net in place for animals, she should have been saved.
But at LBACS, Mopsy had to wait, feeling uncomfortable and sick, until her second day in the shelter to be examined. When she was finally seen by a vet, her medical notes say that she needed a medicated bath and an ear-cleaning. However, instead of getting that much-needed medical attention, Mopsy sat languishing in a kennel for FOUR FULL DAYS after arriving at LBACS to get that bath and the ear cleaning she needed. She must have felt terrible. On top of it all, her eyes were most likely red and painful. Her medical notes say that she diagnosed her with dry eye – a painful but treatable condition.
Not surprisingly, Mopsy caught a cold on her 10th day at LBACS. This isn’t surprising, since LBACS doesn’t have a strong adoption program or foster program to get animals out of the shelter quickly. Mopsy’s medical notes say she had “honking cough and sneezing.” She was put in isolation and apparently recovered after 5 days. Her medical notes say “prognosis good.”
And then, just 2 days later, on November 3, after enduring 18 DAYS in a noisy, scary shelter environment, fighting a cold and doing her best to hold on and stay alive, Mopsy was killed by LBACS. The reason given for her death on her euth record was “moderate illness.”
Mopsy’s medical issues were minor. There was no reason for her to be killed. But because our shelter does not have a strong adoption and foster program, she suffered at the shelter for 18 days only to be killed in the end.
LBACS needs a strong adoption and foster program and proper medical protocols to prevent the unnecessary and heartless killing of animals like Mopsy.
The Mayor has asked for an audit of LBACS, but as his behavior has shown over the past 2-1/2 years, he is a consummate politician who is willing to use our shelter animals to get elected. He has spread “alternative facts” about the shelter’s progress, and he no doubt he has re-election on his mind, with the mayoral election only 14 months away.
More than 4000 animals have been killed at LBACS since Mayor Garcia was elected.
If he truly cared about our shelter animals, Mayor Garcia could have used his considerable influence to ask a member of City Council to pass a resolution making Long Beach No Kill. It would have been faster and it would have saved lives.
Instead, Garcia requested an audit that will take MONTHS to complete while animals continue to be killed.
The Mayor has encouraged the public to reach out to the Auditor about this issue. Please take him up on his suggestion and respectfully let the Mayor, your City Council member and the Auditor know that you are concerned about shelter animals like Mopsy and want to see a strong adoption and foster program in place at our City shelter.
Giving the job to SpcaLA is not working – we NEED a strong adoption and foster program in place on the City side of the shelter.
Please be Mopsy’s voice. Our shelter animals need US to be their voice TODAY. Please SHARE.
The Long Beach animal shelter numbers are in, and while there has been some small improvement, LBACS still lags far behind progressive shelters in cities like Austin and Sacramento in lifesaving, killing more than 1600 cats, dogs, puppies and kittens in 2016. (By comparison, Austin saved 95% of their shelter animals, and Sacramento did over 5,000 adoptions in 2016, while Long Beach saved only 74% of animals and did only 579 adoptions).
These are the numbers you will never see or hear from Mayor Garcia or LBACS.
Typically, Mayor Garcia likes to talk about decreases in impound and euthanasia numbers, and he completely leaves out adoptions, fosters, the missing, or even the numbers transferred to SpcaLA, which remains unaccountable to the public and firmly against No Kill.
Tomorrow, Jan. 28, LBACS will hold its annual Open House, and this time Mayor Garcia will be in attendance, no doubt to “handle” recent complaints coming out of the rescue community and to reassure everyone, as he did in 2014, that things will get better at LBACS -- unfortunately, we have seen little change in adoptions in the past 2 years.
