Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Enlarging The Circle of Compassion

Albert Schweitzer once said, "It is not always granted to the sower to live to see the harvest. All work that is worth anything is done in ---FAITH."

We are an extremely fortunate people. Unlike Albert Schweitzer, we are seeing the harvest. We are seeing the results of both his and our hard work; a work begun in faith. A Jewish Proverb says, “Despise not the day of small beginnings.”

To be sure, the No-Kill movement started small. But why is Nl-Kill receiving so much attention lately; and why here, in Los Angeles, the City of Angels? Is it a coincidence that No-Kill is so quickly rising to a place of national notice? Is it a coincidence that No-Kill is getting so much recognition just now?

We live in troubled times; a time of war and rumors of war. A time of fear so great that men’s hearts are failing them because of what they see coming upon the earth.

We live in a time when just reading the daily newspaper or listening to the evening news can cause you to question the value of life. I remember growing up as a boy in Detroit and listening to the morning newscaster on my way to school. Each day he would begin the News by asking the question “What’s a life in Detroit worth today?” And then he would give an account of how someone’s life had been snuffed out the night before for $20, or a pair of sneakers, or because someone didn’t like the way a person looked at them.

I find it interesting that No-Kill is suddenly receiving so much national attention during a time of unprecedented violence in the world. I’m reminded of a letter that was written by an itinerant preacher named Paul to a group of Romans 2,000 years ago. In his letter he addressed the violence of that generation by explaining, “that where sin, death and violence abound, grace and truth does much more abound.” The darker the world seems to get, the brighter the light of truth and compassion. In a Country where the literal wholesale slaughter of animals is common practice, No-Kill stands as a brilliant contrast and contradiction to the way we live as a community. In a world where people kill each other while claiming they are doing God’s will, it is fascinating to hear stories of how Palestinians and Israelis will join forces to tend feral cat colonies during a cease-fire.

Today, we live in a time when our national leaders are grappling with defining “good” and “evil”. They tell us that we are good and we are at war with evil.

I think it is true that the war between good and evil is manifesting in our age like no other. What is interesting about Good and Evil is that so many try to define good and evil with words alone. However, there is only one way that good and evil can truly be understood or defined, and it is not by what you believe or by what you think, but by what you do. Good and evil are defined and understood by our actions.

On September 11, 2001, we all saw evil manifested in the desperate and hateful act of 19 religious men killing thousands of innocent men, women and children in New York City. Some questioned, as they should, how can religion bring men to do such evil while they think they are doing good?

Albert Schweitzer answered this question for us when he said, "Any religion that is not based on a respect for life is not a true religion." Abraham Lincoln said it another way, “I care not for any man’s religion whose dog or cat is not better for it.”

So what is the significance of the No-Kill initiative in Los Angeles as we enter the year 2007, just five years and three months following 9/11?

Before I answer that question, I need to talk about evolution. In the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin explained that a species evolves by adapting to a changing environment. He further explained that only those members of the species “fit” enough to adapt are fortunate enough to survive. Today we live in a changing environment, an environment defined within the context of a war between good and evil. If that is the case, how will nature determine who is fit to adapt and survive?

More to the point, are we fit enough to adapt and survive to our changing environment? Are you fit enough to adapt and survive?

I am confident the answer to that question is a resounding YES. And the reason for my confidence may surprise you. I think the evidence that suggests we are adapting well to our changing environment is found in the fact that we are attempting to achieve No-Kill in Los Angeles, New York City, and more and more communities each year following 9/11.

I agree with our national leaders when they tell us we are at war with evil. But I hasten to caution that we not make the mistake of thinking this is only an external war, a war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The outward war is merely a manifestation of an internal war; the real war is in and for our own hearts and minds. This war can’t be won through outrageous acts of violence on the battlefield or in the street, not by dropping bombs on each other or by throwing red paint on each other. This war is won by our becoming what we espouse; by living our beliefs.

Faith and reverence for life is the only antidote for the madness that seems to be engulfing the world today. Our reverence for life is the light of the world. The antidote is so simple that it is easily missed, and millions miss it every day.

Schweitzer warned that, “Anyone who can regard the life of any creature as worthless is in danger of thinking human lives are worthless."

Are we, as a society, in danger of thinking the life of any creature is worthless? I think that before No-Kill came along we could argue, in our ignorance, that we had little choice but to kill unwanted dogs and cats in our attempt to control over population. But with clear evidence that NO-KILL is achievable, can we not now argue, along with Albert Schweitzer, that if we chose to ignore No-Kill initiatives we are but one step removed from thinking human life has no value?

Over the years psychologists and law enforcement agencies have come to understand the link between animal cruelty and spousal, child, and elder abuse, and other forms of domestic violence. Violence does not discriminate against victims. If that link exists in the life of a person, could it be true of a community? Can a community’s insistence on catch and kill programs, when humane non-lethal alternatives exist, be the link that reveals a community’s lack of respect for human life?

Not all human life perhaps. A community may start with feeling that the lives of its enemies are worthless. Then perhaps those people who don’t agree with its religious or political beliefs. And if Schweitzer is correct, such an unthinking attitude could lead to the abuse of our aged, our young, our infirmed, and impoverished. When we begin to devalue life, where does it end? It ends only when a community decides to value all life.

Consider the biblical story in which two ancient towns are threatened with destruction because their inhabitants are perceived as living violent, self-absorbed lives. A decidely old school intervention is staged whereby the possibility that 50, 40 or even as few as 5 "righteous men" might live there leads to the possibility that the towns might be spared. If Abraham could prevail upon God to make compassionate decisions, then perhaps we can prevail upon our community to do the same.

Now there may be some who may find fault with my comparing the lives of 5 righteous men to the tens of thousands of lost and homeless dogs and cats living in Los Angeles. But if you do, it would be because you're overlooking the moral of the analogy. The moral of the analogy is not that the lives of feral cats or lost and homeless pets are equal to the lives of men. The moral is that when we, as compassionate human beings, can value the lives of creatures as seemingly insignificant as dogs and cats, we will begin to understand the true capacity of our own souls to make compassionate, life-affirming choices.

Mahatma Gandhi taught us that the only way to determine the true value of a community is to look at how that community treats their animals. Community value is not determined by our political rhetoric, or by our wonderful community and public health programs, or by our art galleries, libraries and parks alone. Our true value according to Mahatma Gandhi is found in the way we treat our animals. So if we as the greatest City in the world can develop a life-affirming program for the lowliest of all creatures, our lost and homeless pets, what does that say about us as a community?

According to Schweitzer, No-Kill is what makes us truly human. His exact words were, "It is a man's sympathy with all creatures that truly makes him human."

That is the role of LA Animal Services, to speak on behalf of the voiceless. Schweitzer warned us to never let the voice of humanity within us be silenced because it is our sympathy for all creatures that defines us as truly human and good. There was another holy man who said, “As much as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me.”

Again, it is not my intention to offend anyone’s religious sensibilities, so if you are offended by what might sound like my equating dogs and cats to the lowliest of humans, you have missed my point. I am not talking about the value of lost and homeless pets; I am actually trying to explain the human capacity to love. The capacity to love not only our friends, our neighbors, or even our enemies, but to even love the thousands of pets that find their way into our City Animal Care Centers.

When Albert Schweitzer received the Nobel Peace Prize he gave an acceptance speech titled, “The Problem of Peace in the World Today." In that speech he said, "The human spirit is not dead. It lives on in secret and it has come to understand that the full breadth and depth of compassion can only be known when it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind alone."

