Over the next day or two, we’ll be breaking down our analysis of the City’s presentation so you can see what the “new” approach to sheltering in Long Beach now is.
Part 1. No Independent Adoption Program at LBACS
The first thing to know is that LBACS will not be doing an independent adoption program. This is the first indication that the approach the City has come up with, which they’ve named “Compassion saves” is not No Kill. A complete and comprehensive adoption program is crucial to No Kill; therefore, it is virtually impossible for a municipal city animal shelter to be No Kill without an adoption program.
Second of all, the City’s discussion of No Kill was clearly designed to discredit No Kill once and for all as an approach to sheltering in Long Beach. The entire presentation was an exercise in creating fear among residents, claiming that if the City went No Kill, LBACS would have to become a closed admission shelter that would turn animals away.
This is, of course, a complete falsehood. Sacramento, though not yet No Kill, follows No Kill programs, strives for No Kill and yet is completely open admission. Austin’s No Kill shelter, the most successful in the nation, is absolutely an open admission shelter. In telling this falsehood, the City of Long Beach aligned itself with PETA, a nationally-recognized anti-No Kill organization that kills 72% of animals in their shelter.
Although the City acknowledged that closed admission is not part of No Kill, the theme of “No Kill makes shelters close their doors” was pervasive throughout the entire presentation, and it revealed the true intent of “Compassion saves” – Compassion saves is designed to be a smokescreen to make it appear that LBACS has an orientation similar to No Kill. But it’s clear that LBACS will continue, at this point, to be nothing more than an animal control agency, which is exactly what SpcaLA wants it to be.
The good news is that advocating for No Kill has been enormously successful in decreasing the kill rate at LBACS. When No Kill Long Beach (then Stayin’ Alive) broke the news on the front page of the Press Telegram in 2013 that LBACS was not a No Kill shelter, LBACS had a 53% kill rate. In the six years since then, we’ve seen a 34 percentage point drop in the kill rate -- an unprecedented decrease in killing due uniquely to the fact that we advocated consistently and firmly, and made sure that LBACS’ true status as a shelter that kills was known to the public.
Advocating remains an extraordinarily powerful means of saving lives at the LBACS shelter. We hope you’ll continue to support and advocate for our shelter animals. By continuing to be their voice, we are able to support them and make it difficult for the City to force LBACS to continue killing.
One day, people will look back in history and find it unbelievable that we killed animals relentlessly throughout the 20th and early 21st century in our country’s shelters. We sleep easy knowing that we who support No Kill be on the right side of history when people look back. No Kill is compassionate and effective, and we’ll continue to advocate for No Kill in Long Beach.
Someone on our page recently and once again pointed out that it's the public's fault that shelters have to kill animals. That's incorrect and here's why.
The No Kill approach to sheltering has given up the unproductive practice of blaming the public and instead embraces the idea of looking to the vast majority of people who care about animals and want to do the right thing for them to help with a solution.
Blaming the public alienates the public, the majority of whom want to do the right thing. Blaming the public alienates all of the bad people and also the good people, the people who will volunteer, who will foster, who will donate and who will contribute large amounts of resources to make the shelter a positive lifesaving place. And often shelters blame the public while at the same time refusing to make changes to out of date practices and policies that are actively causing the shelter to kill animals.
So, some examples of regressive policies Long Beach Animal Care Services (LBACS) has and needs to change:
**No staff or shelter volunteers are allowed to touch animals for 6 days (14 if they're microchipped), which means animals get no socialization during the difficult period of adjustment to the shelter and beyond. [This is a horribly regressive practice that is a very significant reason why LBACS kills nearly 1100 animals every year.]
**LBACS labels animals as temperamentally unsuited to adoption (which they are not - the problem, if there is one, most likely has been caused by the shelter itself) and actively discourages people from adopting by giving only negative information about animals over the phone.
**LBACS has a confusing adoption policy that they don't communicate adequately to the public and that their partner, SpcaLA actively undermines (as we have been told repeatedly by people who have tried to adopt.)
**LBACS doesn't adequately exercise animals, and if those animals have a lot of energy, LBACS also won't take them to adoption events, which means those animals are then killed.
