Since Mayor Garcia was elected, nearly 6000 dogs, cats, kittens and puppies have been killed at the Long Beach shelter. Here’s what you need to know about the soon-to-be released results of the audit of the LB shelter.
This past January, Mayor Garcia requested an audit of Long Beach Animal Care Services. This came about largely in response to advocates' repeated calls for changes at the Long Beach animal shelter, while Mayor Garcia has steadfastly maintained that LBACS is doing a great job in spite of many, many complaints that have come from the community about the city agency, including the illegal killing of a dog named Thor last year.
We expect the audit to be released soon, just in time for Mayor Garcia to manipulate it as a tool for re-election in 2018, once again using Long Beach's shelter animals as a campaign gimmick to get re-elected, as he did back in 2014.
Stayin' Alive participated in the audit, presenting research and data to the shelter consultants the City hired. Here are a few things folks need to know as the release of the audit results approach.
The first is this: Regardless of the results of the audit, Mayor Garcia stands to benefit politically from its release, and that, rather than any true concern about our shelter animals, is the likely reason for his request of the audit. Why? If the audit says LBACS is doing great and needs only minor changes, all of Mayor Garcia's grandstanding, dishonest reporting practices and lack of action over the past 4 years will appear justified. This is absolutely the worst-case scenario for our shelter animals because it will mean that NO substantive change will happen for them, and our city's dogs, kittens and cats will continue to die NEEDLESSLY in a shelter that is a relentlessly animal CONTROL organization masquerading as an animal CARE shelter. But it will be great news for Garcia.
If the audit comes back outlining significant programmatic and other changes needed at LBACS, including an adoption and foster program and a medical and behavioral rehabilitation program, AND Mayor Garcia actually acts to make these things happen, he will also benefit politically from the audit, which is not a problem because it would mean that he is doing the right thing. This would be a potentially good outcome for our shelter animals if handled competently, though we believe it is a highly unlikely outcome, given Mayor Garcia's blatant disregard for our shelter animals' welfare over the past 3 years. Nearly 6,000 Long Beach dogs, cats, kittens and puppies have been killed since Mayor Garcia was elected.
A second thing to keep in mind is that the City is not required to follow any recommendations the audit produces. So even if the audit report finds that significant changes need to be made at LBACS, the City does not have to implement them. This would put us right back where we currently are: a city-run shelter with an inefficient and disorganized organizational culture, weak and insufficient adoption and foster programs, and non-existent medical and behavior rehabilitation programs.
A third thing to know is that the shelter consultants that the Auditor hired are not experts in lifesaving/No Kill shelter management. A look at their website shows a list of their services: consultations on the euthanasia process, sanitation protocols, nutrition guidelines and veterinary services are listed, but there is NO mention of adoption program protocols, fostering programs, medical and behavioral rehabilitation for lifesaving or adoption marketing and community outreach. We are unsure why these particular shelter experts were contracted, rather than an expert in lifesaving/No Kill animal sheltering. Stayin’ Alive contacted the Auditor’s office, specifically asking that the consultants selected be experts in implementing the lifesaving programs that we’ve been advocating for for the past 5 years. And we know that at least one consultant with a proven track record for saving shelter animals using No Kill equation programs submitted a proposal to do the work, yet they were not selected.
Given that the consultants used in the audit were not aligned with No Kill, there is no reason for us to believe that the audit will make recommendations designed to save animals' lives using the progressive, No Kill programs Stayin’ Alive has been advocating for over the past 5 years and that have been proven to work in progressive cities like Austin and Washoe County, Nevada. However, there is always hope. We’ll have to wait for the Auditor’s report to see what the consultants had to say.
One finding the audit will certainly come back with is that LBACS is doing better than it did in the past. And Mayor Garcia will certainly make sure that this news is indelibly stamped on the mind of the public. But it is important to keep these two points in mind: ONE: any improvement has only happened because Stayin’ Alive and our supporters have put PRESSURE on LBACS – not because LBACS and the City have willingly made improvements on their own. And TWO and more importantly, this improvement is NOT SUSTAINABLE because it does not represent a real change in the commitment of LBACS to lifesaving.
Improvements have indeed only come about as the result of pressure. The increase in the save rate we have seen over the past 5 years, since Stayin' Alive began advocating for lifesaving programs and exposing the inhumane and inefficient practices at LBACS, has largely come as the result of continuous, ongoing political pressure placed by Stayin' Alive and our supporters on the City. The City's undemocratic response has been to spin the numbers and put in place only the most minimal of reforms, many of which have simply offloaded the burden of lifesaving from a multi-million-dollar city agency onto overworked and underfunded rescues.
As taxpayers in the 7th largest city in the 6th largest economy of the world, we should NOT have to work this hard to get the shelter to stop killing in our name using our taxpayer dollars. Read here about how the City has fought reform in the face of evidence presented by advocates in LBreport.com articles that can be found here and here:
More importantly, the decreases made in the kill rate are not sustainable -- rescues can't continue to do the work of LBACS forever. As Stayin' Alive has consistently argued over the past 5 years of our advocacy, Long Beach needs a city ordinance similar to the one enacted by Austin, Texas, that will explicitly state the duties and obligations of LBACS, including the implementation of a vigorous adoption, foster, and medical and behavioral rehabilitation programs. You can find the ordinance we gave to Mayor Garcia and which he ignored here.
And progress has been made, but the question remains: Is it enough? Last year, LBACS killed 1662 dogs, cats, kittens and puppies. As long as ANY healthy and treatable animals are being killed, it is NOT enough. This is one point that animal advocates and those of us who care deeply about the animals that are part of our lives universally agree upon.
Finally, the most important point is this: Even if the audit comes back saying that LBACS is doing great, or even simply “better than before,” this is virtually meaningless unless the data bears it out. The hard evidence -- the numbers of animals euthanized -- is the only true and valid measure of the performance of our city shelter. Reports and commentary from so-called experts can come in praising LBACS to the ceiling, but the truth is: If the numbers don't show real, sustainable progress, it doesn't matter what the audit says. The number of animals killed and the treatment they receive while at LBACS are the bottom line: As long as animals are being unnecessarily killed at LBACS, LBACS needs reform.
We hope the audit returns with recommendations that will truly change the landscape for Long Beach's shelter animals. If it doesn't, it will be a clear case of mismanagement of taxpayer funds and clear evidence of the lack of ethics of our elected officials, namely Mayor Garcia, but also the many city council members who have sat by for 3 years and done nothing to help the animals.
Let's hope, for the sake of our shelter animals, that the audit comes back with substantive recommendations for the types of changes that Stayin’ Alive has been advocating – a strong adoption and foster program, a medical and behavioral rehabilitation program and a general overhaul of the policies and practices of LBACS. Only these things will bring LBACS out of the dark ages and into the 21st century with progressive animal sheltering.
If not, our fight for our shelter animals will go on.
An initiative to make Long Beach a No Kill community.