I spoke earlier about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. It may surprise you that as a former Pastor I believe in evolution, but not in the same way Darwin did. I believe compassion is the catalyst for our evolutionary growth. In fact, I believe compassion is the only evolutionary force left to us for our own human development. In earlier ages we had to rely on physical strength to survive, in more recent ages we had to rely on our mental strength to survive. Today I think we rise or fall as a species depending on our capacity to love all creatures, great and small. Our survival as a species depends on our ability to extend the circle of compassion to include all creatures. The world does not belong to those who embrace cruelty; the world belongs to those who can love greatly.

Scientists talk about evolution in terms of biology. I think evolution is not so much a biological force as it is a spiritual force. It is not merely a force that makes men out of monkeys; it is a force that can turn men into angels.

Love can be a pretty ethereal term, but we can all understand the concept of kindness and mercy. Once you begin to think kindly and mercifully about life, you begin to truly appreciate the value of life, and when you truly understand the value of live, you become what Schweitzer calls a “thinking being”, and as a thinking being you find yourself looking for ways to act compassionately and mercifully towards all life.

Schweitzer said, "The man who has become a thinking being feels a compulsion to give every ‘will-to-live’ the same reverence for life that he gives his own life.”

In other words, if you are a thinking being you will love your fellow creature as you love yourself… You will extend the Golden Rule to include other species.

According to Schweitzer, a person is not even a thinking being if he cannot reverence the will-to-live in other creatures.

We live in a day and a world where 19 men can fly airplanes into buildings with the malicious intent of killing thousands of fellow human beings. We also live in a day when hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people will devote their lives and their resources to help Los Angeles achieve No-Kill. These two acts in my view define Good and Evil.

But let me be clear, you don’t have to fly an airplane into a building to manifest evil. All you have to do is understand that thousands of animals are dying in animal shelters every year and do nothing about it. According to Schweitzer that is also an evil act. Schweitzer recognized that it was often in such thoughtlessness that evil most often manifests itself.

He explained, "Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruelty. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit. The roots of cruelty are not so much strong as they are widespread.”

Think about that. The roots of cruelty are not so much strong as they are widespread. That explains why an act of kindness is so powerful. It is powerful because it is stronger than cruelty; cruelty is shallow and weak. If all men could live their lives in kindness and mercy towards all creatures, soon the light of compassion would overwhelm the darkness of unthinking and habitual cruelty.

Albert Schweitzer said a day would come when “people will be amazed that the human race existed so long before it recognized that thoughtless injury to life was incompatible with truth, love, and compassion.”

This is the mission of LA Animal Services. We are here to acknowledge that in a time of war and violence, the circle of compassion is not diminished but rather grows larger and larger each day. We are here to affirm the small work we started in faith is growing stronger and stronger every day.

At a time of unprecedented evil, we are making an evolutionary leap, a leap that may go unnoticed by many, but a leap nonetheless of thinking beings consciously expanding the circle of compassion to include all creatures. We are here to assert and demonstrate by our actions that love, life, compassion, kindness and mercy are stronger than hate, violence and death.

According to Albert Schweitzer, the "Affirmation of life is a spiritual act;” performed by thinking beings. As thinking beings we affirm and embrace life saving No-Kill programs like New Hope, Big Fix, FELIX, STAR, TLC, the Bottle Baby and Foster programs, and Safety Net as a compassionate means to finally eliminate the troubling conditions of our lost and homeless pets.

I am asking all thinking Angelinos to help us make Los Angeles the safest City in the United States for our pets in 2007! We can solve the problems of pet overpopulation without sacrificing our compassion or humanity, and we can do this together this year!

(Note: I apologize if any religious referrences within this message offended anybody. The text has been edited to be less offensive. The message is intended only to encourage respect for the lives of our community's lost and homeless pets. Happy New Year! Ed)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays!

This past year has certainly been a challenge for the employees, volunteers, partners, and supporters of LA Animal Services. But because of our shared vision and values we have successfully begun to restore LA Animal Services into its rightful place as a nationally recognized animal welfare organization!

I have been involved in animal welfare, and animal control, for nearly 30 years, and in all that time I have never met or been part of a team that made me prouder. The depth of experience and knowldedge in this organization is second to none! The compassion and support of LA for its largest animal rescue organization is second to no other community!

As I prepare to begin my second year working with this outstanding organization and community, I want to welcome both Linda Barth and Debbie Knaan, our two new AGMs, who will be instrumental in helping us take Animal Services to the next level.

However, I don't want to close out 2006 without recognizing the real heroes in this organization! They are our Animal Care Techicians, Registered Veterinary Tecnicians, Animal Control Officers, our Veterinarians, our managers, supervisors, and administrative staff at all levels, and our volunteers and partners! It is because we function as a team, even as a family, that we are able to accomplish what so many consider impossible!

This past year we saw the opening of the expansion of our North Central Animal Care Center. Beginning this Spring we will begin a series of rapid fire openings of our remaining Animal Care Centers and our new Spay/Neuter Clinics. 2007 is going to be our year on so many levels! New state of the art animal shelters and clinics, new life saving programs, and more public support than ever before! And none of that would or could happen without our employees, volunteers, partners and supporters!

Many supporters and employees endured and suffered the wrath of a small uninformed, disengaged radical animal rights community this year. These individuals do an incredible disservice to the very animals they claim to want to help, not to mention delay the progress we could be making in transforming LA into a major No-Kill community! For all who had the courage to align yourselves with the department and the animals in our care, I want to publicly thank you! You played an instrumental role in saving lives and helping to position Animal Services as the best animal welfare agency in the United States!

Thanks to you, in 2006 we saw the greatest number of animals placed into loving homes, the fewest number of animals euthanized, and the most animals spayed and neutered in LA City history! And 2007 will be even better!

As we close out this year, I want to wish you and your families the warmest Holiday Season and thank you again for your continued support in making Animal Services the best it can be and making LA the safest City in the United States for our pets!

I look forward to working with you in 2007! Happy Holidays!
Ed Boks

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New Hope Alert Improved Again!

The New Hope Alert Program has undergone some recent enhancements making it arguably one of the most progressive innovations to communicating with rescue organizations that can be found in any community in the country. This program includes the thoughtful input of experienced, committed rescuers in Los Angeles, who have been helping us tweak this program on an ongoing basis since its introduction last summer.

The New Hope Alert now has two steps:

The first step is called, “New Hope At Risk (or Green) Alert”. Animals placed on the New Hope Green Alert are free to all New Hope Partners at no cost, and come with free spay/neuter surgery, microchip, and vaccinations. They are not on the list because they are at risk of euthanasia but because they are animals difficult for Animal Services to place. Of course, the public is still able to adopt these animals for the regular adoption fee. It is not uncommon for animals to be on this list for months.

The second step is called, "New Hope Red Alert". Animals who are sick and/or injured and have not responded to at least two regimens of medical treatments, animals who are irremediably suffering, healthy animals who have been in an LA Animal Care Center for at least 45 days, and dangerously aggressive animals not wanted by any New Hope Partner are candidates for the New Hope Red Alert.

When an animal is placed on the New Hope Red Alert the animal’s post is time stamped on the first day so all New Hope Partners and concerned potential adopters will know when the seven-day clock starts ticking. They now have seven days to adopt the animal compared to the 24 hours allowed by the pre-New Hope euthanasia list. New Hope Partners can extend this holding period by working with their New Hope Coordinator.

Both New Hope Alerts, Green and Red, are posted on our website and are updated every hour. Every animal's post is time stamped so you can see exactly how long it has been available and in the case of the Red Alert, when the seven-day period begins (see: www.laanimalservices.com - click on New Hope).

Healthy animals are placed on the New Hope Red Alert only when space is at a premium and needed for incoming animals and AFTER Animal Services has exhausted every option for placing the animal. Should space constraints be alleviated, healthy animals may be removed from the New Hope Red Alert.

