Today, Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) will hold their annual Open House, where they traditionally present a report of their activities over the past year. Over the past 3 years, they have included a slide that reports that they have had over 5,000 adoptions/redemptions. You can see a larger version of this slide from last year’s Open House below.
What does ACS include in this number? Stayin’ Alive Long Beach, an initiative to increase the save rate of animals at the Long Beach animal shelter, asked ACS this question in a public records request. Here’s what ACS responded: They include a lot of different things – spcaLA adoptions, animals transferred to rescue organizations, animals returned to their owners and the adoptions and transfers of smaller animals, like rabbits and snakes. We understand reporting those numbers as part of the live release rate is important, and we at Stayin’ Alive agree with that.
While we at Stayin’ Alive Long Beach appreciate the return of a raccoon to the wild after rehabilitation as something that is both important and desirable, we don’t think most people would view this as an “adoption.”
While we think that it is good to transfer an animal to a place where he/she might be granted more time to find a home, we don’t think that most people would call this an “adoption.” Especially if that animal is transferred to a high-kill shelter.
There is no nice way to say that we think that ACS is not being entirely honest with the public when they say they had 5773 adoptions/redemptions in 2012. We think that ACS has a duty to the public to be transparent about what their numbers are. A shelter that has nothing to hide, hides nothing.
A review of the records provided to us by ACS reveals that ACS had 324 adoptions of companion animals and returned 1172 animals to their owners (the standard definition of “redemption”), which is a total of 1496 adoptions/redemptions in 2012. Of course, that number is nowhere near 5773. And we only found that out because we used the power of the California Public Records Act, which protects citizens’ rights to know what their government is doing. ACS does not give out that information willingly, and one can guess why.
We hope that the people of Long Beach will think about that. ACS, an agency with more than $6 million to spend every year, adopted out only 324 dogs and cats in one year.
That’s fewer than many small, private rescue organizations place in a year on a shoestring budget. Comparing apples to apples – that is, comparing one municipal shelter to another -- in the same year, the City of Sacramento adopted out 2427 dogs and cats – that’s nearly 8 times the number that ACS found homes for. In 2013, Sacramento increased their number of adoptions to 3,105.
Unless ACS has undergone a massive change in how they report their numbers, we expect the same slide will be shown today, with an even higher number of adoptions/redemptions than the 5700+ they reported last year. We hope that people who attend the meeting today will think about this when they see ACS put up this same slide, citing adoptions and redemptions in the thousands.
And please know that only 434 dogs and cats were adopted out by Long Beach Animal Care Services in 2013.
To each of those 4,382 animals that died last year at the point of a euthanasia needle because ACS does not pursue an adoption program to its full capacity, we owe at least this one thing: to tell the truth.