Here are some things Mayor Garcia won’t tell Long Beach's animal lovers, but that you should know:
While there has been a decrease in euthanasias, it has not been anywhere near as large as what Mayor Garcia will tell you, as he employs his own version of “alternative facts” to justify the shelter’s poor performance. For example, he'll tell you that euthanasias decreased for dogs by 27% - a large percentage. The truth is, when you look at adult dogs – not including puppies, which Mayor Garcia does and which inflates the number - 17% were killed in 2015 and 15% were killed in 2016. That’s a 2 percentage point decrease, not the 27% that Mayor Garcia wants people in Long Beach to believe. And while Mayor Garcia and LBACS work to deceive you about the numbers of animals killed, LBACS killed 437 dogs and puppies last year, while they adopted out only 286. The number of kittens killed was an astonishing 816, and cats killed were 409.
Adoptions overall increased slightly, but the total number of adoptions, at 579, is extremely small, especially when compared with the over 5000 adoptions Sacramento’s shelter did, with over 700 happening in the last 2 months of 2016 alone.
One last thing we doubt you'll hear from Mayor Garcia is any mention of LBACS' illegal killing of Thor, a dog who had an adopter and a rescue group willing to take him in. The city has callously dismissed complaints lodged with the City Attorney about his killing, which violated the Hayden Law. The city clearly has no intention of being accountable to the public with regard to these facts, nor of holding LBACS accountable for breaking the law.
One point of note is the fact that Garcia has requested an audit of LBACS, in an oddly cheery letter that contradicts the reason for an audit in the first place. This letter was issued on the same day that rescue groups fiercely complained about the pending killing of shelter animals. Since we are 18 months away from the next mayoral election, it appears that the Mayor is looking toward re-election. Some of you may remember how Mayor Garcia used the shelter animals to get elected. Given his wholesale abandonment of our shelter animals after he took office, Mayor Garcia should not be re-elected unless he means to keep his promises to make real and lasting change at the LBACS shelter.
Please keep these facts in mind when you hear Mayor Garcia trumpeting the "good news," which in reality, is just more "business as usual" at our city's low-performing shelter. The people of Long Beach need to hold him accountable for Thor's death, low adoption numbers, and his "alternative facts" about the shelter's disappointingly slow progress. It’s more smoke and mirrors to keep folks quiet, while animals continue to be killed at our shelter, using our taxpayer dollars and in our name.
Please share and let your elected officials know that this is unacceptable.
How Can You Help?
The animals need you to be their Voice.
Tell them to stop killing in our name, using our taxpayer dollars.
Tell them that we want a shelter that reflects the compassionate and humane values of the people of Long Beach.
Please speak out now. Here's how:
Write to your City Council Member - Contact Info here
Speak at City Council during Public Comment
Join us on our Facebook Page
Long Beach Animal Care Services, and the City of Long Beach by extension, apparently does not want to hear from you if you disagree with their killing of animals in general, or with their illegal actions with relation to animals in their care. In other words, No Free Speech For You.
***Long Beach Animal Care Services reserves the right to remove without notice any comments or submissions that it deems to be inappropriate or offensive..." among them "personal attacks, defamatory attacks, or any type of comment that is non-constructive, hateful, spiteful or insulting."
***Also, anything that they consider "factually inaccurate" (a term thrown loosely about by LBACS and the City when it comes to the data around animal outcomes, particularly adoptions) can also be deleted by LBACS, apparently.
Because "insulting" is a very subjective criterion that LBACS has given itself free reign to apply, this policy covers, well, just about anything LBACS management doesn't agree with.
As you may know, it is the policy of this page not to comment on the Long Beach Animal Care Services Facebook page. We feel our Facebook postings, articles the media writes about our advocacy and communications we send to the City and/or LBACS are an adequate outlet for our discussions about the animals. We never have posted on their page and have no intention to.
However, it is very disturbing when we see a public, taxpayer-funded agency which has been publicly criticized for poor management, that uses killing as a primary means of addressing animal homelessness and that has illegally killed at least one animal and probably many more once all research has been completed, trotting out legalese to tell the folks who pay their salaries that LBACS can delete, based on an extremely broad definition, anything they don't agree with.
When people unnecessarily kill animals and do so in potentially illegal and inhumane ways, they don't like to be called out on it.
And this surely proves it.