So...blaming the public really isn't a productive strategy, though it is a very old one that the non-progressive shelter community works very hard to promote.
By blaming the public, shelters are alienating the very people we need to bring into the shelters to adopt because most people want to do the right thing. Shelters need to be safe havens for animals, not places where they go to be killed while the shelter underperforms and points fingers at the public.
As the NJ Animal Observer notes:
"Unfortunately, many in the animal welfare world blame the public for shelter killing instead of the shelter leaders who are responsible for it. You will see things like “if only everyone spayed/neutered their pets” or “we just need a breeding ban” then we wouldn’t have any shelters killing savable animals. While these specific arguments can be addressed individually, the simple answer is communities with a far more irresponsible public have ended the killing. We can do it by simply following proven policies to get there. To get those policies in place, we need to inspire, persuade, and pressure those in charge to do so."
No one says - abusive parents are irresponsible, so we can't have a strong safety net/Child Protective Services to protect children. Instead, as a society we put in place the programs and policies that will help children who are in danger. There is no question of blaming the public. You dig in and get the job done. That's all.
Yes, there are irresponsible people in every community. The irresponsible public will always be with us. We will not see the end of irresponsible pet ownership in our lifetimes or in our children's lifetimes. Blaming the public does nothing. Putting in place responsible shelter programs and shifting to better methods and approaches for animal sheltering works - it's been proven to work over and over again across the country.
That's how we transform our shelters from killing facilities to true safe havens for our shelter animals.
The next Task Force meeting about Long Beach Animal Care Services' future is scheduled for November 13 at 11 am. Let's be clear: We're not talking just about the future of a city agency. We're talking about the future of our city's shelter animals.
City Manager Pat West has overseen the killing of more than 47,000 dogs and cats at Long Beach Animal Care Services: An open letter to Mayor Garcia and City Council
Following is an open letter from No Kill Long Beach to Mayor Garcia and Long Beach City Council on the occasion of City Manager Patrick West's 2018 performance review.
October 2, 2018
Dear Mayor Garcia and Members of City Council:
This letter is submitted as commentary on the performance of City Manager Patrick West. It is in regard to Mr. West’s management of Long Beach Animal Care Services during his tenure as the city’s top administrator.
The recent audits of Long Beach Animal Care Services (Phase One and Phase Two) have revealed how poorly managed this city bureau has been during the decade that Patrick West has been the Long Beach City Manager. The current chaotic condition of LBACS is directly attributable to Patrick West’s negligence of the shelter and his failing to take into account the key role it plays in the lives of the people of Long Beach. In the wake of the troubling reports that have come out of the City Auditor’s performance review of the shelter, there now can be no doubt that LBACS is a shelter in crisis – a situation that could have been prevented had Mr. West hired competent managers and carried out proper oversight. A review of the shelter’s condition over the past 10 years shows that under Mr. West’s management, LBACS has failed to hire managers with backgrounds in animal sheltering. In addition, it has lacked proper staffing and resources to maintain humane care of animals. Furthermore, LBACS has seriously mismanaged taxpayer funds in ways that show a gross disregard for or misunderstanding of fiscally-responsible management of taxpayer resources.
Based on the Auditor’s findings, it is clear that LBACS has been chronically mismanaged under City Manager Patrick West’s tenure, not only currently, but also at least since 2009, and likely earlier. Given the depth and breadth of the problems documented by the Auditor’s review, and the nearly ten-year span of financial hemorrhaging of taxpayer dollars discussed in the report that has occurred through LBACS’ mismanagement, it is clear that oversight of the shelter by the Mr. West has been inadequate, costing the taxpayers of Long Beach millions of dollars over the past decade. We submit the following for consideration in the performance evaluation of City Manager Patrick West.
