In a recent e-mail to Stayin’ Alive Long Beach, the Long Beach Auditor’s office has once again confirmed that Phase One of the audit of Long Beach Animal Care Services is due out by the end of the year.
As part of the data-gathering process, the Auditor's office received input from members of the public. Stayin’ Alive was among those who gave input. As many of you know, our input is based on our research, which utilizes data from LBACS obtained through the California Public Records Act.
One of the animals we told the Auditor about was a little dog named Sumo.
Today we are going to tell the story of Sumo on this page – a chihuahua who entered LBACS in December 2016 with his siblings and was burned over large portions of his body while at LBACS.
Sumo entered LBACS on December 6, 2016. His notes say he was “skittish and scared,” most likely because he had been separated from his siblings. Shelters are stressful for animals, so this is not surprising.
According to LBACS records, on December 14, the neighboring SpcaLA “passed” on Sumo – meaning they declined to take him in -- because of his behavior. He was fearful, LBACS records state. Two days later, on December 16, not surprisingly, Sumo started coughing and sneezing, which is always bad news for animals at LBACS.
Because there is no adoption program at LBACS (because Mayor Garcia now allows SpcaLA to do the vast majority of adoptions, rather than having a strong adoption program run by LBACS) animals get sick at LBACS every month and are killed. LBACS director Ted Stevens justifies these killings, saying that they are not done for time and space but because the animals are ill. However, the part that is consistently left out is the fact that LBACS is the one that made them sick by not having an adoption program that gets animals into homes quickly.
Luckily for him, Sumo bounced back from his cold, but on January 4, he was dealt another cruel blow: a note in his record states that SpcaLA “will no longer show dog” because of his behavior. Again, he was fearful, which is not surprising for a small dog who is scared and stressed in an animal shelter.
Finally on January 9, more than a full month after he arrived at LBACS, a potential adopter was found. Things were looking up for little Sumo.
But right before he was to be adopted, something happened that introduced a harrowing, painful period in little Sumo’s life.
On January 11, seemingly out of the blue, Sumo’s record notes that there were “large areas of erythema” (redness due to injury) across his body that was suspected to be a “thermal burn.”
Sumo’s LBACS records don’t state how the burn happened. All we know is that there were no burns noted in Sumo’s records when he came into LBACS, and suddenly, on January 11, more than a month after he arrived at LBACS, he had severe burns to large portions of his body.
Make no mistake: Sumo’s burns were severe, covering large areas of his body. His LBACS record notes that the burns required “surgical repair.” We can only imagine how painful this was for little Sumo. Scared, sick, rejected and finally somehow burned -- the records don't say how -- while at the shelter. It was amazing that Sumo survived.
Sumo’s story is the story of a shelter that is broken and that needs reform.
We have told the Auditor about Sumo’s story, as well as other animals’ stories – stories that clearly show that LBACS is in dire need of reform. We have also presented data about the programmatic problems at LBACS, including the lack of an adoption program, lack of a foster program, the problematic and non-transparent nature of LBACS’ relationship with SpcaLA and the large numbers of animals that are killed as a result of this lack of programs.
We sincerely hope that the Audit will address these issues and that city officials, many of whom are coming up for re-election in April, will take decisive, much-needed action to improve the Long Beach animal shelter.
The good news is that after he was burned while at LBACS, Sumo was eventually taken to an outside vet – by a rescue, not by LBACS. His wounds were treated, and he was adopted. But he went through so much unnecessary pain, sadness and rejection to get there.
Let’s be clear. What happened to Sumo is negligent, inhumane and wrong. And it happened at the LBACS shelter. It happened at OUR shelter.
Long Beach deserves a reformed shelter that truly commits to lifesaving.
Please be a voice for the animals - let your city council member know you want major reforms at the LBACS shelter.
Our shelter animals deserve better.
An initiative to make Long Beach a No Kill community.