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.
We believe that the City needs to find the means to terminate the lease with SpcaLA. Whether that includes legal action, a buy-out or simple negotiation is unknown, but 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 needs to rid itself of SpcaLA, and we at No Kill Long Beach are hopeful that last night’s meeting was the first step.
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