Fiscal mismanagement at LBACS is a longstanding problem at LBACS. It has been the subject of two prior audits and the recent audit shows that LBACS continues to be fiscally mismanaged. Phase Two of the Auditor’s recent review notes that LBACS has failed to collect nearly $1 million in citations since 2009, collecting only 13% of the fees due to LBACS. Nearly 2/3 of the outstanding amount can no longer be collected due to statutes of limitation in effect. This has occurred during the tenure of Mr. West as City Manager, starting two years after he was hired. Even more troubling: fiscal mismanagement is a pattern that has been in place at LBACS for nearly a decade. The Auditor’s report alluded to, but did not explain, that the City Auditor’s Office (CAO) carried out an audit in 2011 that revealed that an LBACS employee had embezzled over $250,000 from LBACS. The audit found that the theft was made possible by lax accounting procedures in place at LBACS, an area that Mr. West should have been monitoring via the Director of Parks, Recreation and Marine and the various managers LBACS has had over the past decade. Subsequent news articles reported that the employee had embezzled $600,000 over the course of a career at LBACS. A 2014 audit found that problems with LBACS’ accounting procedures that led to the embezzlement had not been fully resolved.
Mr. West has hired a series of inexperienced managers at LBACS who were neither educated nor qualified via experience to run the operations of a shelter. Historically, City Manager Mr. West has hired managers from within the City’s own departments, hiring people who don’t have the specific training, education or experience in animal sheltering that is necessary to humanely run a shelter. These managers left after mismanagement or outright animal cruelty were revealed by the public or by the Auditor’s office. As told by media stories and city audits, the story of LBACS managers has been one of bumbling, stumbling and weaving, as animals were killed by the tens of thousands over the past 10 years. The past three managers that have been hired at LBACS under Mr. West’s tenure have all resigned in the midst of crisis:
LBACS Manager Wesley Moore resigned from LBACS in 2008 after a dog was inhumanely killed in what was described in the press as a “grisly” scene. The LA Daily News/Press-Telegram at the time described the horrific incident in detail. Rather than acknowledge the role of the manager in this situation, the City blamed the incident on a lack of resources. Mr. Moore resigned. City Manager Patrick West at the time said in the media that Moore’s resignation had nothing to do with the dog’s inhumane treatment.
LBACS Manager John Keisler was hired in the wake of Wesley Moore’s resignation. Mr. Keisler left LBACS soon after a national scandal which implicated LBACS in the inhumane transport of more than 125 animals by a Long Beach rescue. According to the Press-Telegram, LBACS supervised the loading of animals into a truck by a Long Beach rescue group in preparation to move the animals to Virginia. The truck was stopped en route and the rescue was charged with 128 counts of aggravated animal cruelty. The news outlet notes that “the animals were being transported in deplorable conditions” and “[o]fficers [in Tennessee] noted urine and feces all over the cargo compartment and located no food or water provided to the animals.” According to press reports, then-LBACS manager, Mr. Keisler, admitted that the Long Beach animal control officers who went to the loading of the animals in Long Beach did not do a final inspection, and likely had no idea that the rescue was transporting nearly 130 animals in spite of being present at the time of loading. In the wake of press reports that LBACS was involved in the loading of the animals, Mr. Keisler promised to do an investigation into LBACS’ procedures. To our knowledge, the results of that investigation were never made public. Not surprisingly, Mr. Keisler left the position of LBACS manager not soon afterward. When he left, LBACS was killing 55% of the animals in its care. And Mr. Keisler, like the managers before and after him, still made excuses for the killing.
Current LBACS manager Ted Stevens is also leaving at a time of crisis – the recent audit reports have shown the shelter to be currently suffering from poor management – clearly an indictment of Mr. Stevens’ lack of leadership. Mr. Stevens has been the manager of LBACS during the specific period during which the last two audit reports were prepared, and although the audits praised the staff of LBACS for their work, they also found that employee morale at LBACS is very low, that employees were given conflicting instructions and that operations were poorly managed. Furthermore, the audits found that LBACS lacks adequate housing, veterinary care or operational know-how to run a humane, well-run animal shelter. For example, the Phase One of the audit found LBACS engaging in numerous practices that do not meet minimum industry standards, including housing sick animals next to unvaccinated animals, a lack of proper monitoring of animals after veterinary care, contaminating dogs’ drinking water with detergent while cleaning and other similar issues that affect the care of animals.