LA Animal Services rescues more than 125 animals every day, and despite this constant influx of animals we are committed to euthanizing 10% fewer animals every month than we did the same month last year. This will certainly become less problematic as our new shelters come on line increasing our shelter capacity by 400%. In the meantime, and until we achieve No-Kill, we need the help of all concerned Angelinos to achieve this goal!

Animals placed on the New Hope Red Alert may or may not have been on the Green Alert before being transitioned to the New Hope Red Alert. Animals that are placed directly on the New Hope Red Alert are done so for medical and/or behavioral reasons so as to call special attention to them by our New Hope Partners who can take them at no charge, with free spay/neuter if appropriate, free microchip, free vaccinations, and free medical treatment until the animal is in their care.

Sick and injured animals are removed from the New Hope Red Alert if their physical condition improves during the seven-day period and healthy animals are removed when the space constraints in any of our shelters are alleviated making it possible to transfer animals to another shelter increasing their opportunity for placement.

These enhancements to the New Hope Red Alert are in response to our community’s rescue organizations who are trying to determine which animals are most at risk of being euthanized. The pre-New Hope euthanasia list gave rescue organizations a mere 24 hours to adopt animals before they were euthanized.

The improved New Hope Red Alert now gives rescue organizations 7 days to claim these animals at no charge, with free spay/neuter surgery if applicable, free microchip, free vaccinations, and no charge for any medical treatments already provided the animal. Rescue groups can call the appropriate New Hope Coordinator and place the animal on hold for them, and they now have 24-hour/7 day a week access to come in and evaluate the animal. Animal Services will then work with our New Hope Partner to assist in getting the animal out of the shelter, up to and including transporting the animal for them and will provide more time if needed.

The ONLY time a Red Alert animal is euthanized prior to the completion of the seven days is when the animal’s medical condition deteriorates to the point of irremediable suffering. Should the animal’s prognosis improve it may be removed from the New Hope Red Alert and if space constraints improve healthy animals will be returned to the Green Alert and not be euthanized.

The New Hope Red Alert is our best final way of calling attention to these animals. Everyone now has at least 7 days to marshal their resources to adopt a Red Alert animal. Again, all healthy animals will go to at least one Mobile Adoption Event, or will be showcased in their respective Centers, and will be featured in an e-mail blast to New Hope Partners and interested parties before even being put on the New Hope Red Alert.

If a healthy Red Alert animal is taken to a Mobile Adoption Event, the animal will be returned to a Green Alert to allow volunteers and New Hope Partners at least five days to network the animal in the community.

LA Animal Services is committed to the No-Kill philosophy, which means we are committed to LIFE and we are striving to save as many animals as possible.

We already know what has to be done, and we’re steadily improving our ability to do it.

For all intents and purposes the New Hope Red Alert is virtually the same as the pre-New Hope euthanasia list, except that now the focus is on saving lives in an unprecedented way. The expanded time frame allows groups and individuals the time to find adequate facilities and/or homes for these animals, and it alleviates the "11th hour" rescue that lends itself to wasted efforts and sometimes to the hoarding of animals.

LA Animal Services is asking all Angelinos to come together in the name of life and the life affirming programs of Animal Services. If LA is to become No-Kill it will take all of us working together! Let’s make 2007 the most significant year in LA history towards achieving our shared No-Kill Goal!

Happy Holidays!
Ed Boks

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A New Year's Resolution for the LA Animal Community

Scott Sorrentino, President and Co-Founder of the Rescue Humane Alliance-LA, recently wrote an article for the popular local Pet Press. Its called A New Year’s Resolution for the LA Animal Community. Scott shares five resolutions that I personally agree with, but two seem particularly pertinent to me as we look forward together to 2007. Scott’s entire article can be found in both the current Pet Press and on LA Animal Services website front page at www.laanimalservices.com.

I believe these two resolutions are not only pertinent here in LA but probably in most communities across the United States. I hope you find them as edifying as I did.

Join with me in accepting Scott’s challenges that in 2007 we will have “COMPASSION FOR EACH OTHER. Like it or not, it takes humans to help animals --- humans working together. This past year has been particularly ugly in terms of name-calling, trash-talking and personal attacks. We call ourselves humane, and yet we are so inhumane to each other. We all know how much easier our efforts would be if we could work together, and yet we expend a lot of precious time and energy in endless rants on the phone and over email --- time and energy that would be much better spent in the service of our mission. The truth is, the animals need us to help them, and they need us to work together. Here’s a challenge: think of a person who makes your blood boil, and vow to make peace with them in 2007. Put the past behind you. Whatever he/she did 23 years ago, isn’t it time to bury the hatchet? If we can’t all have personal relationships, can we at least have professional ones? We are fools if we think we can save lives in a vacuum. We are our own worst enemies in this regard. The good news is, this is a problem we can solve right now. Today. We’re trying to promote compassion. How about a little compassion for each other?

BE POSITIVE! Negative energy has never helped anyone. It certainly hasn’t helped the animals. And yet it is like a disease within us, and a contagious one at that! If we are ever going to save the animals from needless death and suffering, we must first save ourselves from ourselves. The next time you find yourself launching into a rant about this or that, stop yourself! Ask yourself a question: Is this tirade going to help the animals? Then ask yourself a follow-up question: What can I do to help change whatever it is that is making me so angry? Take the negative energy and turn it into positive action!

We are making a difference. The statistics are there to prove it. But the progress is slow and unsatisfying. If we want BIG changes, we need to take it to the next level.

We are dedicated and tireless. We give so much of ourselves. Still, what will make all the difference for the animals, is when we work together, think positively, act compassionately, participate in the political process, and spend at least some of our time working on “big picture” issues and projects. Let 2007 be the year. Be positive. Be proactive. Be well.”

From all of us at LA Animal Services, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mobile Adoption Program

Much confusion is being circulated regarding LA Animal Services Mobile Adoption Program.

Please understand that WE DID NOT CANCEL THE OFFSITE ADOPTION PROGRAM. We simply redeployed our limited human resources. The ONLY off site events canceled were the ones at venues that historically proved to be unproductive and a poor return on time and energy invested.

These events were cancelled because so few animals were adopted at these locations. It was not uncommon for no animals to be adopted from these venues.

In their place staff is selecting higher profile venues such as parks, street fairs, and other community events.

If anyone knows of a venue conducive to placing animals into loving homes, please contact LA Animal Services' Volunteer Office with that information:

LA Animal Services
Volunteer Office
Information Line: (213) 485-8542
MPA Info Line: (323) 766-6895
South L.A. Shelter Annex
3320 W. 36th St.
Los Angeles, California 90018

LA Animal Services conducted nearly 100 off site adoption events in 2006 compared to 15 or 20 in previous years. And we intend to do even more in 2007. As always thank you for your concern and support of LA Animal Services and the animals in our care.

Monday, November 27, 2006

New AGMs Announced

An old proverb states, “The wheels of justice grind slow, but exceedingly fine.” The same thing can be said of some City processes, such as selecting an Assistant General Manager (AGM). Animal Services is fortunate in that we have two such positions, one to oversee administration and one to oversee operations. The ultimate purpose for these two important positions is to help oversee and develop LA Animal Services into a premier animal welfare organization.

The selection process has been long and arduous but I am confident our community will be pleased with the end result. After many months of searching, recruiting, and interviewing I am prepared to announce my selections for these two very important posts.

The Administrative AGM oversees and manages the daily internal operations of Animal Services related to human resources, information technology, budgetary matters, administrative support activities; managing the development of systems utilizing state of the art computer and automation applications and evaluating the acquisition of information processing technology; preparing the annual budget; overseeing the payroll function and the deposit and disbursement of revenues and funds; and handling all personnel administrative matters.

For this position I am proud to announce the appointment of Linda J. Barth as Assistant General Manager, Administration.

