LB Council discusses SpcaLA's possible violations at Council meeting, calls for audit of SpcaLA lease & operations
Last night’s council meeting about the SpcaLA/LBACS relationship was the first time we have seen City Council take the SpcaLA problem (and the resulting problems at LBACS) seriously. Clearly, Long Beach City Council members are finally realizing the chaos the City has allowed to reign at LBACS for over two decades, as Council after Council, including most of this one, entirely fell asleep at the wheel while SpcaLA drove and continues to drive LBACS over a cliff, causing great harm to our shelter animals.
What should be the big news, the proposed operational agreement or MOU, is not. As expected, the elements of an MOU between LBACS and SpcaLA proposed by Parks, Recreation and Marine director Gerardo Mouet were weak, and included items like establishing a joint adoption desk for SpcaLA and LBACS (this is unacceptable, given SpcaLA’s inappropriate and unreasonably hard-on-the-public adoption process and criteria), better access to shared space, and clearer LBACS signage. While those items have a place in the conversation that should be taking place around LBACS, signs and space are only a small part of the problem. Notably lacking was any real discussion around animal care operations and the devastating restrictions SpcaLA places on LBACS in the area of adoptions.
The big news of the evening were two: One was the apparent allegations of a hostile work environment mentioned by outgoing Councilperson Jeannine Pearce, who alluded to complaints that SpcaLA is causing a hostile work environment for LBACS employees. This is not surprising, given the bullying methods SpcaLA has reportedly used to rule the roost at LBACS since the City entered into the toxic agreement with SpcaLA in 1998. Even as SpcaLA is writing on its websites about what a good partner they are to LBACS, it appears that the City of Long Beach is in the process of waking up to the reality of how poorly the City has stewarded its own shelter and the crisis 20 years of the City’s neglect has produced.
TERMINATION OF SPCALA LEASE MENTIONED
The biggest part of the evening came when Councilperson Suzie Price mentioned, for the first time we have ever heard in a City Council meeting, the possibility of terminating the lease with SpcaLA. While much of the evening’s discussion was about how to best go about writing an operating agreement that SpcaLA would sign, Suzie Price cautioned against entering into any further agreements with a party that may be violating the current lease and recommended that the City Attorney and City Auditor review the current lease for violations to decide if termination is warranted. Price further recommended that the City Auditor audit both the operations and the financials of SpcaLA, to the cheers of animal advocates in the room. This raises the possibility that the agreement with SpcaLA can be terminated – a proposition No Kill Long Beach wholly supports and has advocated for since 2013.
Notably missing from the discussion was any discussion of requiring transparency from SpcaLA. Pearce brought up the question of what happens to LBACS animals once they go to SpcaLA, and LBACS manager Staycee Dains said that the assumption was that they were adopted out. No Kill Long Beach believes it is dangerous for our animals if the City assumes anything of the kind. SpcaLA is vehemently against No Kill, according to its websites. We need full and complete transparency from SpcaLA (and LBACS) in order to protect the animals of Long Beach.
ORDINANCES MOVE FORWARD
City Council approved the request to move forward with the writing of an ordinance to limit the number of animals that people and organizations can bring to Long Beach for adoption to 300 per year, with some discussion of breaking it down to a monthly limit. This is clearly meant to catch SpcaLA up in the web of the law, while letting smaller rescues and individuals off the hook. We would normally support this; however, it appears the intent of this law is to increase cage space at SpcaLA so that LBACS can give more animals to them, and this is flawed logic and bad policy. The City should not be giving more animals to an organization it now views as hostile, that it believes may be violating its current agreements, and that at least one possible council person is wary of entering into another agreement with. Not to mention the fact that SpcaLA does not adhere to No Kill principles, and has no transparency with the City as to any of its operations, animal outcomes or financials.
It was clear from last night’s Council meeting that there is a growing awareness among Council that the behavior of SpcaLA is untenable and cannot continue in this manner for the next 33 years of the lease’s term. We also believe that as long as SpcaLA continues to operate on the same city land and in the same buildings, LBACS needs to begin inspecting SpcaLA’s premises, as currently provided by the lease, and require absolute transparency as to all outcomes of all animals that enter the SpcaLA shelter on City land.
Last night’s City Council meeting should have happened 7 years ago, when No Kill Long Beach first alerted City Council and the Mayor to the negative impact that SpcaLA is having on our shelter animals. One is tempted to say “better late than never,” but those words are tragic, given the fact that tens of thousands of animals have been killed at LBACS since we first began our advocacy. The City shelter needs to be fully independent of SpcaLA and we at No Kill Long Beach are hopeful that last night’s meeting was the first step.