Phase Two of the audit continued to document LBACS’ poor performance, revealing that LBACS provides grossly inadequate care to animals, including an inability to properly feed animals or clean animals’ housing. According to the report, animals receive only 6 minutes of care per day -- less than half the industry-recommended standard of 15 minutes. Even more troubling, the report finds that veterinary care is insufficient, with a very high ratio of animals to veterinary staff, and with veterinary staff at times unable to complete daily rounds to check on animals’ welfare. Daily rounds are a very basic requirement of animal sheltering, without which animals often fall ill. No Kill Long Beach’s research has shown that animals euthanized for illness at LBACS often come into the shelter healthy but suffer declines in health over time, and they are subsequently euthanized for illnesses caused by the shelter itself.
Further, during Mr. Stevens’ tenure, No Kill Long Beach found that at least one dog has been killed in violation of California’s Hayden Act, which establishes specific conditions under which an animal may not be euthanized. In addition, during Mr. Stevens’ time as manager, LBACS burned a dog so severely by leaving him on a heating mat during surgery, that he nearly died.
The Auditor’s review blames a lack of staffing for these deficits – an issue directly impacted by Mr. West. In addition, as mentioned above, Mr. West has repeatedly hired managers from within the City’s ranks with no experience in animal shelter management. It is difficult to believe that Mr. West’s practice of hiring managers with no animal shelter management experience has not affected staff’s ability to work at optimal levels.
Losses in the millions of dollars, the consistent hiring of shelter managers without appropriate education or experience, the resulting inhumane treatment of animals, and the ongoing problems stemming from the fact that the residents of Long Beach are unhappy with the direction LBACS has taken for the past decade or more are not hallmarks of a good manager.
We hope that in reviewing Mr. West’s performance as City Manager, the Mayor and City Council take into account the facts presented in this letter. Long Beach residents deserve an animal shelter that is among the best in the nation, one that is befitting of the sixth largest city in California. Thank you for reading.
No Kill Long Beach's Response to Phase Two of City Auditor Doud's Review of Long Beach Animal Care Services
A Shelter in Crisis – Part II: A Critical Assessment of “Animal Care Services Review: Phase Two”
This document presents the response of animal advocacy group No Kill Long Beach (formerly Stayin’ Alive Long Beach) to the major findings reported in “Animal Care Services Review: Phase Two.”
Phase Two of the Auditor’s Review addresses staffing levels and revenue generation, both of which impact animal welfare at the Long Beach Animal Care Services animal shelter. Phase One of the Auditor’s Review, released in December 2017, addressed issues of shelter operations, including animal care, veterinary services, euthanasia procedures, and cleanliness, among others. No Kill Long Beach’s response to Phase One of the Animal Care Services review can be found here.
No Kill Long Beach would like to thank City of Long Beach Auditor Laura Doud and her staff for completing this comprehensive study of Long Beach Animal Care Services (LBACS).
Volunteer Program Recommended
As was the case with the first phase of the Auditor’s Review, “Animal Care Services Review: Phase Two” makes some of the recommendations No Kill Long Beach has made over the past five years; in particular, Phase Two makes a strong recommendation for a volunteer program, which No Kill Long Beach has advocated for repeatedly in research reports, in conversations with City Council members, while speaking at City Council, and on social media as a cost-effective method for increasing the live release rate at the shelter. This is a positive, and we believe, progressive direction for LBACS to move in; however, it is not one that City management, the Mayor and City Council did not know about, and it is one that for five years they have avoided, at great cost to taxpayers. We hope that the audit’s recommendation to have a robust volunteer program is fully embraced by the Mayor, Council and City management going forward.
Chronic Mismanagement of LBACS Points to Deficits in City Management
The volunteer program notwithstanding, the theme developed in the first phase of the Auditor’s Review is revisited and deepened in the second. There now can be no doubt that LBACS is a shelter in crisis – lacking proper staffing to maintain humane care of animals, while simultaneously mismanaging taxpayer funds in ways that show a gross disregard for or misapprehension of fiscally-responsible management of taxpayer resources.
Based on the Auditor’s findings, it is clear that LBACS has been chronically mismanaged, not only currently, but also at least since 2009, and likely earlier. Given the depth and breadth of the problems documented by the Auditor’s review, and the nearly ten-year span of financial hemorrhaging of taxpayer dollars discussed in the report that has occurred through LBACS’ mismanagement, all to the detriment of shelter animals and taxpayers in Long Beach, it is clear that oversight of the shelter by the current City Administration, led by City Manager, Patrick West, since he took the position in 2007, has been inadequate and has cost the taxpayers of Long Beach over a million dollars over the past decade.