Mrs. Barth has worked for the City of Los Angeles since 1984, starting as a junior analyst with the Department of Water and Power, and moving to Recreation and Parks in 1985. After twenty-one-years of increasing responsibility with the Department of Recreation and Parks, Mrs. Barth brings a special portfolio of sharply applicable managerial experience to Los Angeles Animal Services. Throughout her career with the City she has played a key role in nurturing new ideas and navigating complex projects to completion, and has been involved in nearly every aspect of department operations, including budget preparation, personnel and contract administration, business management and Department-wide information technology oversight. From September 2002 through January of 2004, Mrs. Barth served in a chief of staff position to the Recreation and Parks General Manager, and transitioning in February of 2004 to the key position as Project Manager for completion and reopening of the Griffith Observatory, which she helped steer to success in recent weeks. In a wide variety of areas, she has taken opportunities to design and implement positive change, and I expect her experience, optimism, and excellent communications skills to be a valuable resource for Los Angeles Animal Services.

The Operations AGM oversees and manages the daily internal operations of Animal Services field operations in the care and control of animals, the operation of City animal shelters, and the education of the public regarding issues that impact animals and the humans who care for them; enforcing all policies, rules, and regulations in the Department of Animal Services; enforcement of State Codes and City ordinances under the Department’s jurisdiction; managing public outreach and marketing efforts.

For this position I am proud to announce the appointment of Deborah Knaan as Assistant General Manager, Operations.

Ms. Knaan has served as a Commissioner on the Los Angeles Board of Animal Services since 2004, and demonstrated her keen interest in improving Department operations through her interaction with staff at the administrative, operations, and shelter levels. An example of her personal commitment was that shortly after her appointment, Ms. Knaan enrolled in an animal shelter management course. Ms. Knaan’s perceptiveness in oversight of Commission business and her responsiveness to the public have made her a valuable asset to the Department and the constituencies we serve. Professionally, Ms. Knaan is an attorney, with nearly twelve years as a Prosecutor in the Los Angeles County Office of the District Attorney. In that position, she has proven her abilities in managing workload, conducting investigations, and working with community leaders, government officials, and law enforcement personnel. Prior to working for the District Attorney, Ms. Knaan managed a private business, and also has three years experience in the military, achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant. Ms. Knaan has extensive experience in effectively and positively communicating with the public, government representatives, and the media. Those key skills, along with her enthusiasm, drive, personal conviction, and initiative, make her a tremendous asset in making Los Angeles the largest “No-Kill” city in America.

I want to thank everyone who applied for these positions. This was a very difficult decision process given the number and quality of candidates who applied. Clearly there are many individuals both locally and across the United States who share our “No-Kill” goal and want to be part of making it happen. It is my hope that everyone who applied will continue to be involved in some capacity as we all work together to make Los Angeles a model city for the rest of the nation of what it truly means to be a humane society!

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Animal Tree of Life

LA Animal Services will soon be unveiling a stunningly unique sculpture called "The Animal Tree of Life". This sculture came about because of René Baker’s love of animals. When she heard that the West Valley Animal Care Center was seeking an artist to create a work of art for the renovated and partially new shelter, she sought out her sculpture mentor, Robert Cunningham. Cunningham is a well-known sculptor of public projects so, as a team, they were pre-qualified for the first phase in the selection of artists.

When they received notice inviting a proposal, they discussed many possibilities, including interior art. They decided, however, the best solution would be a symbolic work that would have enough physical stature to stand as an identifying symbol of the West Valley Shelter. Their proposal was accepted.

The Animal Tree evolved from totem-pole-like forms to trees covered in animals to the animals themselves forming the Tree of Life. Some of René’s own pets, including a Pygmy goat and a Senegal parrot were models for the life-sized animals making up the sculpture.

The project took about fourteen months from start to completion. There are eight mammals, two reptiles and nineteen birds. All the sculpting, mold-making and casting was created and carried out at Robert and René’s studio in the high desert area, between San Bernardino and Victorville.

The Animal Tree of Life projects an image to the public of uplifted and spirited animals, free from torture, hunger and loneliness. The sculpture is approximately 5 ft. x 6 ft., at the base, and 12 ft. high. Domestic and exotic animals, pets and wildlife, all those that might find their way to LA Animal Services, comprise the Tree of Life. Small and midsized animals form the base, with a large pony, two dogs and a cat forming the trunk of the tree. A Golden eagle stands at the top, supporting the tree’s canopy of birds of many types. The canopy crowns the sculpture in a swirl of avian flight.

The artist wanted to create contours and a pleasing harmony of shapes and forms against the new facility’s roofline. The sculpture’s organic imagery creates a contrast to the adjacent straight lines of concrete and asphalt—a symbol of what the Animal Care Center is all about: the healing and rescue of many animals from the sometimes harsh realities of life.

The sculpture is bronze and weighs more than 2,000 pounds. Its maintenance will be minimal. In summary, the artist wants to motivate and inspire the public to do their best for animalkind.

To view this beautiful work of art click here and then scroll to the bottom: http://www.laanimalservices.com/pdf/news/THE%20ANIMAL%20TREE%20OF%20LIFE.pdf

On behalf of all Animal Services, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving! I want to personally thank all our employees, volunteers, partners, the Mayor and City Council, and the public for your support of Animal Services' efforts to once and for all end euthanasia to control pet overpopulation. Together we are making LA the safest City in the United States for our pets!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Providence is Moving...

Are you noticing all those new LA Animal Services advertisements at bus stops all over town?

I want to announce the launch of an educational print campaign developed by Rachel Paap from RP WORX and the Pet Assistance Foundation, one of the oldest animal welfare foundations in LA. Thanks to Rachel and the Foundation you will now see in bus shelters and on small billboards in targeted areas of the city of LA a series of creative life saving messages. Smaller versions will also be displayed in all the animal shelters and will be used as promotional materials at community events.

The majority of the campaign was paid for by city council members and neighborhood councils. However, the driving force behind this campaign is Rachel Paap from RP WORX. Rachel is magnanomously willing to share the artwork to maximize these messages in other areas.

Rachel is currently working on an anti-cruelty print that is part of a larger anti-cruelty campaign that is intended to be completed by January 07.

LA Animal Services is grateful for the wonderful work that Rachel is doing to help us get the message of responsible pet guardianship and spay/neuter into the LA community. Please visit Rachel's website for other upcoming special projects at www.rpworx.com

You can reach Rachel Paap at RP Worx Public Relations, Strategic Marketing & Campaign Development for the cause at 323-459-9722 or rachel@rpworx.org

As more and more citizens, organizations and companies recognize the importance of helping LA Animal Services the sooner we as a community will be able to achieve our No-Kill Goal!

I also want to thank Scott Sorrentino, President of the Rescue & Humane Alliance (RHA-LA), who joined LA Animal Services in a demonstration of commitment to lifesaving for the homeless animals of Los Angeles this past weekend. Together we declared Veterans Day Weekend, November 10-November 13, a “no-kill” weekend for the North Central Animal Care Center. For this period, LA Animal Services implemented a moratorium on the killing of healthy/treatable animals and focused on saving as many lives as possible through redemption (returning lost animals to their guardians) and adoption.

The result was no animals were euthanized and live placements were four times higher than the same weekend last year. The Rescue & Humane Alliance called the event the 2006 “Pumpkin Festival". It was held on Sunday November 12th at the newly-expanded North Central Animal Care Center located at 3201 Lacy Street in Los Angeles. A dog, a cat and a rabbit named “Pumpkin” kicked off the Festival. The goal was to empty the shelter of available animals. Professional animal trainers and adoption counselors were on-hand throughout the day to assist members of the public, and LA Animal Services offered free microchips for animals adopted at the Festival. In addition, every adopter received a gift bag filled with toys and treats for their new “Pumpkin".

