No Kill Long Beach's Response to Phase Two of City Auditor Doud's Review of Long Beach Animal Care Services
A Shelter in Crisis – Part II: A Critical Assessment of “Animal Care Services Review: Phase Two”
This document presents the response of animal advocacy group No Kill Long Beach (formerly Stayin’ Alive Long Beach) to the major findings reported in “Animal Care Services Review: Phase Two.”
Phase Two of the Auditor’s Review addresses staffing levels and revenue generation, both of which impact animal welfare at the Long Beach Animal Care Services animal shelter. Phase One of the Auditor’s Review, released in December 2017, addressed issues of shelter operations, including animal care, veterinary services, euthanasia procedures, and cleanliness, among others. No Kill Long Beach’s response to Phase One of the Animal Care Services review can be found here.
No Kill Long Beach would like to thank City of Long Beach Auditor Laura Doud and her staff for completing this comprehensive study of Long Beach Animal Care Services (LBACS).
Volunteer Program Recommended
As was the case with the first phase of the Auditor’s Review, “Animal Care Services Review: Phase Two” makes some of the recommendations No Kill Long Beach has made over the past five years; in particular, Phase Two makes a strong recommendation for a volunteer program, which No Kill Long Beach has advocated for repeatedly in research reports, in conversations with City Council members, while speaking at City Council, and on social media as a cost-effective method for increasing the live release rate at the shelter. This is a positive, and we believe, progressive direction for LBACS to move in; however, it is not one that City management, the Mayor and City Council did not know about, and it is one that for five years they have avoided, at great cost to taxpayers. We hope that the audit’s recommendation to have a robust volunteer program is fully embraced by the Mayor, Council and City management going forward.
Chronic Mismanagement of LBACS Points to Deficits in City Management
The volunteer program notwithstanding, the theme developed in the first phase of the Auditor’s Review is revisited and deepened in the second. There now can be no doubt that LBACS is a shelter in crisis – lacking proper staffing to maintain humane care of animals, while simultaneously mismanaging taxpayer funds in ways that show a gross disregard for or misapprehension of fiscally-responsible management of taxpayer resources.
Based on the Auditor’s findings, it is clear that LBACS has been chronically mismanaged, not only currently, but also at least since 2009, and likely earlier. Given the depth and breadth of the problems documented by the Auditor’s review, and the nearly ten-year span of financial hemorrhaging of taxpayer dollars discussed in the report that has occurred through LBACS’ mismanagement, all to the detriment of shelter animals and taxpayers in Long Beach, it is clear that oversight of the shelter by the current City Administration, led by City Manager, Patrick West, since he took the position in 2007, has been inadequate and has cost the taxpayers of Long Beach over a million dollars over the past decade.
In addition to the above, Long Beach taxpayers and the animal welfare community must take note of the following points arising from the second phase of the audit, all of which are detrimental to Long Beach’s shelter animals:
1. The report continues to provide overwhelming evidence that LBACS is performing below standard in many of the most basic areas of animal sheltering. Phase Two reveals a shelter that provides grossly inadequate care to animals, including an inability to properly feed animals or clean animals’ housing. According to the report, animals receive only 6 minutes of care per day -- less than half the industry-recommended standard of 15 minutes. Even more troubling, the report finds that veterinary care is insufficient, with a very high ratio of animals to veterinary staff, and with veterinary staff at times unable to complete daily rounds to check on animals’ welfare. Daily rounds are a very basic requirement of animal sheltering, without which animals often fall ill. No Kill Long Beach’s research has shown that animals euthanized for illness at LBACS often come into the shelter healthy but suffer declines in health over time, and they are subsequently euthanized for illnesses caused by the shelter itself. The Auditor’s review blames a lack of staffing for these deficits; however, the City has repeatedly hired managers from within the City’s ranks with no experience in animal shelter management. It is difficult to believe that the City’s habit of hiring managers with no animal shelter management experience has not affected staff’s ability to work at optimal levels. Now that the current LBACS manager is now leaving LBACS, the City has an opportunity to remedy this. Hiring a shelter manager with demonstrated knowledge and experience in animal sheltering management would bring efficiencies to LBACS operations that could potentially mitigate, at least to some extent, the need for additional staff.