In addition to the above, Long Beach taxpayers and the animal welfare community must take note of the following points arising from the second phase of the audit, all of which are detrimental to Long Beach’s shelter animals:
1. The report continues to provide overwhelming evidence that LBACS is performing below standard in many of the most basic areas of animal sheltering. Phase Two reveals a shelter that provides grossly inadequate care to animals, including an inability to properly feed animals or clean animals’ housing. According to the report, animals receive only 6 minutes of care per day -- less than half the industry-recommended standard of 15 minutes. Even more troubling, the report finds that veterinary care is insufficient, with a very high ratio of animals to veterinary staff, and with veterinary staff at times unable to complete daily rounds to check on animals’ welfare. Daily rounds are a very basic requirement of animal sheltering, without which animals often fall ill. No Kill Long Beach’s research has shown that animals euthanized for illness at LBACS often come into the shelter healthy but suffer declines in health over time, and they are subsequently euthanized for illnesses caused by the shelter itself. The Auditor’s review blames a lack of staffing for these deficits; however, the City has repeatedly hired managers from within the City’s ranks with no experience in animal shelter management. It is difficult to believe that the City’s habit of hiring managers with no animal shelter management experience has not affected staff’s ability to work at optimal levels. Now that the current LBACS manager is now leaving LBACS, the City has an opportunity to remedy this. Hiring a shelter manager with demonstrated knowledge and experience in animal sheltering management would bring efficiencies to LBACS operations that could potentially mitigate, at least to some extent, the need for additional staff.
2. Fiscal mismanagement at LBACS continues to be a problem, in spite of the fact that such mismanagement is a longstanding issue and has been the subject of two prior audits. The Auditor’s review notes that LBACS has failed to collect nearly $1 million in citations since 2009, collecting only 13% of the fees due to LBACS. Nearly 2/3 of the outstanding amount can no longer be collected due to statutes of limitation in effect. Even more troubling: this is part of a pattern that has been in place at LBACS for nearly a decade. The report alluded to, but did not explain, that the City Auditor’s Office (CAO) carried out an audit in 2011 that revealed that an LBACS employee had embezzled over $250,000 from LBACS. The audit found that the theft was made possible by lax accounting procedures in place at LBACS. Subsequent news articles reported that the employee had embezzled $600,000 over the course of a career at LBACS. A 2014 audit found that problems with LBACS’ accounting procedures that had led to the embezzlement had not been fully resolved.
These past issues point to a persistent problem at LBACS that has been a problem during the entire tenure of the current City Manager, and they should have been clearly articulated in Phase Two. The fact that they were not raises questions as to the Auditor’s commitment to full transparency in the way that LBACS has been and is being managed, and to the issue of accountability by City management as to the shelter’s overall operation.
3. The Auditor’s reviews continue to de-emphasize adoptions as a primary means of saving lives. In spite of the several positive recommendations contained in the report, the report makes almost no mention of an adoption program as a primary way to increase the live release rate and thereby save more shelter animals’ lives. We note, in particular, that although a robust volunteer program is the first recommendation made in the report, none of the volunteer tasks specifically named in the report involve volunteers organizing, assisting with or staffing on- or offsite adoption events or working on mobile adoptions. Instead, the report cites administrative functions (filing, organizing supplies, data entry, opening mail) and assisting the veterinary team (cleaning and prepping instruments) as examples of areas in which volunteers can be utilized, ignoring the great potential for the use of volunteers in adoption program-related activities.
Further, Phase Two notes that that LBACS’ rehoming team (charged with adoptions, rescue transfers, and behavioral enrichment, among other duties) is understaffed compared with other shelters, and recommends the use of volunteers to complement their efforts, but makes only passing reference to the use of volunteers to assist the Rehoming Team with adoptions. An adoption program is an absolutely essential program in animal sheltering. The omission of adoption-related activities in the discussion of permitted volunteer activities is noticeable and gives rise to questions of whether the Auditor has properly examined the role of SpcaLA in inhibiting LBACS’ adoption program, as has been explained by shelter management to animal advocates in the past.