We encourage people to continue to speak out for animals at LBACS - but not on their page. Through the means provided us by our democracy: Commenting at City Council, asking for meetings with your Council representatives, peacefully protesting, and any of the many ways discussed below:
How you can help: https://goo.gl/U44smo
Report complaints about LBACS: https://goo.gl/FT7V8j
Yet another unjust death at Long Beach Animal Care Services. It’s been reported on a local networker’s page that Caleb, a healthy dog that had been at the shelter for 2 weeks, was killed this past week in spite of the fact that LBACS was not full and had multiple empty cages.
This happens often in unreformed shelters like LBACS – Empty-Cage Killing. It happens for a variety of reasons: It’s easier to kill than to care for or socialize animals; the shelter is disorganized; a dog that has been denied proper human care and handling been out of his kennel in weeks is less than a 100% model citizen and growls one too many times. What it all boils down to is an indifferent City that promotes and encourages bad shelter management.
Posts on the networker’s page detailed more horrors out of LBACS:
**Evaluations done by un uncertified “behaviorist” through the kennel slats
**No walks or play yard access for dogs
**Inconsistent rules and lack of follow-through on leads that could save lives
**There was even a report of over 2 dozen cats being killed the day before the Mayor visited to make the shelter look less crowded and the shelter staff lying about it.
If you’ve been following this page, you know there’s more.
** Thor, who had an adopter and a rescue who wanted him last July. Thor was killed illegally by LBACS in violation of the Hayden Law, a fact the City Attorney continues to deny in spite of a preponderance of evidence.
**Charlie, an arthritic little guy who was shuttled around the shelter, bitten by kennel mates, neutered while sick, and then after this ordeal, was killed for “manageable behavior.”
**Punkin Spice, a defenseless kitten killed because she tested FeLV+ at an age where false positives are commonplace.
The list is far longer than this and it goes on and on.
How is it even possible that these things are happening in our shelter and people are not down at City Council every Tuesday night telling the people whose salaries we pay that they’re not doing their jobs?
Mayor Garcia has shown himself to be insincere in his professed desire to help our shelter animals. Since being elected, he has implemented not one significant shelter reform measure to clean up the mess at LBACS. He went to Sacramento Animal Care Services and met personally with their shelter director, Gina Knepp , who personally oversees 4400 adoptions a year, and Mayor Garcia told no one about it.
Working with the City hasn’t worked. It’s been tried over and over. Nearly 9 years ago, advocates were talking to the City, asking them to reform LBACS. City Council will listen when they get the message LOUD AND CLEAR from the community that the KILLING MUST STOP. Right now, they’re not hearing that.
Go to City Council. Protest. Write letters to the editor and your city council rep. If all you can do is share post, share posts. But don’t wait for the City to listen to reason. They have nearly 9 years of experience in placating the rescue community, in patting folks on the head and saying “thanks for all you do” and then turning around and letting the slaughter continue.
If they keep killing, and we know what’s going on and don’t speak up at City Council, in protests, and in public denouncements of a broken shelter that refuses to change, it’s on US.
It’s on ME.
It’s on YOU.
It’s the moral obligation of each and every one of us who care about animals to stand up and say stop the abuse and STOP the killing.
The City Council meeting schedule is here: https://goo.gl/AnREUm
Facebook pages of City Council are here: https://goo.gl/jXWtKo
E-mail addresses of City Council are here: https://goo.gl/pwHBKc
People often defend animal shelters, and this is true in Long Beach, as well. Recent arguments put forth have said that LBACS doesn't have enough money to stop killing the nearly 2400 animals they kill each year. That is absolutely not true. LBACS has a budget in excess of $4.5 million, not counting money from the cities it contracts with. Sacramento ACS has substantially the same budget and is doing 4400 adoptions a year. It's not because of a lack of money that our shelter kills. When you look at the animals most killed by our shelter and look at why they were killed, the reasons become clear:
- Dogs. Dogs with good temperaments or slight but manageable behavior issues are being kept in the shelter for long periods of time. They then deteriorate after these long stays, or they are subject to snap judgments based on limited information about their temperaments and are labeled "severe behavioral issue" or "aggressive" and are killed. Dogs who get kennel cough after unnecessarily long stays are also killed at the shelter. If there had been a strong adoption or foster program, they wouldn't get sick and they wouldn't be killed.