2. Fiscal mismanagement at LBACS continues to be a problem, in spite of the fact that such mismanagement is a longstanding issue and has been the subject of two prior audits. The Auditor’s review notes that LBACS has failed to collect nearly $1 million in citations since 2009, collecting only 13% of the fees due to LBACS. Nearly 2/3 of the outstanding amount can no longer be collected due to statutes of limitation in effect. Even more troubling: this is part of a pattern that has been in place at LBACS for nearly a decade. The report alluded to, but did not explain, that the City Auditor’s Office (CAO) carried out an audit in 2011 that revealed that an LBACS employee had embezzled over $250,000 from LBACS. The audit found that the theft was made possible by lax accounting procedures in place at LBACS. Subsequent news articles reported that the employee had embezzled $600,000 over the course of a career at LBACS. A 2014 audit found that problems with LBACS’ accounting procedures that had led to the embezzlement had not been fully resolved.
These past issues point to a persistent problem at LBACS that has been a problem during the entire tenure of the current City Manager, and they should have been clearly articulated in Phase Two. The fact that they were not raises questions as to the Auditor’s commitment to full transparency in the way that LBACS has been and is being managed, and to the issue of accountability by City management as to the shelter’s overall operation.
3. The Auditor’s reviews continue to de-emphasize adoptions as a primary means of saving lives. In spite of the several positive recommendations contained in the report, the report makes almost no mention of an adoption program as a primary way to increase the live release rate and thereby save more shelter animals’ lives. We note, in particular, that although a robust volunteer program is the first recommendation made in the report, none of the volunteer tasks specifically named in the report involve volunteers organizing, assisting with or staffing on- or offsite adoption events or working on mobile adoptions. Instead, the report cites administrative functions (filing, organizing supplies, data entry, opening mail) and assisting the veterinary team (cleaning and prepping instruments) as examples of areas in which volunteers can be utilized, ignoring the great potential for the use of volunteers in adoption program-related activities.
Further, Phase Two notes that that LBACS’ rehoming team (charged with adoptions, rescue transfers, and behavioral enrichment, among other duties) is understaffed compared with other shelters, and recommends the use of volunteers to complement their efforts, but makes only passing reference to the use of volunteers to assist the Rehoming Team with adoptions. An adoption program is an absolutely essential program in animal sheltering. The omission of adoption-related activities in the discussion of permitted volunteer activities is noticeable and gives rise to questions of whether the Auditor has properly examined the role of SpcaLA in inhibiting LBACS’ adoption program, as has been explained by shelter management to animal advocates in the past.
4. Increases in licensing compliance enforcement recommended by the Audit could have adverse consequences for people’s companion animals. One of the recommendations made in the audit is to have “external veterinarians submit vaccination data which can alert [LB]ACS to the need for new licenses” (Phase Two, p. 16). This recommendation is controversial. Veterinarians in other locales considering such measures have voiced concerns about the erosion of trust between client and veterinarian that occurs when veterinarians report vaccination data to animal control. Veterinarians also have raised concerns that such an intrusion into the veterinary-client relationship may discourage people from taking their pets to the vet for necessary care for fear of being reported to authorities. There are few benefits to increasing licensing compliance, particularly when increased funding is not specifically linked to an increase in the shelter’s budget. Further, the potential drawbacks of increasing licensing enforcement are many.
5. It is not clear that a sufficiently broad base of stakeholders will be permitted to be involved in the creation of the LBACS strategic plan. The Auditor’s review and City’s response show overreliance on a small task force to provide input into the strategic plan. Mayor Garcia announced the new task force just prior to the April 2018 election. While it is encouraging to see that community members will have a voice in the creation of LBACS’ strategic plan, the process by which the plan is crafted needs to involve a large base of stakeholders, with data collected by a third-party consultant (the City implies that this will be the case) who gathers data from a wide range of stakeholders through a series of listening tours, focus groups, surveys and other data-gathering methods commonly used in strategic planning. More broad-based input from a variety of stakeholders will ensure that the City of Long Beach has the shelter that reflects the compassionate and humane values of the people of Long Beach.