LA Animal Services and RHA‑LA have partnered on several projects since January, and the “No-Kill” Weekend at North Central was another significant effort in the implementation of an overall “no-kill” policy for the City’s animal care centers.

“Progressive ‘no-kill’ animal sheltering is not a myth or an impossible ideal,” said Scott Sorrentino of RHA-LA. “It is first a decision, and then an act of will. Los Angeles has made the decision, so if we can all work together to successfully implement ‘no‑kill’ policies at one shelter, we can create a model to bring this same level of life-saving to all of the shelters throughout the City.”

We at LA Animal Services can’t emphasize enough how much we need and appreciate the public’s support to take this initiative from a special weekend program to a permanent and sustainable policy.

In the words of W. H. Murray, "The moment one definitely commits oneself then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way."

This is beginning to happen, from advertisements, to events, to donations and grants, to the formation of SALA (Shelter Animals of LA), all sorts of things are occuring to help LA achieve No-Kill that would never otherwise have occurred. And I want to thank all LA Animal Services friends, volunteers, partners, donors and adopters for being a part of providence moving us all toward a more humane society!

Monday, November 06, 2006

October '06 Numbers Are In

LA Animal Services Adoptions for dogs and cats are up nearly 9% in October 06 compared to October 05, and New Hope placements are up 48%. Euthanasia is down nearly 12% from last year's record low. For dogs euthanasia is down over 20% and for cats euthanasia is down nearly 12%

This success is due in large part to our New Hope Partners. New Hope Placements were up nearly 93% for cats and 28% for dogs!

This translates into 1,938 live placements into loving homes compared to 1,605 last October. In addition, nearly 400 lost pets were safely returned to their frantic owners in October. Remember, if you love your pet, you will license and neuter your pet!

LA Animal Services experienced a 60% live release rate in October 06 for cats and dogs combined. That represents a 72% live release rate for dogs and a 46% live release rate for cats! That is truly amazing! But we have a long way to go to achieve No-Kill, although we are getting closer and closer every day!

LA Animal Services wants to thank all our adopters, New Hope Partners, volunteers, and staff for these extraordinary results. Together we are making Los Angeles the safest City in the United States for our pets! Together we are creating happiness by bringing pets and people together! Thank you!

If you would like to make a DONATION to help Los Angeles achieve No-Kill even faster, all you have to do is click Here

Thursday, November 02, 2006

How To Help Save Lives

Everyday people ask me how they can help LA Animal Services achieve its No-Kill Goal. The key to achieving this goal is funding life saving programs, programs we may not be able to afford through our budget. Animal Services has many life saving programs and giving opportunities. And now, making a donation to one of our life saving programs has never been easier.

TO MAKE A DONATION all you have to do is click Here

The two main funds that LA Animal Services accepts donations through. They are:

The Animal Welfare Trust Fund
The Animal Sterilization Trust Fund

Funds may also be donated for specific programs and services and shelter operations.

LA Animal Services has developed and will continue to develop programs designed to reduce LA’s euthanasia rate as we increase our live animal placement rate through adoptions, our New Hope program, returning lost pets to their frantic owners, and by humanely reducing feral cat populations in our neighborhoods.

If you would like to help join Animal Services war on pet euthanasia, please send a tax deductible financial gift to:

LA Animal Services
221 N. Figueroa Street Suite 500
Los Angeles, CA 90012

You can designate your gift to the general Animal Welfare Fund or to any one or more of the specific programs described below:

Big Fix sponsors low/no cost spay/neutering services for pets in low-income households.

New Hope is a network of over 70 of LA’s pet rescue, support and adoption agencies in Southern California who work with LA Animal Services in the process of locating permenant loving homes for the animals Animal Services rescue.

Safety Net helps pets and their families stay together through difficult financial times or relocations.

STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) program provides medical treatment to severely injured, abused, and neglected animals rescued by Animal Services.

TLC (Teach Love and Compassion) provides at-risk youth with the employment training in animal care. This is an intergenerational program in which our community’s elders work with our youth teach love and compassion through the care and love of animals.

Volunteer Dog Training Program trains Animal Services volunteers to improve the quality of life and adoption rate of sheltered dogs through behavior training provided by our community’s most reputable volunteer dog trainers.

FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-terminations) provides low or no cost spay/neuter service to feral cats managed by a trained feral cat colony manager trained by one of Animal Services feral cat partner organizations.

Foster Program trains volunteers to provide temporary homes for special needs animals until they are healthy enough for adoption.

If you would like your donations to be used for specific programs and services, please specify.

Please make your check or money order payable to:

Department of Animal Services
221 N. Figueroa Street, 5th floor
LA, CA 90012

Your donations are tax deductible and your generosity will be acknowledged.

Even if you cannot make a financial contribution today, there are other ways you can help. Our Animal Care Centers always need blankets, newspaper, and other items. For more details, take a look at our six Animal Care Centers to understand their specific needs. And of course we always need volunteers.
By working together, we can make LA the safest City in the United States for our pets! Thank you for your support and gifts!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Understanding The New Hope Program

There seems to be some misunderstanding about a fantastic new life saving program in LA called New Hope. New Hope is helping LA become the first major No-Kill city in the United States. New Hope coordinates the efforts of all the non-profit animal rescue organizations to ensure we are maximizing our limited resources to save the greatest number of lives.

This morning I received a disconcerting message that there may be a few folks who don't understand the power and success of this program. The email was complaining about a Craig's List Posting.

"I'm just on Craigs list reading through the posts and it makes me sick! I have forwarded one of them to you and I don't understand why so many of these animals have to be euthanzied.

Is there not enough money to feed them? Didn't you just open up the new shelter with lots of space? THIS IS SICK AND HAS TO STOP.

Why do we have so many animals if no one wants them???? I don't get it. Can't you people come up with ideas to stop this overpopulation...I can't read this anymore since it's ongoing and doesn't seem to stop."

The Craig's List Posting sent to me by the person above was filled with this type of hyperbole:



Because of the popularity of Craig's List this kind of ranting can circle the globe and nobody will ever take the time to find out the truth of the matter. It seems that if it is posted on Craig's List, or for that matter on any website, it must be true. But that is not true! The purpose of this Blog is to help the community understand the importance and efficacy of the New Hope Progam when it is allowed to work as it is designed.

When an animal is placed on LA Animal Services' New Hope Alert THAT IS NEVER a DEATH SENTENCE. That is Animal Services' way of notifying our over 70 New Hope Partners that they can adopt any of these animals at no cost. Not only is there no cost to our New Hope Partners but Animal Services also provides free spay/neuter surgery, a microchip, vaccinations, and some medical treatments as appropriate. Animal Services will even sometimes provide transport to our Partner's location.

All six LA Animal Care Centers are open 24 hours per day and seven days per week for our New Hope Partners. Each Center has a New Hope Coordinator whose role is to provide premier customer service to our partners. New Hope Partners have direct cell phone contact with their Coordinator and the Shelter Director and can put a hold on any animal at any time.

New Hope Criteria:
  1. Healthy animals are placed on the New Hope Alert after they have been up for adoption for at least seven days. We have some animals not on the New Hope Alert that we are still trying to adopt after two or three months.
  2. Sick and injured animals go on the RED New Hope Alert immediately, as do aggressive dogs. These animals are highlighted in RED which means we are asking our New Hope Partners to pay particular attention to them when considering which animals need the most help.
  3. Healthy animals may also find their way to the Red Alert when we have exhausted all our adoption options and feel a New Hope Partner can better place an animal. Healthy animals are typically taken to one or more off site adoption events before being placed on the Red Alert. But again, an animal can be on a Red New Hope Alert for days or weeks giving responsible Partners more than enough time to respond if they are able.
  4. However, animals on the Red New Hope Alert for 45 consecutive days may be euthanized. That means we give the entire community at least 45 days to find a placement for an animal. Rescue groups and the public have adequate time to save lives.
The frantic emails posted on Craig's list suggesting that animals' are at death's door just because they are on the New Hope Alert does not help to save these animals' lives. These frantic, hopeless emails seem to only have the same effect on most people as they had on the person who wrote in today, revulsion. This misguided passion only keeps people from coming to the Centers, and causes animals to die.

