Irvine has placed a ban on the killing of healthy and adoptable animals.
While this is good news overall, there are a few points to notice about this case. Two are instructive and one is cautionary.
1. The first thing is the involvement of the City Council and the fact that they 1) formed a Council sub-committee to study the issue and 2) called for a study of the shelter by an outside consultant. This shows that Irvine really wanted to get to the bottom of the matter.
2. Second - the fact that this was all brought about because shelter volunteers complained to the city.
From the article: "In response to the concerns of the volunteers, city officials halted all euthanasia – unless medically necessary – for 60 days in early 2015."
Folks who see disorganization, unclear and poorly executed policies, retaliatory behavior and poor decision-making at their shelters are the ones who are the most effective at getting the City to respond. They need to speak out. As you can see, City Councils have the power to declare policies on killing -- even halt euthanasia -- but they won't do it unless they are pushed to, especially in Long Beach.
3. Third - and these are caveats, while Irvine is moving in the right direction, placing a ban on killing healthy and adoptable animals is only a start because it still allows for the killing of treatable animals. Many of the animals that are killed in the Long Beach shelter are very treatable: they stay in the shelter too long (because of a non-existent adoption program) and they get sick and then they're killed.
Limiting it to adoptable animals allows the shelter to have a gigantic loophole in saying that that kitten that sneezes is not adoptable because he/she has a very treatable upper respiratory infection (aka 'a cold.')
The protections need to be extended to healthy and TREATABLE animals, and a strong adoption program needs to be put in place so that animals can get out of the shelter BEFORE they get sick.
We're moving toward a future where no healthy or treatable animal will be killed, or where city shelters will do everything in their power to protect healthy and treatables -- how long will Long Beach fight that?
Mayor Garcia has said on a rescuer's Facebook post that he will "look into" the newest issue that has come to light about the rigid rules and restrictive policies that SpcaLA imposes on our city shelter - this time, it's about LBACS animals not being allowed to play in an SpcaLA play area.
Let's be clear about this: Mayor Garcia knows exactly what the issues are with SpcaLA. Stayin' Alive brought these issues to him during the last election, and he said he would "look into" them, then, too. In March of this year, we also submitted a letter to him regarding untrue statements his staff was making about LBACS' save rate and the relationship with SpcaLA - again bringing up the issue of the cherry-picking of the most adoptable animals that SpcaLA engages in. Mayor Garcia knows, but he's done nothing about it, and since he was elected, more than 5,000 animals have been killed at LBACS.
Lies and inaction aren't new for Mayor Garcia. In fact, he promised to 200 animal advocates in a town hall meeting back in October 2014 to increase adoptions - he also implied during that meeting, in direct response to a question about the issue, that he would put a stop to the way SpcaLA manipulates the City. However, from the moment Garcia was elected, he jumped right into the Pat West lie-fest, spinning shelter numbers and allowing SpcaLA to continue cherry picking the animals.
One of the biggest whoppers Mayor Garcia has told was that he would increase adoptions in 2015 - a promise he still has not kept almost 2 years after he was elected:
"[Mayor Garcia]...One thing that Ted [Stevens] and I discussed, I'm really happy that the shelter is doing, is we're hiring this full time adoptions coordinator for the shelter, which I think is great...This person and their job is going to be first of all to view how do we build a strong adoptions program...We have obviously on the SPCA side is we have the adoption work that they're doing every single day, and we also have some adoption work that's being done currently at the shelter through our volunteers and the great staff we have there. But this person is going to be tasked also in how do we strengthen, grow and develop this adoptions program so we have a really strong adoptions program at the shelter. I'm really excited about that and I hope you guys are all excited about that too because I think it's going to make a difference..." (from LBReport.com 10/14/14).
These were empty promises. In 2015, the year Garcia said he'd increase adoptions, the shelter did 471 adoptions, up from a paltry 434 the year before. Sacramento Animal Care Services, in contrast, did nearly 10 times that number (see the chart for December 2015, cumulative numbers). Not only did adoptions not increase in any significant way, Mayor Garcia continued to pander to SpcaLA - muddying the waters even more by transferring adoption duties to the non-profit, and also, we've been told, giving the bursting-at-the-scenes non-profit the revenue from those adoptions.
Rest assured: the Mayor knows about the SpcaLA mess and has done nothing to change it. Has anyone ever noticed that it's an SpcaLA pet that Mayor Garcia shows at City Council meetings and not an LBACS animal? SpcaLA has almost double the revenue stream and $34 million in assets and while our shelter animals are dying by the thousands, we're spending City time on showing SpcaLA animals. Make no mistake, SpcaLA animals need homes, too, but at the very least, the spotlight should be shared with an LBACS animal as well at City Council.