This week, Mayor Garcia released a very selective set of statistics that give the impression that Long Beach Animal Care Services is doing great, while keeping the public in the dark about the reality of what is going on with our shelter animals here in Long Beach.
Mayor Garcia’s press release this week went on and on about increased adoptions and the supposed success of the ‘compassion saves’ model. Here are four things Mayor Garcia won’t tell you about what’s happening to our shelter animals.
1. The truth is that LBACS is entering its third decade of killing healthy and treatable animals. LBACS is still killing 16% of cats and 20% of kittens in the shelter. And it still kills healthy and treatable dogs – dogs that could be safely placed in homes if LBACS had an active foster program or adequate medical and behavioral rehabilitation programs. When other shelters, like Austin’s, are saving 98% of their animals, Mayor Garcia’s self-congratulatory claims about an increase in the save rate to just 88% fall flat. LBACS could have been saving 90-95% of animals five years ago, when Mayor Garcia was first elected and promised to put an adoption program in place at LBACS. Instead, he failed to deliver on his promise, and as of now, nearly 10,000 animals have died needlessly on Mayor Garcia’s watch.
2. Adoptions may be up, but they’re still at a pitifully low level. Mayor Garcia trotted out his usual “adoptions are at an unprecedented level” rhetoric, noting that LBACS did 995 adoptions in 2019. This may sound like a large number until you take into account the fact that Sacramento, with similar population, demographics and median income, did nearly 4800 adoptions just from January to November last year. 995 is only the “highest number of adoptions in a decade” because every other year of the decade was so painfully low. If LBACS had a strong adoption and foster program, LBACS would be well on its way to saving all healthy and treatable animals. But it’s not, and healthy and treatable animals continue to be killed for no valid reason.
3. Mayor Garcia’s much-touted live release rate could actually be much lower. There is no guarantee that LBACS animals released to SpcaLA are finding homes because SpcaLA is openly against No Kill, according to its various websites. SpcaLA took nearly 1200 animals from LBACS last year, and what happened to them? We have no idea. the City has not required transparency from SpcaLA, even though it could require SpcaLA, which profits from basically free rent on taxpayer-owned land worth millions of dollars in El Dorado Park, to post its outcomes and give LBACS access to its records. Animal shelters that have embraced a lifesaving No Kill mission have nothing to hide and publish their outcomes for the public to see. Yet SpcaLA keeps their numbers hidden from the public and from the City. The public is massively subsidizing SpcaLA’s bottom line. They have a right to know what is happening to their shelter animals, and the City does not support that.
4. LBACS still doesn’t have a viable, robust adoption program because the City, and specifically Mayor Garcia, won’t stand up to SpcaLA. It’s no secret that SpcaLA doesn’t want LBACS to do adoptions – they’ve said in the Press that LBACS’ goal should be the best animal control, and it should leave animal care to SpcaLA. This has had a disastrous effect on Long Beach’s shelter animals over the past 20 years. Since 2007 alone, LBACS has killed over 40,000 animals because the City won’t let it have an adoption program to avoid upsetting SpcaLA. The City has done a formidable job of covering this up, and it’s only in recent years that it has become common knowledge, by way of the two audits done over the past two years, that there are problems at LBACS due to the “challenging” involvement LBACS has with SpcaLA. But to date, not one City Council member, nor Mayor Garcia, has spoken honestly about the mess at LBACS that exists because the City has allowed SpcaLA to call the shot at LBACS and hobble its operations.
Mayor Garcia and the City staff, as well as some members of City Council, have been pulling the wool over the eyes of the animal-friendly folks in Long Beach for years now because the City doesn't want to rock the boat with spcaLA. This announcement is, unfortunately, just another attempt to spin the fact that LBACS is still killing healthy and treatable animals when they don't have to.
We're always happy when fewer animals are being killed, but when you know how hard the City has fought and continues to fight against implementing No Kill policies, it's clear that we still have a Mayor, a City Council and a city shelter in Long Beach that are not committed to saving all healthy and treatable animals, and as a result, animals are still dying needlessly. The good news is that people can use their votes to help the animals. We hope you'll do that in the next election.
We encourage you to share this post to let as many people as possible know about what the actual situation is surrounding shelter animals in Long Beach. Thank you for all who continue to advocate for a No Kill shelter in Long Beach.
An initiative to make Long Beach a No Kill community.