The New Hope Alerts are designed to help our rescue partners make decisions based on their available resources. In the past 12 months LA Animal Services has achieved a 42% live release rate for cats, and a 71% release rate for dogs! That is incredible!

Animals are often on our New Hope Red Alert for days if not weeks before being placed. If you are a New Hope Partner and are interested in any New Hope animal all you need do is call our New Hope Coordinator and we will work with you on transfering the animal into your position, even if we have to transport the animal for you. LA Animal Services has removed all obstacles to saving lives. If you want your organization to become a New Hope Partner, please call one of our New Hope Coordinators.

The frantic, hysteric cries that Animal Services can't wait to kill animals and that we even enjoy killing animals is absurd. The euthanasia rate has dropped 11% for cats and 60% for dogs over the past three years. That is the most significant drop for any community in the United States. And we will continue month after month to continue this decline. It is our hope that all LA will come together to help the City and Animal Services achieve our shared No-Kill goal, and stop trying to scare adopters away, either deliberately or otherwise. Let's make people feel welcome to our Animal Care Centers. They are not Death Camps, they are life lines, a safety net, for our community's lost and homeless pets.

I hope this explanation helps everyone understand what LA Animal Services is trying to do through our New Hope Program. If you have a 501c3 rescue organization, I hope you will seriously consider becoming a New Hope Partner of LA Animal Services!

I would be amiss if I did not comment on this concerned resident's last statement, "Why do we have so many animals if no one wants them???? I don't get it. Can't you people come up with ideas to stop this overpopulation...I can't read this anymore since it's ongoing and doesn't seem to stop."

We have so many animals because pet owners don't spay and neuter their pets, we have so many animals in our shelters because pet owners don't license and/or microchip their pets. If you love you pet, neuter and license your pet. Together we can make LA the safest city in the United States for our pets!

See LA Animal Services Life Saving programs at www.laanimalservices.com. Donations to help fund these programs are tax deductable. Thank you for your help and support!

Friday, October 27, 2006

LA Animal Services Changes Black Cat Adoption Policy

Black cats awaiting adoptions from local shelters are in luck this Halloween.

For the first time in over 10 years, LA Animal Services is adopting out black and white cats this month. Animal Services reversed a previous policy in hopes of placing more animals in homes.

Some shelters do not adopt out black or white cats in October, for fear they will be tortured or used as a Halloween decoration or part of a costume.

Each year, LA Animal Services is faced with either holding the cats until after the holiday or euthanizing them. Because there is little documentation of animal tortures and a growing number of cats, Animal Services decided to adopt them out.

This policy shift is consistent with LA’s no-kill goal. Typically, Animal Services rescues over 100 lost and homeless dogs and cats each day and is almost always at capacity.

In the entire history of humane work, no one has ever documented or demonstrated any relationship between adopting out either black or white cats, or cats of any other color, and cats being killed or injured. There are no studies of the matter, and no relevant data.

According to ANIMAL PEOPLE the belief that adopting out black or white cats to "witches" will result in ill consequences for the cat may be traced to three sources:

"1) Ignorance of the actual beliefs and practices of paganism. Witches do not harm their ‘familiars,’ who are supposed to be their eyes and ears in the spirit world. To harm a familiar would be to blind and deafen oneself, regardless of whether one is a ‘white’ witch, a ‘black’ witch, a purple witch, or any other kind of witch.

2) Misunderstanding predator behavior. Alleged sadists and Satanists were sought for purportedly stealing, killing and dismembering cats and dogs in at least nine states as Halloween 1998 approached. The supposed crimes drew sensational media coverage, lent emphasis to humane society warnings against letting pets run at large, and rewards of up to $10,000 were posted in some cases for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers.

An accurate description of the suspects, however, in all but a handful of the animal deaths and disappearances, would include either four legs and a tail, or wings, and none would be either werewolves or griffons.

Similar panics have developed each summer since. They coincide with the emergence of young foxes and coyotes from their mothers' dens and with the first hunting by newly fledged raptors. The panics gain momentum approaching Halloween as public attention to witches, ghouls, goblins, and other things that go bump in the night rises toward a crescendo.

The panics virtually stop each year after Halloween distinctly unlike cases involving actual human sadism.

Trained to investigate human-inflicted cruelty, police detectives and humane officers typically have little background in predator behavior. Veterinarians tend to expect --wrongly--that injuries done by coyotes, the most frequent wild predator of pets will resemble those done by domestic dogs.

Forensic evidence is thus misread by sincere people, acting in good faith, who incite witch-hunts at possible expense to professional credibility.

Predators, in contrast to human sadists, are astonishingly quick and efficient. Except in instances when predators take disabled but still living prey back to a den or nest to teach young how to kill their own food, predation victims tend to make little sound, if any, rarely even having time to know what hit them. Predators try to avoid wasting time and energy inflicting unnecessary injuries.

Their teeth and claws usually cut more cleanly than any knife. Predators don't leave much blood behind: that's food. If interrupted in mid-attack, they run or take flight with the parts they most want to eat. If able to eat at their leisure, they consume the richest organs, such as the heart, and leave what they don't want.

Coyotes and foxes typically attack small prey such as cats and rabbits from behind and to one side, with a scissors-like jaw snap to the backbone and midsection that frequently cuts the victim in half. If startled, they tend to flee with the larger back half and whatever internal organs come along, leaving the head and forepaws. These are among the cases most often misread by investigators, who mistake the discovery of the head as an indication of ritualistic crime.

Coyotes have an entirely different attack pattern against prey larger than themselves, such as sheep and deer. Against these animals, they go for the throat and belly. They then consume the viscera first.

Cats, both wild and domestic, tend to leave inedible organs in a neat pile. Cats also have the habit of depositing carcasses, or parts thereof, at the doorsteps of other cats or humans they are courting. When cats kill much smaller animals, such as mice, they consume the whole remains, but when they kill animals of almost their own size, such as rabbits, they may leave behind heads, ears, limbs, and even much of the fur.

Tomcats, especially interlopers in another tom's territory, often kill kittens. Instead of eating them, however, kitten-killing toms sometimes play with the carcasses as they would with a mouse, and then abandon the remains in an obvious place, possibly as a sign to both the mother and the dominant tom.

Coyotes, foxes, and both wild and domestic felines often dispatch prey who survives a first strike with a quick skull-crunching bite to the head. ANIMAL PEOPLE actually resolved several panics over alleged sadists supposedly drilling mysterious parallel holes in the skulls of pets by suggesting that the investigators borrow some skulls of wild predators from a museum, to see how the mystery holes align with incisors.

Any common predator, but especially coyotes and raptors, may be involved in alleged ‘skinned alive’ cases. The usual victims are dogs who--perhaps because parts of their bodies were hidden in tall grass--are mistaken for smaller prey. The predator holds on with teeth and/or claws while the wounded victim runs. The result is a set of sharp, typically straight cuts that investigators often describe as "filets." The editor of ANIMAL PEOPLE once saw a cat pounce and nearly skin a rabbit in such a case, and unable to intervene in time to prevent the incident, euthanized the victim. The attack occurred and ended within less than 30 seconds.