4. Increases in licensing compliance enforcement recommended by the Audit could have adverse consequences for people’s companion animals. One of the recommendations made in the audit is to have “external veterinarians submit vaccination data which can alert [LB]ACS to the need for new licenses” (Phase Two, p. 16). This recommendation is controversial. Veterinarians in other locales considering such measures have voiced concerns about the erosion of trust between client and veterinarian that occurs when veterinarians report vaccination data to animal control. Veterinarians also have raised concerns that such an intrusion into the veterinary-client relationship may discourage people from taking their pets to the vet for necessary care for fear of being reported to authorities. There are few benefits to increasing licensing compliance, particularly when increased funding is not specifically linked to an increase in the shelter’s budget. Further, the potential drawbacks of increasing licensing enforcement are many.
5. It is not clear that a sufficiently broad base of stakeholders will be permitted to be involved in the creation of the LBACS strategic plan. The Auditor’s review and City’s response show overreliance on a small task force to provide input into the strategic plan. Mayor Garcia announced the new task force just prior to the April 2018 election. While it is encouraging to see that community members will have a voice in the creation of LBACS’ strategic plan, the process by which the plan is crafted needs to involve a large base of stakeholders, with data collected by a third-party consultant (the City implies that this will be the case) who gathers data from a wide range of stakeholders through a series of listening tours, focus groups, surveys and other data-gathering methods commonly used in strategic planning. More broad-based input from a variety of stakeholders will ensure that the City of Long Beach has the shelter that reflects the compassionate and humane values of the people of Long Beach.
6. Sacramento ACS’s performance continues to prove that more money is not the answer to LBACS’ poor shelter performance. The audit’s recommendations for more staffing and more resources ignore a key data point that the audit itself made, and that No Kill Long Beach has made many times over the past 5 years: Sacramento ACS continues to outperform LBACS, in spite of the fact that: 1) Sacramento ACS is responsible for covering a larger service area than Long Beach is, 2) Sacramento has a comparable population to that of Long Beach, 3) Sacramento ACS has a smaller budget than LBACS does, 4) Sacramento ACS has fewer full-time employees 5) Sacramento ACS takes in almost two times as many animals as Long Beach, and 6) Sacramento ACS has no partner shelter like LBACS has in SpcaLA. Yet, Sacramento still manages to have to have a higher live release rate than LBACS (see Phase Two, p. 3 for a chart comparing Sacramento ACS and LBACS).
Taken as a whole, it is clear that LBACS is a shelter in crisis, a fact amply demonstrated by two CAO reports that have taken more than 18 months to complete. Looking at the results of the Auditor’s two reviews, it seems clear that the mismanagement at LBACS reflects larger mismanagement at the City Manager level – mismanagement that has resulted in the killing of more than 40,000 animals at the Long Beach Animal Care Services shelter since 2007.
While this information is daunting, it is, nonetheless, for many animal advocates, a relief to have the deplorable state of the LBACS animal shelter finally on public record. This presents the City with a clear opportunity to reform Long Beach Animal Care Services by implementing best practices in sheltering and by hiring a shelter manager who has demonstrated experience in implementing No Kill policies and practices, who is compassionate and hardworking, and who will work to ensure that Long Beach fulfills its promise of being the humane and compassionate No Kill City the good people of Long Beach want it to be.
Most people think that shelter adopt out most of the animals in their care. However, that's not the case at Long Beach Animal Care Services. Most animals at Long Beach Animal Care Services (nearly half) are transferred out to another shelter environment, which is stressful and dangerous for animals because they stay in a shelter environment where they can easily get sick and then are then euthanized. Only 26% go into homes (14% returned to their owner and an extremely small 12% adopted into homes - this number is incredibly small, compared to Sacramento, which adopts 45% of their animals into homes in addition to all of the other positive placements they do.) These numbers are extremely disappointing and when you look at the adoption numbers, LBACS is among the poorest performing shelters in California.
Since Mayor Garcia was elected, the number of animals placed into shelters or rescue (the stressful situation) has increased 13% points. Adoptions, while the percentages appear to have increased, when you look at the actual number of animals who have been placed in homes, that number is so small as to be tragic. Only 682 animals were adopted into homes last year.