6. Sacramento ACS’s performance continues to prove that more money is not the answer to LBACS’ poor shelter performance. The audit’s recommendations for more staffing and more resources ignore a key data point that the audit itself made, and that No Kill Long Beach has made many times over the past 5 years: Sacramento ACS continues to outperform LBACS, in spite of the fact that: 1) Sacramento ACS is responsible for covering a larger service area than Long Beach is, 2) Sacramento has a comparable population to that of Long Beach, 3) Sacramento ACS has a smaller budget than LBACS does, 4) Sacramento ACS has fewer full-time employees 5) Sacramento ACS takes in almost two times as many animals as Long Beach, and 6) Sacramento ACS has no partner shelter like LBACS has in SpcaLA. Yet, Sacramento still manages to have to have a higher live release rate than LBACS (see Phase Two, p. 3 for a chart comparing Sacramento ACS and LBACS).
Taken as a whole, it is clear that LBACS is a shelter in crisis, a fact amply demonstrated by two CAO reports that have taken more than 18 months to complete. Looking at the results of the Auditor’s two reviews, it seems clear that the mismanagement at LBACS reflects larger mismanagement at the City Manager level – mismanagement that has resulted in the killing of more than 40,000 animals at the Long Beach Animal Care Services shelter since 2007.
While this information is daunting, it is, nonetheless, for many animal advocates, a relief to have the deplorable state of the LBACS animal shelter finally on public record. This presents the City with a clear opportunity to reform Long Beach Animal Care Services by implementing best practices in sheltering and by hiring a shelter manager who has demonstrated experience in implementing No Kill policies and practices, who is compassionate and hardworking, and who will work to ensure that Long Beach fulfills its promise of being the humane and compassionate No Kill City the good people of Long Beach want it to be.
Most people think that shelter adopt out most of the animals in their care. However, that's not the case at Long Beach Animal Care Services. Most animals at Long Beach Animal Care Services (nearly half) are transferred out to another shelter environment, which is stressful and dangerous for animals because they stay in a shelter environment where they can easily get sick and then are then euthanized. Only 26% go into homes (14% returned to their owner and an extremely small 12% adopted into homes - this number is incredibly small, compared to Sacramento, which adopts 45% of their animals into homes in addition to all of the other positive placements they do.) These numbers are extremely disappointing and when you look at the adoption numbers, LBACS is among the poorest performing shelters in California.
Since Mayor Garcia was elected, the number of animals placed into shelters or rescue (the stressful situation) has increased 13% points. Adoptions, while the percentages appear to have increased, when you look at the actual number of animals who have been placed in homes, that number is so small as to be tragic. Only 682 animals were adopted into homes last year.
In another article in this paper, Mayor Garcia was quoted as saying that increasing live releases was his commitment. That's not accurate, either. In 2014, at a Town Hall Meeting, he told a over 200 people in the animal welfare community that he would increase adoptions and had hired a new adoption coordinator. That adoption coordinator has now been trained to do euthanasia.
When publications make comments like this, it does a huge disservice to the shelter animals. Responsible journalism requires accuracy and investigation. We encourage the people of Long Beach to learn as much as they can about their animal shelter by researching data-based resources and then making up their own minds about the kind of shelter they want: One that is transparent and works hard to be No Kill, or one that hides behind politicians' rhetoric and cherry-picked statistics.
Tomorrow is Long Beach Animal Care Services' annual Open House. For at least the past five years, LBACS and the City have used this as a vehicle for "putting one over" on the people of Long Beach, trumpeting small achievements and, unfortunately for the animals, sweeping under the rug the many unnecessary killings of animals at the Long Beach shelter, multiple chaotic management and personnel issues (recently documented in the city audit of LBACS), and what we now know are poorly managed animal welfare practices and, at times, inhumane treatment of animals at our city shelter.
For those who go to the Open House this Saturday, though, many of whom have supported the shelter animals through thick and thin over the years, you deserve much better than a cavalcade of thin excuses, feel-good celebrations and trumped up achievements that ignore the deep problems that plague our city shelter.