In the following video from May 2015, we see Mayor Garcia bringing (for the umpteenth time) SpcaLA up to show a pet, and of course, in the video we see that SpcaLA has gotten its hands on some more puppies. In fact, SpcaLA uses LBACS as a puppy mill, taking 75% of LBACS' puppies, while taking in only 19% of LBACS' kittens.
Those who are new to the SpcaLA/LBACS debate need to know that Mayor Garcia's record on shelter animals is dismal. He got elected on the backs of shelter animals, saying that he would increase adoptions, and then he did exactly nothing. Needless to say, anything Garcia says should be taken with a massive grain of salt.
Mayor Garcia says he'll "look into" individual issues like a play yard, but animals lovers of Long Beach need to keep a healthy skepticism about anything Garcia says about improving the shelter animals. And know this: Until the City commits to a full adoption program and writes its commitment to a 90% save rate into City law, Mayor Garcia's offerings are nothing more than band-aids to stem the flow from a gaping wound.
Pat West - laughing his way to the bank on his 6-figure taxpayer funded salary while shelter pets die - lets rescues do the heavy lifting in Long Beach. Again.
The big story in animal welfare in LB right now is SpcaLA's heartlessly removing young puppies from an LBACS-impounded pittie and leaving her alone to face a near certain death. This is just the most recent lethal insult to LBACS shelter animals and just one of many that happen each and every day and lead to the killing of thousands of animals a year.
When Stayin' Alive Long Beach started publishing LBACS' kill numbers and calling for shelter reform in LB 3 years ago, the rescue community rushed to the animals' aid, doubling their own intake and saving hundreds of animals from death at the shelter -- in effect, doing the City's job on shoestring budgets, trying to balance work and family duties while working themselves literally to the bone to help animals and keep them from being killed at the shelter.
It still wasn't enough - with the killing machine fueled by the LBACS/SpcaLA "partnership" (collusion is more accurate) in place, thousands of animals still face their last day looking at the sharp end of a euthanasia needle.
Now the rescuers are doing the City's job again - calling for the SpcaLA to stop its cherry picking of LB shelter animals and share their wealth with LBACS.
However, the biggest issue with SpcaLA is not the lack of sharing. According to a meeting we had with LBACS manager Ted Stevens early in our fight, it's the fact that SpcaLA has a stranglehold on City Manager Pat West, vehemently fighting any attempt by our city shelter to have a strong adoption program.
The bottom line, if Stevens is to be believed, is that Pat West is whipped by SpcaLA President Madeline Bernstein (as one rescuer put it) and has been for almost a decade. This has resulted in literally tens of thousands of animals dying at our shelter. And Mayor Garcia watches on from his Superman lookout and nods approvingly.
The good news is - the rescue community is ready to speak out. Rescuers are doing the City's job again (and again and again) and taking their protest to SpcaLA's facebook page.
That is great, and we hope they continue. However, if anyone is equipped to stand up to the insidious, money-grubbing, profiteering-on-the-backs-of-shelter animals SpcaLA, wouldn't it be the City Manager and Mayor of the 7th largest city in California? They have the resources - attorneys, political influence and legislative power - to make the shelter strong and counter SpcaLA's selfish influence. But they don't.
And there are those in the rescue community who still defend the City and LBACS management in spite of the fact that they cave each and every day to the SpcaLA profit machine. And kill thousands of animals while doing it.
Pat West makes nearly $340,000 a year in salary and benefits paid by the taxpayer. Mayor Garcia is living the life of a figure-head celebrity, doing little more than give speeches and congratulatory slaps on the back, while pushing for tax increases and increased regulation on the people of Long Beach. City Council does the same. Our City should be the ones fighting this fight, instead of leaving it to a bunch of exhausted, compassionate and financially-strapped rescuers to defend the animals yet again.
People in the animal welfare community and all people who have had enough of the killing need to go to City Council and express their outrage. They need to hold sit ins and protests to educate the public about what's going wrong at our shelter. They need to flood City Council's e-mails and Facebook pages and tell them we've had enough of our money being used to kill animals. They need to notify the Press and sit outside of City Hall, where Pat West, Mayor Garcia and City Council have their offices, until the press come and until Mayor Garcia is embarrassed enough to take the issue seriously.
Failing that, thousands more animals will continue to be killed in our city shelter.
An initiative to make Long Beach a No Kill community.