Recently, someone posted the following question on our Facebook page.
When you say the City continues to resist having an adoption program - who exactly do you mean?
There seem to be a number of individuals who are opposed to an adoption program in Long Beach City government. The director, Ted Stevens, is credited in a Press-Telegram column this year with saying that adoptions are "hopeless." He's not alone in thinking that. We have talked to a staff member of a prominent city council person who thinks that LBACS shelter animals are "defective" and basically unadoptable. We have been told by shelter insiders that the resistance to having an adoption program goes all the way up to the City Manager, who declined to meet with us this year when we asked for a meeting to discuss the concerns we brought up in our October 2013 policy report. This City administration, led by a City Manager under whose watch more than 42,000 dogs and cats have been killed over the past 8 years, is very aware of the programs that we have proposed, and rather than take steps to look into what other cities have done with great success, learn from them and apply them to our situation in Long Beach, has opted to launch a publicity campaign designed to cover up LBACS's problems and show LBACS in the best possible light, and thereby lull the public into thinking all is well and that more than 4300 animals weren't actually killed in 2013 alone.
This is just an intensification of a campaign to keep the public in the dark that LBACS has long been involved in. Less than 18 months ago, this was printed in a local paper: "The animal services officers do still collect and catch stray animals, and unfortunately some dogs and other animals still are put to death if they can’t be saved or adopted out, but that’s certainly not the emphasis anymore, according to bureau manager Ted Stevens."
LBACS's official stance, then, is that "some" animals are still put to death, and killing was "not the emphasis" in a year that LBACS killed 50% (more than 4300) of dogs and cats that entered its shelter. Clearly, LBACS is not in the business of telling the public the truth about the number of animals the agency is killing.
This past year, LBACS began a campaign of releasing inflated "decrease in euthanasia" numbers that rely on a very unorthodox method of calculating a shelter's progress in saving animals - this method inflates the progress the shelter can claim to make and hides from the public the fact that the shelter only decreased its adoption rate by 3% from 2012-2013 rather than the 20 and 30% numbers they have recently begun releasing through a local animal organization that supports the status quo at ACS.
More recently, LBACS has even started to blame No Kill advocates (that would be Stayin' Alive Long Beach) for its dismal decade-long record of (not) attracting volunteers by saying in an AP news article that advocates are "scaring away volunteers" by telling the public about the agency's euthanasia numbers. The LBACS rep goes on to say that LBACS doesn't hide the fact that animals are dying at the Long Beach shelter. The problem with the logic behind this reasoning is immediately apparent - if LBACS doesn't hide its killing and is completely open with the public, as Director Ted Stevens has also said to the press, then Stayin' Alive's informing the public would have no impact on volunteerism at LBACS. Could it be the fact that LBACS is still smarting from the fact that Stayin' Alive recently brought to City Council the fact that in 2013, LBACS logged only 2300 volunteer hours, while Sacramento ACS logged more than 36,000 volunteer hours? The truth is that LBACS doesn't have a vibrant volunteer program -- a necessary program that is key to saving lives -- and that has been the case for at least a decade. In fact, Stayin' Alive, in an attempt to help LBACS increase its volunteer program, offered recommendations for how to attract more volunteers, many of which, including an idea for posting volunteer opportunities at Cal State Long Beach, still haven't been implemented more than two years later.
LBACS will not do an adoption program, we were told, because it would be redundant with spcaLA's adoption program. In other words, LBACS doesn't need a full adoption program because spcaLA already has one. The problem is that spcaLA only takes in 26% of the animals (spcaLA actually decreased the number of animals they took in from LBACS from 2012-2013 from 28% to 26%). That means that 74% of the animals in 2013 were stuck at LBACS without an adoption program and without a foster program. Clearly, an adoption program at LBACS would not be a redundant service since thousands of adoptable and treatable animals are being killed that could be saved -- if the city had an adoption program.
It's not a question of paid staff vs. unpaid volunteers for the City. For whatever reason, and we suspect it's none of the reasons we've been given officially, the City is digging in its heels about an adoption program. That is why we have focused on asking City Council to look into this. We're hopeful that the new mayor will prove faithful to his origins as an educator, and look at the situation with an unbiased and discerning eye. But in the meantime, as we wait for the town hall meeting he has proposed, we are continuing to educate the public about what *really* is happening to our shelter animals.
As a final note: We have nothing but good things to say about the individuals who work at the shelter - they do their best with a horribly unfair and poorly designed system that binds their hands and makes it difficult, if not impossible in many cases, for them to save our shelter animals from the euthanasia needle. When LBACS finally makes a change, it will be good not only for the animals, but also for the people who try to save them on a daily basis.
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An initiative to make Long Beach a No Kill community.