LBACS and SPCA-LA: Who's who and why does it matter?
Years of experience in talking with animal lovers in Long Beach has revealed that many residents of Long Beach are not aware of the split structure of the Long Beach animal shelter, in which the majority of animals that are surrendered are sheltered on the ACS side, where they are euthanized (nearly 1100 animals killed at LBACS in 2017 alone), while efforts to increase adoptions are shunted off to the SPCA side, where only a relatively small number of the most adoptable animals are housed. In fact, spcaLA only takes in 25-27% of the animals at the Long Beach animal shelter. ACS adopts out about 12% of animals and engages in inefficient, piecemeal placement practices like long-distance transports and pushing more and more animals off on rescues to try to place the rest. LBACS did only 682 adoptions last year (2017) and most of those were facilitated by SpcaLA.
ACS has said in communications with Stayin' Alive Long Beach that ACS only does a very small number of adoptions for two basic reasons: 1) because they don't want to appear to be in competition with spcaLA, adding that SpcaLA doesn't want them to do the adoption piece and 2) having an on-the-record adoption program would be redundant with spcaLA's efforts.
As to #1, it is incomprehensible that the City of Long Beach would allow a non-profit to dictate city policy, but we have been told it does. This results in the deaths of more than a thousand animals a year. City Manager Patrick West could put a stop to the prohibition on adoption in a minute, yet he does not.
As for #2, this is simply flawed logic. With a large proportion of our shelter's animals not being served by SpcaLA, we NEED a strong adoption program at ACS. As the figure below shows, an ACS adoption program would not be redundant with spcaLA's adoption program; rather, it would complement it.
Since being elected, Mayor Garcia has further muddied the waters by allowing SpcaLA to complete the adoption paperwork for animals housed on the LBACS side. SpcaLA has stricter adoption policies, ensuring that animals that could go to good homes instead languish on the LBACS side and die. We have also heard that adoption fees are going to SpcaLA - more LBACS revenue that could be used instead to help the animals on the city's side of the shelter.
Phase One of the audit released in December 2017 said that the relationship between SpcaLA and LBACS is "challenging" and noted that the lease agreement between the two agencies is nothing more than an agreement as to land and buildings and says NOTHING about the operations and who does adoptions vs. who does animal control. The Auditor recommended that the City establish a clear operational agreement between the two agencies.
The Signal Tribune wrote an article about this recommendation and interviewed SpcaLA about it in January 2017:
What has surfaced as the primary focus of those recommendations is that Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) should develop “a clear, shared vision with an effective, feasible strategic plan,” including the consideration of a formal operating agreement with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals— Los Angeles (spcaLA), which shares the shelter with ACS and is responsible for most of the adoptions at the facility.
However, development of that formal agreement may prove to be a challenge for city officials, as Madeline Bernstein, president of spcaLA, told the Signal Tribune Tuesday that she is unwilling to devise another plan with the City— she views the current partnership as one that is working just fine and characterized her relationship with ACS Manager Ted Stevens as one of open communication and cooperation.
And the fact that SpcaLA doesn't want LBACS to do adoptions is no longer something LBACS manager Ted Stevens told animal advocates behind closed doors: It's out in the open. SpcaLA so much as said so in the same Signal Tribune article above:
[SpcaLA President Madeline Bernstein said,] "The goal is that each one of us performs to the best of our ability or function. So, Long Beach City— the goal is for them to be the best animal-control organization in the world because they don’t have to worry about the things we are worrying about, and we have multiple locations. We, at that location, only worry about adopting and nurturing and caring for the animals. We don’t have to worry about issues we worry about at our other facilities.”
There it is, in black and white. Clearly, Madeline Bernstein believes that LBACS should do animal control and leave the adoptions to them. And that makes no sense, given that 75% of the animals on the LBACS side get no real adoption program because SpcaLA does not want them to have one and the City accepts that.
This is the sad truth of what goes on at our City's shelter. And the animals are the ones who suffer.
For the 2017 adoption numbers, SpcaLA transfer numbers and euthanasia numbers at LBACS, click here.
Spca-LA Agreements with the City of Long Beach
SpcaLA has an agreement with the City of Long Beach to lease the property on which it sits until 2053.
According to the City's responses to public records requests, no other agreement exist between the two entities, in particular, no agreement with regard to the treatment of animals or the number or percentage of animals that SpcaLA takes. This means that the current imbalance between SpcaLA and the City is entirely due to day-to-day negotiations between the City and SpcaLA in which the City has ceded its power, in large, part to SpcaLA. This means that the City could renegotiate any aspect of its relationship with SpcaLA, but refuses to do so.
Continuing to allow SpcaLA to do adoptions is bad business for the city, and it's beyond tragic for the animals at LBACS because SpcaLA is not no kill and opposes no kill publicly.
We are publishing the lease agreements between the City of Long Beach and SpcaLA as a public service:
SpcaLA/City Lease - Doc #25915
Lease-Back - Doc #25916
Amendment to Lease-Back