People often defend animal shelters, and this is true in Long Beach, as well. Recent arguments put forth have said that LBACS doesn't have enough money to stop killing the nearly 2400 animals they kill each year. That is absolutely not true. LBACS has a budget in excess of $4.5 million, not counting money from the cities it contracts with. Sacramento ACS has substantially the same budget and is doing 4400 adoptions a year. It's not because of a lack of money that our shelter kills. When you look at the animals most killed by our shelter and look at why they were killed, the reasons become clear:
- Dogs. Dogs with good temperaments or slight but manageable behavior issues are being kept in the shelter for long periods of time. They then deteriorate after these long stays, or they are subject to snap judgments based on limited information about their temperaments and are labeled "severe behavioral issue" or "aggressive" and are killed. Dogs who get kennel cough after unnecessarily long stays are also killed at the shelter. If there had been a strong adoption or foster program, they wouldn't get sick and they wouldn't be killed.
Problem: Lack of a strong adoption program and foster program, not a lack of funding.
- Cats: Cats also enter the shelter in good shape, but they easily become sick with URIs (your average cold.) Yet, we know that there is a large segment of the human population in LB that will adopt (as seen at the recent Kitty Hall). If there were a strong adoption program and a foster program to get cats out of the shelter faster, they wouldn't get sick and they wouldn't get killed.
Problem: Lack of a strong adoption program and foster program, not a lack of funding.
- Kittens: Kittens, especially kittens that are not yet weaned, are still killed at alarming numbers. LBACS refuses to have a foster program for them - the best they do is off-the-record give DIY bottle feeding kits to people who bring kittens in and let them take them back if they're willing to bottle feed them. The fact that it's off-the-record is a hallmark of LBACS' operations, and it's the way the City placates concerned community members without ever taking true responsibility for putting in place programs to save lives.
Problem: Lack of a regular foster program for weaned kittens and lack of a bottle-baby foster program for unweaned kittens, not a lack of funding.
In spite of this, there are still some people who blame the public for problem and use it as a justification for the killing of animals. There is no other sector in civic life where we simply say - we have to (insert heinous act similar to shelter killing) because the public is irresponsible. Imagine if the government said that all parents have to be responsible before we can take care of children at Child Protective Services. It's ludicrous. Yet this is what many in the group of city sycophants who surround the shelter say about Long Beach ACS.
Then, when these issues are brought up, there are people who say "You can't criticize the shelter.
Volunteer there, then you can talk."
We never say all parents have to volunteer at schools so we can clean up problems with the school system. We never say say that people have to work in a hospital or do independent audits of hospitals to reform the health care system. We pay the government to do these things, and we pay them well. It's their job to do the will of the people.
Those arguments are simply another way to deflect criticism and stop doing the real work that has to be done at our shelters: putting in place strong programs, run by competent people, who are accountable to the public.
This is not rocket science - it's good government, and we don't have it yet in our city and at our shelter.
We'll keep advocating for the shelter animals, but frankly, Long Beach, you should be outraged. After nearly 4 years of hearing about these programs as a result of our advocacy, LBACS and the Mayor continue to take half-measures, spin the truth and kill animals needlessly. All in your name. All on your dime.
It does NOT have to be this way.
In a stunning display of shameless insincerity, Mayor Garcia continues to mislead the public about what’s going on at the Long Beach animal shelter.
In an e-mail to Long Beach residents yesterday, Mayor Garcia reported Long Beach Animal Care Services’ (LBACS) statistics for the first 6 months of 2016, saying that the news -- specifically the news about adoptions -- at LBACS was nothing short of great.
He then went on to discuss the number of animals impounded and the number of animals euthanized by LBACS.
Actual numbers of adoptions were not mentioned.
Stayin’ Alive Long Beach has been reporting on LBACS’ statistics since 2013, acting as a monitor on the public’s behalf of a city agency that has largely kept the public in the dark about what happens to shelter animals in our city shelter.
At Stayin’ Alive, we know that the public is smart enough to understand the difference between a real adoption into a loving home and a shelter simply pushing animals off to another shelter or rescue. We know that LBACS also knows the difference because they log adoptions, rescues and transfers to other shelters as very separate things in their database.
The Mayor’s Strategy – Passing the Buck Instead of Stepping Up
But Mayor Garcia is either unclear on the concept, or he thinks the public is not paying attention. An explanation may help.
An adoption is not shipping a shelter animal by plane thousands of miles away to another shelter for yet another shelter stay.
An adoption is not releasing an animal to an overworked and underfunded rescue that is working desperately to make up for LBACS’ lack of an adoption program.
An adoption is not giving an animal to neighboring SpcaLA so the animal can spend more time in yet another shelter – a shelter that according to its own website doesn’t believe in no kill sheltering and is not accountable to the City or to Long Beach taxpayers.