Problem: Lack of a strong adoption program and foster program, not a lack of funding.
- Cats: Cats also enter the shelter in good shape, but they easily become sick with URIs (your average cold.) Yet, we know that there is a large segment of the human population in LB that will adopt (as seen at the recent Kitty Hall). If there were a strong adoption program and a foster program to get cats out of the shelter faster, they wouldn't get sick and they wouldn't get killed.
Problem: Lack of a strong adoption program and foster program, not a lack of funding.
- Kittens: Kittens, especially kittens that are not yet weaned, are still killed at alarming numbers. LBACS refuses to have a foster program for them - the best they do is off-the-record give DIY bottle feeding kits to people who bring kittens in and let them take them back if they're willing to bottle feed them. The fact that it's off-the-record is a hallmark of LBACS' operations, and it's the way the City placates concerned community members without ever taking true responsibility for putting in place programs to save lives.
Problem: Lack of a regular foster program for weaned kittens and lack of a bottle-baby foster program for unweaned kittens, not a lack of funding.
In spite of this, there are still some people who blame the public for problem and use it as a justification for the killing of animals. There is no other sector in civic life where we simply say - we have to (insert heinous act similar to shelter killing) because the public is irresponsible. Imagine if the government said that all parents have to be responsible before we can take care of children at Child Protective Services. It's ludicrous. Yet this is what many in the group of city sycophants who surround the shelter say about Long Beach ACS.
Then, when these issues are brought up, there are people who say "You can't criticize the shelter.
Volunteer there, then you can talk."
We never say all parents have to volunteer at schools so we can clean up problems with the school system. We never say say that people have to work in a hospital or do independent audits of hospitals to reform the health care system. We pay the government to do these things, and we pay them well. It's their job to do the will of the people.
Those arguments are simply another way to deflect criticism and stop doing the real work that has to be done at our shelters: putting in place strong programs, run by competent people, who are accountable to the public.
This is not rocket science - it's good government, and we don't have it yet in our city and at our shelter.
We'll keep advocating for the shelter animals, but frankly, Long Beach, you should be outraged. After nearly 4 years of hearing about these programs as a result of our advocacy, LBACS and the Mayor continue to take half-measures, spin the truth and kill animals needlessly. All in your name. All on your dime.
It does NOT have to be this way.
In a stunning display of shameless insincerity, Mayor Garcia continues to mislead the public about what’s going on at the Long Beach animal shelter.
In an e-mail to Long Beach residents yesterday, Mayor Garcia reported Long Beach Animal Care Services’ (LBACS) statistics for the first 6 months of 2016, saying that the news -- specifically the news about adoptions -- at LBACS was nothing short of great.
He then went on to discuss the number of animals impounded and the number of animals euthanized by LBACS.
Actual numbers of adoptions were not mentioned.
Stayin’ Alive Long Beach has been reporting on LBACS’ statistics since 2013, acting as a monitor on the public’s behalf of a city agency that has largely kept the public in the dark about what happens to shelter animals in our city shelter.
At Stayin’ Alive, we know that the public is smart enough to understand the difference between a real adoption into a loving home and a shelter simply pushing animals off to another shelter or rescue. We know that LBACS also knows the difference because they log adoptions, rescues and transfers to other shelters as very separate things in their database.
The Mayor’s Strategy – Passing the Buck Instead of Stepping Up
But Mayor Garcia is either unclear on the concept, or he thinks the public is not paying attention. An explanation may help.
An adoption is not shipping a shelter animal by plane thousands of miles away to another shelter for yet another shelter stay.
An adoption is not releasing an animal to an overworked and underfunded rescue that is working desperately to make up for LBACS’ lack of an adoption program.
An adoption is not giving an animal to neighboring SpcaLA so the animal can spend more time in yet another shelter – a shelter that according to its own website doesn’t believe in no kill sheltering and is not accountable to the City or to Long Beach taxpayers.