Raptors tend to be involved in cases where viscera are draped over cars, porches, trees, signs, and mailboxes: they take flight with their prey, or with a road kill they find, and parts fall out. They return to retrieve what they lose only if it seems safe to do so.

Birds, especially crows, account for many cases in which eyes, lips, anuses, and female genitals are removed from fallen livestock. Sometimes the animals have been killed and partially butchered by rustlers. Others are victims of coyotes or eagles. The combined effects of predation and scavenging produce ‘mutilations’ which may be attributed to Satanists or visitors from outer space, but except where rustlers are involved, there is rarely anything more sinister going on than natural predators making a living in their normal way.

3) Fan behavior during some of the first World Series games ever played. Early 20th century New York Giants manager John McGraw was notoriously superstitious, so fans (especially gamblers) would sometimes pitch black cats in front of the Giants' dugout to jinx him. In response to this, some early humane societies suspended adopting out black cats during the World Series, which was and is played just before Halloween.

An informal baseball rule was adopted during this time against continuing a game if an animal is on the field. Major League Baseball, Inc., made this rule official in 1984, after then-Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield threw a ball that killed a seagull during a game in Toronto. The rule has multiple purposes, one of them being to keep expensive ballplayers from getting hurt.”


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Halloween Do's and Don'ts

Residents and “Trick-or-Treaters” need to take special safety precautions during Halloween to ensure the holiday is safe and enjoyable for the entire family including companion animals.

Halloween can be a frightening time for many animals. Each Halloween, Animal Services rescues pets with injuries that could have been avoided. The noise, costumes and activity of Halloween can be a threatening and bewildering experience – with unexpected results. Constant intrusions by ‘Trick-or-Treaters’ can make a normally friendly dog frightened or aggressive and cause a complacent house cat to dart out an open door.

LA Animal Services suggests pet guardians remember to take these safety precautions for a safe Halloween:

* Leave Pets at home. Do not take them trick-or-treating.

* Keep all pets indoors – including those that normally live outside. This will help prevent them from escaping and becoming victims of pranks or abuse.

* Keep pets in a secure and quiet room – as far away as possible from Halloween activity.

* Keep children away from animals. Otherwise friendly animals may be frightened and behave unexpectedly.

* Keep candy out of pet’s reach. Candy can be harmful to pets and chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs.

* Have traceable identification on pets at all times. Remember that frightened animals tend to run and may run away from home. Identification/license tags and microchips help reunite owners with their companion animals.

* Keep pets away from decorations. Flames in jack-o-lanterns and candles can quickly singe, burn or set fire to a pet’s fur. Pets can become tangled in hanging decorations like streamers and can choke on some decorations if they chew on them.

* Resist the urge to put your furry friend in a costume. Most pets dislike the confinement of costumes and masks, and flowing capes can cause injuries if the pet gets caught on something.

If your pet becomes lost, begin searching immediately. Visit LA Animal Services’ website: http://www.laanimalservices.com/ that features photos of all shelter animals. You should also visit your local Animal Care Center – beginning with the nearest one, as often as possible. If a lost animal is brought to an Animal Care Center, Animal Services personnel will call the owner if the animal has a license, microchip or identification. If you love your pet, license your pet!

LA Animal Services rescues and cares for over 40,000 lost and homeless animals annually. This Halloween adopt a lucky dog, cat or rabbit and provide him or her a loving home. Together we can make LA the safest City in the United States for our pets!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Animal Fair Interview

The following are excerpts from a recent interview with Animal Fair Magazine on the opening of Animal Services new state of the art animal care centers. For more information on Animal Fair Magazine visit them at: http://www.animalfair.com/

1. What makes these new shelters different from all the other shelters?

Our new shelters are more like botanical gardens than dog pounds. Over 30% of the grounds are landscaped with lush vegetation, flowers, trees, and greenery. There are park benches to relax on while enjoying the animals. There are fountains and works of art to enjoy. There are misters to keep the animals cool when the weather is hot and radiant heating in the kennel floors when the weather gets cold. There are large park like get acquainted areas where Animal Services will host special adoption events with our many partners as well as sponsor dog obedience and agility training. There are community rooms for meetings and educational activities. These shelters are not your father's animal control, they are spacious and beautiful and will serve as pet adoption centers of choice for all Angelinos and surrounding communities.

2. Is this the first step in getting the city to be no kill? What are the other steps?

This is definetely a significant step to achieving no-kill. These new Centers will increase our holding capacity by over 400%, allowing us to hold animals for longer periods of time. But the new shelters are just one step in a very comprehensive strategic no-kill plan. Along with the new shelters we are building spay/neuter clinics designed to handle 20,000 surgeries per year. With six new clinics that represents 120,000 surgeries per year. These surgeries will have a profound impact on the number of unwanted pets being born each year. We call our spay/neuter program The Big Fix because we recognize that spay/neuter is the ultimate "fix" to the vexing problems associated with pet overpopulation.

Along with our shelters and clinics we have a program called New Hope which is a partnership with over 70 local animal welfare organizations that allows these groups to take animals from our euthanasia list at no cost to them. These animals are already spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. We keep our shelters open 24 hours per day seven days per week for our New Hope Partners. We soon hope to be able to help our partners with the actual transport of the animals.

Animal Services is also initiating Project Safety Net which will coordinate the many resources in LA to help people keep their pets during times when they may feel relinquishment is their only alternative. Often times dog training, behavioral counseling, or legal advice is the only thing between keeping a pet and having to give a pet up. By making these resources more readily available we hope to help more families keep their pets.

Operation FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-termination) is our Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) program. This program is currently conducted in partnership with LA's many feral cat organizations but as our spay/neuter clinics come on line we intend to be even more directly involved in humanely helping to reduce LA's feral cat population with this non-lethal methodology.

We hope to soon initiate our TLC program that will help teach "at risk" kids love and compassion for our communities' "at risk" animals. Many of the animals rescued by Animal Services are lost, abused or neglected, and many are in need of foster homes. Many of our kids are in similar situations and are very empathetic to the plight of our animals. This empathy is a building block to help these kids to learn how to more freely express love and compassion. This program can be expanded to include our community's senior citizens and other disenfranchised populations.

3. How are you working to get more pets adopted in LA?

We are very fortunate that one of the nation's foremost ad agencies has agreed to help Animal Services with an ad campaign to promote adoptions. Riester, based in Phoenix, has an LA office and their "cause marketing" genius is helping us to get the word out that Animal Services is daily creating happiness by bringing pets and people together! Riester shares Animal Services' commitment to make LA the nation's first major no-kill city in the United States.

In addition, many celebrities and influential people are helping Animal Services create a 501c3 animal welfare charity called "SALA" which stands for Shelter Animals of LA. SALA is also Spanish for "living room" and is symbolic of the "living room" LA's residents are making in their hearts for our shelter animals. SALA will help raise funding for Animal Services many life saving programs.

We also partner with Humane Rescue Alliance and many other animal welfare organizations all of whom share our vision to end pet euthanasia and help us find loving homes for our lost and homeless pets.

4. Is there anything special about the event that you would like me to include in the article?

I think it is worth mentioning that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attended this event to once again voice his wholehearted commitment to ending euthanasia as an acceptable method to reduce pet overpopulation. He was joined by several City Council members and other public officials. To the best of my knowledge he is the only mayor of a major city to take such a courageous and compassionate stand and it is our hope he will inspire mayors and public officials across the United States with his vision!

Friday, September 29, 2006

California's Pets Included in State Disaster Plans

LA Animal Services Applauds the Legislation to Leave No Pet Behind

SACRAMENTO (September 29, 2006) —Today, Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Disaster Planning for Animals bill, which requires that California’s disaster planners consider the needs of household pets, service animals and livestock in an emergency. LA Animal Services joins the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in applauding this needed legislation as a way of protecting both animals and the families who care for them.