You deserve: A genuine, honest and transparent explanation of the audit's conclusions and why LBACS has "very limited standard operating procedures," and why management engages in "inconsistent decision-making and conflicting shelter practices, as well as in changes being implemented without proper direction and explanation." These things hurt our shelter animals immensely. You deserve to have that acknowledged.
You deserve to have Ted Stevens, Marie Knight and Mayor Garcia tell you, in PRECISE terms, what the City intends to do as a result of the audit, rather than trotting out the tired old "everything's just fine - we're doing great" message they've conveyed for the last 5 years as they've faced public scrutiny.
You deserve to be told that the PRECISE things the City plans to do are: To run a humane, No Kill shelter that is free of the influence of SpcaLA, that has its own adoption program and foster program, that sets goals for performance and sticks to them and that:
SAVES EVERY HEALTHY AND TREATABLE ANIMAL AT THE LONG BEACH ANIMAL SHELTER.
If you don't get that, if instead you get feel-good reports about minuscule changes in the euthanasia numbers, new play areas for dogs that serve only to keep them from spiraling into desperation until they are killed, and thanks for performing services our city taxpayer dollars are paying LBACS to do and that LBACS lays on the backs of under-resourced, hard-working rescues that Mayor Garcia is more than happy to transfer the work of saving lives to - if that's what you get, you'll know that it's business-as-usual at LBACS, animals will continue to be killed, and Long Beach is no closer to becoming a no kill city than it ever was.
We hope the City will take the high road and start to see how misguided the current sheltering model is.
We hope the City will stop the suffering of shelter animals and the people who care about them.
The good people of Long Beach deserve a city-run animal shelter that is run in accordance with their compassionate and humane values.
Let's hope we get that tomorrow.
The numbers for 2017 are in, and while there has been some small improvement, LBACS still lags far behind progressive shelters in lifesaving, killing nearly 1,100 cats, dogs, puppies and kittens in 2017.
These are the numbers you will never see or hear from Mayor Garcia or LBACS.
Typically, Mayor Garcia likes to talk about decreases in impound and euthanasia numbers, and he completely leaves out adoptions, fosters, the missing, or even the numbers transferred to SpcaLA, which remains unaccountable to the public and firmly against No Kill.
This year, Mayor Garcia, in a display of bravado that is shocking even to those of us accustomed to his lack of genuine concern for shelter animals, said during the State of the City speech that adoptions had increased since he came into office. He offered no numbers, no proof to show what that means. That is because adoption numbers have barely crept up (from 403 adoptions in 2014 to a heartbreakingly-low 682 adoptions in 2017, while Sacramento did over 5,600 adoptions in 2017.)
Here are the numbers Mayor Garcia doesn't want to talk about:
To reiterate, LBACS did only 682 adoptions and had only 4 animals in foster for all of 2017. With a shelter that is killing nearly 1,100 animals, a strong and viable adoption and foster program are absolutely VITAL to lifesaving. We still have not seen a statement by the City saying they are committed to a strong adoption and foster program.
If LBACS did even a fraction of the 5,600 adoptions Sacramento did, our shelter would be saving all of the healthy and treatable animals in Long Beach. It would also have the capacity to take in animals from nearby higher-kill shelters like Downey and Carson.
Nearly 1,100 animals were killed at LBACS in 2017. They were named Mopsy, Thor, Charlie, Pumpkin Spice, Buda, Thaddeus, Blueberry, Beau, Bella, Zeus and so many more.
There's literally no excuse for not having a strong adoption program in Long Beach - ours is a city full of animal lovers. A mobile adoption van was generously donated to the City last year - and only 103 more adoptions were done as a result.
That's not a shelter that has "not enough money." That's city management Pat West, Marie Knight, City Council and Mayor Garcia remaining indifferent to our shelter animals, not caring that rescues are working every waking hour to save animals and not looking at the answer that is staring straight at them:
A strong adoption and foster program.
Our shelter animals and the people of Long Beach deserve better.