In another article in this paper, Mayor Garcia was quoted as saying that increasing live releases was his commitment. That's not accurate, either. In 2014, at a Town Hall Meeting, he told a over 200 people in the animal welfare community that he would increase adoptions and had hired a new adoption coordinator. That adoption coordinator has now been trained to do euthanasia.
When publications make comments like this, it does a huge disservice to the shelter animals. Responsible journalism requires accuracy and investigation. We encourage the people of Long Beach to learn as much as they can about their animal shelter by researching data-based resources and then making up their own minds about the kind of shelter they want: One that is transparent and works hard to be No Kill, or one that hides behind politicians' rhetoric and cherry-picked statistics.
Tomorrow is Long Beach Animal Care Services' annual Open House. For at least the past five years, LBACS and the City have used this as a vehicle for "putting one over" on the people of Long Beach, trumpeting small achievements and, unfortunately for the animals, sweeping under the rug the many unnecessary killings of animals at the Long Beach shelter, multiple chaotic management and personnel issues (recently documented in the city audit of LBACS), and what we now know are poorly managed animal welfare practices and, at times, inhumane treatment of animals at our city shelter.
For those who go to the Open House this Saturday, though, many of whom have supported the shelter animals through thick and thin over the years, you deserve much better than a cavalcade of thin excuses, feel-good celebrations and trumped up achievements that ignore the deep problems that plague our city shelter.
You deserve: A genuine, honest and transparent explanation of the audit's conclusions and why LBACS has "very limited standard operating procedures," and why management engages in "inconsistent decision-making and conflicting shelter practices, as well as in changes being implemented without proper direction and explanation." These things hurt our shelter animals immensely. You deserve to have that acknowledged.
You deserve to have Ted Stevens, Marie Knight and Mayor Garcia tell you, in PRECISE terms, what the City intends to do as a result of the audit, rather than trotting out the tired old "everything's just fine - we're doing great" message they've conveyed for the last 5 years as they've faced public scrutiny.
You deserve to be told that the PRECISE things the City plans to do are: To run a humane, No Kill shelter that is free of the influence of SpcaLA, that has its own adoption program and foster program, that sets goals for performance and sticks to them and that:
SAVES EVERY HEALTHY AND TREATABLE ANIMAL AT THE LONG BEACH ANIMAL SHELTER.
If you don't get that, if instead you get feel-good reports about minuscule changes in the euthanasia numbers, new play areas for dogs that serve only to keep them from spiraling into desperation until they are killed, and thanks for performing services our city taxpayer dollars are paying LBACS to do and that LBACS lays on the backs of under-resourced, hard-working rescues that Mayor Garcia is more than happy to transfer the work of saving lives to - if that's what you get, you'll know that it's business-as-usual at LBACS, animals will continue to be killed, and Long Beach is no closer to becoming a no kill city than it ever was.
We hope the City will take the high road and start to see how misguided the current sheltering model is.
We hope the City will stop the suffering of shelter animals and the people who care about them.
The good people of Long Beach deserve a city-run animal shelter that is run in accordance with their compassionate and humane values.
Let's hope we get that tomorrow.
The numbers for 2017 are in, and while there has been some small improvement, LBACS still lags far behind progressive shelters in lifesaving, killing nearly 1,100 cats, dogs, puppies and kittens in 2017.
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.
This year, Mayor Garcia, in a display of bravado that is shocking even to those of us accustomed to his lack of genuine concern for shelter animals, said during the State of the City speech that adoptions had increased since he came into office. He offered no numbers, no proof to show what that means. That is because adoption numbers have barely crept up (from 403 adoptions in 2014 to a heartbreakingly-low 682 adoptions in 2017, while Sacramento did over 5,600 adoptions in 2017.)
Here are the numbers Mayor Garcia doesn't want to talk about:
To reiterate, LBACS did only 682 adoptions and had only 4 animals in foster for all of 2017. With a shelter that is killing nearly 1,100 animals, a strong and viable adoption and foster program are absolutely VITAL to lifesaving. We still have not seen a statement by the City saying they are committed to a strong adoption and foster program.