While it’s true that euthanasias are down at LBACS, it is largely due to these “pass-the-buck” strategies that show no real commitment to getting animals into good homes, and that in many cases result in extended stays in other shelters, where the animals often fall ill and then are euthanized.
Our neighbors to the north at Sacramento Animal Care Services know the difference between passing the buck and finding animals good homes – Sacramento did more than 4400 adoptions in 2015. LBACS did 471.
Mayor Garcia seemed to understand the distinction between adoptions and non-adoption outcomes back during the mayoral election when he was promising folks that he would increase adoptions at our shelter. He got elected on that promise, and now he’s claiming to have made good on that promise without actually having fulfilled it, and without reporting real adoption numbers.
Long Beach's Shelter Animals Are Dying Needlessly
Watching Mayor Garcia dance around the adoption question would almost be comical if it weren’t so heartbreaking.
Because the truth is - our shelter animals are dying.
By the Mayor’s own numbers, 725 animals were euthanized in the first six months of 2016. Yet many of these animals could have been saved if LBACS had a strong adoption program and a foster program. These suggestions are not unreasonable. Sacramento has strong adoption and foster programs. LA Animal Services has a foster program. If other cities can have such programs, surely, Long Beach can, too.
Actual Adoption Numbers at LBACS are Extremely Low
Here are the actual adoption numbers at LBACS, obtained by Stayin’ Alive Long Beach through the California Public Records Act. These are the numbers you’ll never see in a press release from Mayor Garcia, in spite of the fact that he campaigned specifically on the promise that he would increase actual adoptions at the Long Beach Animal Care Services shelter.
As you can see, adoption numbers are low across the board, and the increase since 2015, if any, has been minimal.
This Friday, Mayor Garcia is holding a “Kitty Hall” cat adoption event at City Hall. At last year’s event, LBACS reported placing 14 cats. Such events are great photo ops for our Mayor, but they’re no substitute for a real adoption program. To put it plainly – a one-time adoption event at City Hall every 9 months is like giving Batman a bicycle, when the Batmobile is all revved up and ready to go in the parking lot outside. The bicycle in this comparison is, of course, the rarely-held Kitty Hall. The Batmobile is a robust adoption program. Clearly, our shelter needs an ongoing, continuous adoption program – not an occasional event whose main function is to make the Mayor look good.
It is a sad day indeed when our elected officials use shelter animals’ plight to get elected, and then abandon them once again by failing to put into effect even the most basic of lifesaving programs – lifesaving adoption and foster programs.
The good news is that voters in Long Beach can mobilize the political process to elect compassionate people into City Council and the Mayor’s office so that this can change. There is hope for shelter animals in Long Beach – Long Beach is a compassionate city. It’s up to us to make sure that we elect leaders who reflect our compassionate values.
Patricia Turner is an educator and the spokesperson for Stayin’ Alive Long Beach, an animal advocacy group that promotes lifesaving programs at the Long Beach Animal Care Services animal shelter. Visit them at www.stayinalivelongbeach.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stayinalivelb.
Sacramento's Shelter Animals Getting Help this 4th, while LBACS' Animals are Abandoned by the Shelter that Takes Them in
Knowing that the 4th of July weekend will result in many scared animals entering the shelter, Sacramento's Front Street city shelter worked their tails off and got 111 animals adopted in just about a day and a half. More are expected as the weekend progresses.
One part of their success is due to the fact that the shelter is making adoption fees free this weekend. Some will look at this and protest that these people won't take care of the animals they've adopted. This is actually not true. It's not the fee that people pay that determines a good home -- it's the screening of the applicants that is key to getting a good home.
Studies have shown that there is no correlation between how much a person pays for an animal and how much the person bonds with or cares for the animal. Eliminating adoption fees can bring good people into the shelter to adopt at a critical time, when they might otherwise have waited a month or two when the shelter's need was not that great.