Kudos to the Signal Tribune Newspaper for balanced journalism. They have released the second installment in their two-part coverage of the Long Beach Animal Care Services Audit - the watchdog group they talk about is Stayin' Alive Long Beach.
In the article, we see Marie Knight, Director of Parks, Recreation and Marine, backpedaling, as a brilliant Huffposter once said, "faster than Wile E. Coyote off a cliff" when it comes to the audit's clear identification of a clear problem between LBACS and SpcaLA: the lack of a formal operating agreement.
From the Signal Tribune article:
"Marie Knight, who has served as director of Long Beach Parks, Recreation & Marine for almost a year, concurred that there is indeed an operations agreement but that the auditors are calling for clarification on the working relationship between the two entities– not necessarily a new agreement."
Hold onto your hat.
The fact is, there is NO operating agreement between LBACS and SpcaLA -- only a lease-back agreement. And the audit says so: "[t]he lease-back agreement does not contain terms related to key operating functions, such as animal adoptions, for which both organizations are responsible."
The audit also fully recommends a formal operations agreement between SpcaLA and LBACS, not just "a clarification," as Ms. Knight erroneously states.
So what we're seeing here is:
1) SpcaLA saying that there is an operational agreement between SpcaLA and LBACS, when there's not (a verbal agreement or a working agreement is not a formal agreement). The truth -- that the audit clearly states -- is the only agreement that exists is a lease/lease-back agreement (we have obtained it through the California Public Records Act and posted it on our website. You can find it here: https://www.stayinalivelongbeach.org/acs-and-spca-la-whos-w…)
2) Marie Knight folding to SpcaLA and then misstating the actual audit by ignoring the fact that the shelter consultants recommends specifically on page 6 of the audit that the City "work with SpcaLA to develop a formal operations agreement."
3) An "alternative fact" being created right before our eyes, as Marie Knight and SpcaLA attempt to erase the clear fact stated in the audit that there is NO operational agreement between the two organizations by saying that there IS one. It is precisely this loosey-goosey operational chaos at LBACS that prevents SpcaLA from being accountable to LBACS in any way, shape or form, and it is this lack of sound city management that is hurting our shelter animals.
The good news is - people can change this by going to City Council, writing letters to their City Council person or even simply educating people by sharing on Facebook as a first step.
We have the power to help our shelter animals. We just have to use it. The shelter animals are depending on us to be their voice.
Read the Signal Tribune article here:http://www.signaltribunenewspaper.com/?p=36407
The following is an annotated list of the recommendations that the recent audit make that point toward more euthanasias. Each recommendation is followed by commentary by Stayin' Alive Long Beach.
Animal Intake and Flow – Short-term Recommendations (Audit, Page 7)
If LBACS had a viable adoption and foster program that moved healthy animals out of the shelter, they would be able to treat many of these animals. Sacramento ACS, a comparable shelter, does not choose euthanasia for its treatable animals and instead garners community support to get prompt and competent medical care for their animals with medical needs. They do this because they are committed to meeting the Sacramento community’s expectations that they will have a humane, proactive, city-run shelter. You can see an example here: https://goo.gl/Y4ZoGz.
Animal Intake and Flow – Long-term Recommendations (Audit, page 10)
As Long Beach reels from the results of an audit that show an animal shelter in crisis, a shelter that can't even assure basic shelter operations, animal care and veterinary care, we have to ask: where is Mayor Garcia in all of this?
The audit was released nearly 3 weeks ago, and still...crickets coming from Mayor Garcia's Mayor and "public figure" Facebook pages. No comments, no posts, no explanation to the animal-loving community that came together and elected him in 2014 based on his promises to improve the Long Beach shelter. His silence is even more noticeable knowing that this is a man who reports his every move on his Facebook page, no matter how trivial.
Let's step back for a moment in history and remember the animal-friendly campaign Mayor Garcia ran back in 2013 and 2014, when he ran on a platform using upbeat, happy animal-themed materials saying, "He loves puppies and kittens" to garner the vote of Long Beach's animal-friendly voters.