If LBACS did even a fraction of the 5,600 adoptions Sacramento did, our shelter would be saving all of the healthy and treatable animals in Long Beach. It would also have the capacity to take in animals from nearby higher-kill shelters like Downey and Carson.
Nearly 1,100 animals were killed at LBACS in 2017. They were named Mopsy, Thor, Charlie, Pumpkin Spice, Buda, Thaddeus, Blueberry, Beau, Bella, Zeus and so many more.
There's literally no excuse for not having a strong adoption program in Long Beach - ours is a city full of animal lovers. A mobile adoption van was generously donated to the City last year - and only 103 more adoptions were done as a result.
That's not a shelter that has "not enough money." That's city management Pat West, Marie Knight, City Council and Mayor Garcia remaining indifferent to our shelter animals, not caring that rescues are working every waking hour to save animals and not looking at the answer that is staring straight at them:
A strong adoption and foster program.
Our shelter animals and the people of Long Beach deserve better.
Kudos to the Signal Tribune Newspaper for balanced journalism. They have released the second installment in their two-part coverage of the Long Beach Animal Care Services Audit - the watchdog group they talk about is Stayin' Alive Long Beach.
In the article, we see Marie Knight, Director of Parks, Recreation and Marine, backpedaling, as a brilliant Huffposter once said, "faster than Wile E. Coyote off a cliff" when it comes to the audit's clear identification of a clear problem between LBACS and SpcaLA: the lack of a formal operating agreement.
From the Signal Tribune article:
"Marie Knight, who has served as director of Long Beach Parks, Recreation & Marine for almost a year, concurred that there is indeed an operations agreement but that the auditors are calling for clarification on the working relationship between the two entities– not necessarily a new agreement."
Hold onto your hat.
The fact is, there is NO operating agreement between LBACS and SpcaLA -- only a lease-back agreement. And the audit says so: "[t]he lease-back agreement does not contain terms related to key operating functions, such as animal adoptions, for which both organizations are responsible."
The audit also fully recommends a formal operations agreement between SpcaLA and LBACS, not just "a clarification," as Ms. Knight erroneously states.
So what we're seeing here is:
1) SpcaLA saying that there is an operational agreement between SpcaLA and LBACS, when there's not (a verbal agreement or a working agreement is not a formal agreement). The truth -- that the audit clearly states -- is the only agreement that exists is a lease/lease-back agreement (we have obtained it through the California Public Records Act and posted it on our website. You can find it here: https://www.stayinalivelongbeach.org/acs-and-spca-la-whos-w…)
2) Marie Knight folding to SpcaLA and then misstating the actual audit by ignoring the fact that the shelter consultants recommends specifically on page 6 of the audit that the City "work with SpcaLA to develop a formal operations agreement."
3) An "alternative fact" being created right before our eyes, as Marie Knight and SpcaLA attempt to erase the clear fact stated in the audit that there is NO operational agreement between the two organizations by saying that there IS one. It is precisely this loosey-goosey operational chaos at LBACS that prevents SpcaLA from being accountable to LBACS in any way, shape or form, and it is this lack of sound city management that is hurting our shelter animals.
The good news is - people can change this by going to City Council, writing letters to their City Council person or even simply educating people by sharing on Facebook as a first step.
We have the power to help our shelter animals. We just have to use it. The shelter animals are depending on us to be their voice.
Read the Signal Tribune article here:http://www.signaltribunenewspaper.com/?p=36407
The following is an annotated list of the recommendations that the recent audit make that point toward more euthanasias. Each recommendation is followed by commentary by Stayin' Alive Long Beach.
Animal Intake and Flow – Short-term Recommendations (Audit, Page 7)
If LBACS had a viable adoption and foster program that moved healthy animals out of the shelter, they would be able to treat many of these animals. Sacramento ACS, a comparable shelter, does not choose euthanasia for its treatable animals and instead garners community support to get prompt and competent medical care for their animals with medical needs. They do this because they are committed to meeting the Sacramento community’s expectations that they will have a humane, proactive, city-run shelter. You can see an example here: https://goo.gl/Y4ZoGz.
Animal Intake and Flow – Long-term Recommendations (Audit, page 10)
An initiative to make Long Beach a No Kill community.