Unfortunately, on the busiest, most crucial weekend of the year for adoptions, LBACS is doing nothing special on their Facebook page. There is one mention of fireworks being illegal in Long Beach. This law is rarely enforced - my family always had to leave Long Beach on the 4th to take our dogs to a city where they actually enforced their laws about fireworks. And there is no information about how to help animals on the 4th on their Facebook page.
LBACS has said that they're understaffed right now, yet they work with rescues, community members and volunteers who have expressed to us repeatedly that they would be willing to help with the LBACS Facebook page. LBACS has not taken them up on this.
Our shelter animals were abandoned once, and now they're being abandoned again, by the very shelter and City that has said they would work to save their lives.
Sacramento shows us that it doesn't have to be this way. Please contact City Council and tell them you want shelter reform at the Long Beach animal shelter. Here's the contact info for LB City Council and a link to other ways you can help.
The longer we wait to act, the more animals will die. It's as simple as that.
So...why does a city-operated shelter need to advertise adoptable pets on its own Facebook page (in addition to any other pages run by shelter volunteers or anyone else?).
1. City pages attract more people. People go to the City shelter for information about adoptable animals. They'll look up the City shelter page on Facebook, not a page that is not the official City shelter page. If the City page doesn't have animals, you've lost a ton of potential adopters right there.
2. Unofficial pages are harder to find. As a corollary to #1, unofficial pages put up by shelter volunteers are harder to find than official pages run by City shelters. Pages that are hard to find obviously attract fewer adopters, and this is not good for animals. Volunteer pages in ADDITION to the City shelter page posting adoptable animals are great. Volunteer pages that REPLACE the City shelter page are a sign that your City shelter does not take its lifesaving mission seriously.
3. Cities that don't post animals are clearly not publicly committed to lifesaving. Not posting animals on your Facebook page as a City shelter shows that you are not publicly invested in adopting shelter animals out. The fact that the City of Long Beach Animal Care Services shelter now apparently doesn't put adoptable animals on their Facebook page is a HUGE red flag that shows that LBACS (and the City Manager, Council and Mayor) wants to "fly under the radar" with regard to adoptions, and be completely divorced from any appearance of networking the animals.
4. As a corollary to #3, cities that don't post adoptable animals on their Facebook pages don't want to be accountable to the public in terms of lifesaving and adopting out animals, and their JOB is to be accountable to the public. The fact that LBACS has started shifting its facebook-networking to a volunteer-run page is a HUGE indication that LBACS has no intention of being accountable to the public.
5. City shelters have larger followings than volunteer-run pages. This is usually because they are a CITY entity. It may also be because they can afford to spend more on boosting their Facebook posts (though there's no evidence that LBACS has ever done that, in spite of having a large budget and bringing millions of dollars in through license canvassing).
6. City shelter that put all the networking responsibility on volunteers and then stifle their free speech are a particularly heinous form of shelter that kills. We have heard that LBACS interferes with the postings on one of the volunteer-run pages and that people who don't comply with their posting "preferences" can be retaliated against by being dismissed from the volunteer program. Shelter volunteers' speech is protected by the First Amendment and a recent Maryland court case recently held that "a volunteer, rescuer, or any other member of the public cannot be banned from a government shelter simply because he or she has criticized shelter management, complained about the policies and practices of the shelter, or posted information online that officials believe is unflattering to the shelter." The fact that LBACS places restrictions on how volunteers talk about the shelter is a violation of their First Amendment rights and it's not okay.
It is an enormous step backward to put all networking off on a volunteer-run page in terms of adopting out animals, in terms of being accountable and in terms of furthering humane treatment of animals in the community (hint: if your shelter doesn't want people to know its doing adoptions, that is a GIANT red flag that animals aren't valued by your city government. People hear that message loud and clear.)
So we think it's GREAT that there are volunteer-run shelter pages. We applaud them; we value the work of those volunteers and we're grateful that they're there, working in a broken shelter that still kills animals for no good reason.
But LBACS needs to take responsibility for what they have been charged to do by the animal-loving public -- not run away from it at every turn.
An initiative to make Long Beach a No Kill community.