Let's remember the packed Town Hall Meeting back in 2014 where promised upwards of 200 animal advocates that he would increase adoptions at LBACS and learn about how Sacramento does such a phenomenal job at adoptions in their shelter (he eventually went to Sacramento, as is typical, only after Stayin' Alive held him to his promise repeatedly on our Facebook page and through a year-end report card. Amazingly, and to the dismay of animal advocates across town, he told not a soul about his visit.)
Instead, Mayor Garcia handed more of the adoption responsibility over to SpcaLA, ignored adoptions, which barely crept up over where they were before he was elected, and touted bogus shelter statistics that only told half of the story and were designed to show LBACS in the best possible light, rather than to find out what truly needed to be done to help our shelter animals.
And while he was doing this, our shelter animals suffered:
Thor - killed illegally with a rescue and an adopter waiting and asking for him.
Sumo - burnt severely while under LBACS care.
Blue - a sweet and friendly tail-wagging dog, left to languish in the shelter for 71 days with no offsite adoption events and then killed for "moderate behavior."
And literally thousands more who were killed under his watch.
The list goes on and on, in a shelter with unqualified leadership that now we are finding has difficulties with assuring even the most basic of shelter operations.
And with this echoing silence from Garcia, what we're seeing, once again, is a Mayor not caring about shelter animals, not taking the animal-loving community seriously, and not being accountable to one of the most powerful voting blocks in the City.
Our shelter animals deserve better than silence. The animal-loving community who has been doing LBACS' work for it deserves better. And Mayor Garcia has done nothing but serve up empty promises and heartache.
It's time for a change.
We have completed our review of the Long Beach City Auditor's report and are dismayed to see how bad it is for Long Beach's shelter animals.
Just this week, the Long Beach auditor released the audit of Long Beach Animal Care Services that was requested by the mayor, after three years of continued pressure from Stayin' Alive and other concerned citizens in Long Beach.
Stayin' Alive is currently reviewing the report and will have a comprehensive analysis of it in the coming days. A preliminary review shows that the report makes many of the recommendations Stayin' Alive has made repeatedly over the past 4 years, including those made in two comprehensive research reports. However, there are at least two items that give cause for concern, which we'll preview for you now.
Massive Loophole for the City: One problem that is immediately clear is that many of the recommendations that the report makes are for "Best Practices." These Best Practices, according to the Auditor's office "may not be possible in all circumstances."
This leaves a massive loophole for Mayor Garcia and the City to fly through -- and disregard those practices. It is clear that the animal community in Long Beach will need to continue to monitor, and (given the City's historic unwillingness to act) more likely pressure, the City to make sure the Best Practices are followed. We'll have more on whether those Best Practices are truly "Best Practices" in coming days.
The Problems with SpcaLA Get Last Priority: The report also classifies recommendations into Short-Term and Long-Term recommendations. The Auditor has made a clarification of the troubled relationship between Long Beach Animal Care Services and SpcaLA a "Long-Term Recommendation." This relationship, which has resulted in the killing of tens of thousands of animals over the past 19 years, has been disastrous to shelter animals in Long Beach since the lease agreement between SpcaLA and the City was forged back in 1998. Long Beach shelter animals have been in drastic need of a reform of the toxic partnership between the two entities for nearly two decades. The current agreement is slated to be in place until 2053. Depending on how the City defines "Long-Term," this recommendation could be all but meaningless, and stretch until 2053 or longer, meaning our shelter animals will continue to be killed needlessly.
This is not surprising; JVR Shelter Strategies, the consultants hired by the City to work on the audit, is not aligned with the concept of No Kill. Their website lists consultation on "euthanasia practices" as a service they offer, but nothing about adoption programs, foster programs or other lifesaving programs that shelters -- especially Long Beach Animal Care Services -- need to have.
We'll have more on the report in the next few days, but we encourage all of you to:
1. Read the report;
2. Evaluate it in terms of how it serves or does not serve our shelter animals, and the animal-loving community and taxpayers of Long Beach; and
3. Speak up for our shelter animals to your City Council member and at City Council meetings.
Read the Auditor's Report here: bit.ly/acsro
Read the three things you need to know about the auditor's report here:https://goo.gl/v9V8h4
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.