While it’s true that euthanasias are down at LBACS, it is largely due to these “pass-the-buck” strategies that show no real commitment to getting animals into good homes, and that in many cases result in extended stays in other shelters, where the animals often fall ill and then are euthanized.
Our neighbors to the north at Sacramento Animal Care Services know the difference between passing the buck and finding animals good homes – Sacramento did more than 4400 adoptions in 2015. LBACS did 471.
Mayor Garcia seemed to understand the distinction between adoptions and non-adoption outcomes back during the mayoral election when he was promising folks that he would increase adoptions at our shelter. He got elected on that promise, and now he’s claiming to have made good on that promise without actually having fulfilled it, and without reporting real adoption numbers.
Long Beach's Shelter Animals Are Dying Needlessly
Watching Mayor Garcia dance around the adoption question would almost be comical if it weren’t so heartbreaking.
Because the truth is - our shelter animals are dying.
By the Mayor’s own numbers, 725 animals were euthanized in the first six months of 2016. Yet many of these animals could have been saved if LBACS had a strong adoption program and a foster program. These suggestions are not unreasonable. Sacramento has strong adoption and foster programs. LA Animal Services has a foster program. If other cities can have such programs, surely, Long Beach can, too.
Actual Adoption Numbers at LBACS are Extremely Low
Here are the actual adoption numbers at LBACS, obtained by Stayin’ Alive Long Beach through the California Public Records Act. These are the numbers you’ll never see in a press release from Mayor Garcia, in spite of the fact that he campaigned specifically on the promise that he would increase actual adoptions at the Long Beach Animal Care Services shelter.
As you can see, adoption numbers are low across the board, and the increase since 2015, if any, has been minimal.
This Friday, Mayor Garcia is holding a “Kitty Hall” cat adoption event at City Hall. At last year’s event, LBACS reported placing 14 cats. Such events are great photo ops for our Mayor, but they’re no substitute for a real adoption program. To put it plainly – a one-time adoption event at City Hall every 9 months is like giving Batman a bicycle, when the Batmobile is all revved up and ready to go in the parking lot outside. The bicycle in this comparison is, of course, the rarely-held Kitty Hall. The Batmobile is a robust adoption program. Clearly, our shelter needs an ongoing, continuous adoption program – not an occasional event whose main function is to make the Mayor look good.
It is a sad day indeed when our elected officials use shelter animals’ plight to get elected, and then abandon them once again by failing to put into effect even the most basic of lifesaving programs – lifesaving adoption and foster programs.
The good news is that voters in Long Beach can mobilize the political process to elect compassionate people into City Council and the Mayor’s office so that this can change. There is hope for shelter animals in Long Beach – Long Beach is a compassionate city. It’s up to us to make sure that we elect leaders who reflect our compassionate values.
Patricia Turner is an educator and the spokesperson for Stayin’ Alive Long Beach, an animal advocacy group that promotes lifesaving programs at the Long Beach Animal Care Services animal shelter. Visit them at www.stayinalivelongbeach.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stayinalivelb.
Sacramento's Shelter Animals Getting Help this 4th, while LBACS' Animals are Abandoned by the Shelter that Takes Them in
Knowing that the 4th of July weekend will result in many scared animals entering the shelter, Sacramento's Front Street city shelter worked their tails off and got 111 animals adopted in just about a day and a half. More are expected as the weekend progresses.
One part of their success is due to the fact that the shelter is making adoption fees free this weekend. Some will look at this and protest that these people won't take care of the animals they've adopted. This is actually not true. It's not the fee that people pay that determines a good home -- it's the screening of the applicants that is key to getting a good home.
Studies have shown that there is no correlation between how much a person pays for an animal and how much the person bonds with or cares for the animal. Eliminating adoption fees can bring good people into the shelter to adopt at a critical time, when they might otherwise have waited a month or two when the shelter's need was not that great.
Unfortunately, on the busiest, most crucial weekend of the year for adoptions, LBACS is doing nothing special on their Facebook page. There is one mention of fireworks being illegal in Long Beach. This law is rarely enforced - my family always had to leave Long Beach on the 4th to take our dogs to a city where they actually enforced their laws about fireworks. And there is no information about how to help animals on the 4th on their Facebook page.
LBACS has said that they're understaffed right now, yet they work with rescues, community members and volunteers who have expressed to us repeatedly that they would be willing to help with the LBACS Facebook page. LBACS has not taken them up on this.
Our shelter animals were abandoned once, and now they're being abandoned again, by the very shelter and City that has said they would work to save their lives.
Sacramento shows us that it doesn't have to be this way. Please contact City Council and tell them you want shelter reform at the Long Beach animal shelter. Here's the contact info for LB City Council and a link to other ways you can help.
The longer we wait to act, the more animals will die. It's as simple as that.
An initiative to make Long Beach a No Kill community.