Sponsored by Assembly Member Leland Yee (D-12), A.B. 450 requires the Office of Emergency Services to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the California Department of Agriculture to incorporate the California Animal Response Emergency System program into their emergency planning.

“Pets are a part of our families, and can’t be left behind in an emergency,” said Eric Sakach, director of The HSUS’ West Coast regional office. “With his signature, Governor Schwarzenegger ensures that emergency plans will keep people and pets together in the time of crisis. We thank Governor Schwarzenegger and Assembly Member Yee for their support of this important legislation, which will not only help animal rescue efforts but human relief efforts as well.”

The California Animal Response Emergency System was developed in 2001 to assist the California Department of Food and Agriculture with animal issues during disasters. LA Animal Services is responsible for animals in the City of Los Angeles during a time of disaster.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Americans were struck by the images of pets lost and abandoned because they were not included in disaster plans. Many people refused to evacuate their homes without their pets. Disaster experts say that evacuations would run more smoothly if pets are included in pre-disaster planning. A recent Zogby International poll found that 61 percent of pet owners say they would refuse to evacuate if they could not take their pets with them.

In the months since the hurricane, legislation has passed in nine states, and the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, led by U.S. Rep Tom Lantos (D-CA), has passed in Congress, to ensure that the failure to consider pets and service animals during Hurricane Katrina is not repeated.

LA Animal Services continues to take part in a City Wide disaster planning process that includes participating in a three day disaster response planning session in October. LA Animal Services role is to ensure LA's pets are included in any response to any natural or man-made disaster.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Help Stop The Killing! Adopt and Spay or Neuter Your Pets!


New facility is among the first of its kind to increase pet adoption and address pet over population problem

LOS ANGELES - On Saturday, October 7, LA Animal Services, in a special dedication ceremony, will open one of the most sophisticated animal care centers in the nation, in hopes to ultimately increase the adoption rate of dogs, cats and rabbits throughout the city.

Last year alone, LA Animal Services rescued more than 46,000 lost and homeless pets. Due to the overwhelming number of animals rescued by LA Animal Services, the lack of space in the shelters and a low adoption rate, over 19,000 pets were euthanized. In an effort to reduce euthanasia and increase pet adoption, LA Animal Services, with the support of Mayor Villaraigosa and the City Council, are building six new state-of-the-art animal care facilities throughout Los Angeles, paid for by Proposition F, approved overwhelmingly by voters in November 2000. The North Central Animal Care Center, located on Lacy Street, in Lincoln Heights, is the first of the six scheduled to open in the next six months.

"The new North Central Animal Care Center will provide four times the current shelter space, enough to accommodate the 150 lost, sick, injured, abused or homeless animals rescued by animal services every day," said Ed Boks, general manager LA Animal Services. "Our goal is to make Los Angeles the first major 'no-kill' city in the United States. This upscale facility is one of the most advanced public shelters in the nation - it is truly among the first of its kind."

The enlarged 45,000 square foot North Central Animal Care Center features 176 kennels with spacious aisles, solar and radiant heating to keep the animals warm during cold weather, an outdoor misting system to cool the animals during the hot summer months and veterinary and spay/neuter clinics.

The new facility has earned a prestigious "Gold" rated green building by the United States Green Building Council, Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. This new center maximized the recycling of construction waste; used steel with 25% recycled content and optimizes energy performance. It features nearly 800 solar panels for the generation of electricity and the front wall is made from 100% recycle wood.

Public Grand Opening: On Saturday, October 7, from Noon - 4 p.m. LA Animal Services will open its doors to the public with a "Grand Homecoming" event. The celebration gives the public an opportunity to tour the new facility and visit the animals up for adoption. There will also be complimentary refreshments provided by local vendors, special discounts and coupons from various pet-related sponsors as well as Dog Training & Educational Behavioral Training workshops. This event will be supported by Veterinary Pet Insurance/DVM Insurance Agency (VPI) and the Western Medical Supply, Inc.

About the LA Animal Services: The LA Animal Services cares for more than 40,000 lost and homeless pets per year and more than 5,000 wild, exotic and farm animals. Comprised of six shelters in the greater Los Angeles area, LA Animal Services promotes and protects the health, safety and welfare of animals and people in the city of Los Angeles. They value the integrity of each employee, volunteer and partner contributing to the professional delivery of excellent customer service and the humane treatment of animals, in an atmosphere of open, honest communication, predicated on trust in and respect for each other. For more information on the LA Animal Services, please visit: www.laanimalservices.com.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

There Really Is An Elephant In The Living Room!

This weekend Los Angeles played host to British artist Bansky’s exhibit "Barely Legal", that included a live elephant painted to blend into the wallpaper of a living room. The exhibit seems an apt metaphor for the awakening consciousness of Angelinos. LA is a community with arguably the most vocal animal rights activists, a strong public and politically supported “no-kill” initiative in our city shelters, an unprecedented Anti-Animal Cruelty Task Force comprised of Police and Animal Care Officers and City Attorneys, and internationally known celebrities who care enough about animal suffering to use their celebrity to speak on behalf of the voiceless.

As a community we are concerned about pet rabbits fed to snakes, dogs on chains, parakeets sold on Santee Alley, the fate of feral cats, and how animals are treated in the movies. But beyond all the conversations, discussions, protests, policy statements, rules, and laws there remains an elephant in the living room that nobody seems to see.

Until this weekend! Looking into Tai’s eyes, I could not help but think of Jeffrey Masson’s book “When Elephants Weep”. Looking into her eyes nearly brought me to tears. Dozens of people came up to ask me, “Is this right?” Somehow we seemed to know intrinsically that what we came to see was wrong, perhaps even profane.

It was as though there were two groups of people in the room. One group could not see past Tai, the other saw into her soul. George Bernard Shaw once said, “The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That’s the essence of inhumanity.” There was an elephant in the living room and most of us could not see her. We saw an oddity, a freak or clever expression of “art”, but we failed to see the very essence of our inhumanity manifested through our indifference.

In 1780 another Brit, an attorney by the name of Jeremy Benthem, wrote a book entitled, “An Introduction to the Principle of Morals and Legislation.” In his book there is what many consider the most quoted footnote of all time: “The question is not, can they reason? Nor can they talk? But, can they suffer?

That was an original question in 1780 when scientists and clergy alike truly felt animals could not suffer as humans do. To answer that question today you only had to look into Tai’s eyes. Animals are a test of our character. How we treat them is the measure of our humanity as a community, and there is no greater sin than to be indifferent.

Los Angeles is a city that has made many people wealthy through the exploitation of animals. We see wild and exotic animals everywhere: in the movies, commercials, TV shows, billboards, ads, art exhibits, and even in the homes and yards of the rich and famous. Dare we admit there is a suffering elephant in our living room? Will we have the courage to ask if our indifference is causing animals to suffer? Can we talk and reason together about how to end animal suffering? Because if we don’t, the elephant won’t suffer alone, we will all surely suffer the loss of some part of our humanity.

Friday, September 15, 2006

When a Community Rallies for the Animals...

We have often heard the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. The same advice holds true for solving our pet overpopulation and animal cruelty problems. Its going to take all of us working together to solve the animal welfare issues in Los Angeles. A few days ago the LA City Council announced their acceptance of a $200,000 donation from Best Friends Animal Society.

Clearly Best Friends Animal Society shares LA Animal Services' commitment to helping end the killing of adoptable animals in Los Angeles. They are funding an independent, professional assessment of the scope, causes and contributors of pet overpopulation in Los Angeles. The independent assessment will be conducted by LA City Controller Laura Chick and a team of professionals.

When this assessment is complete it will be up to Animal Services to orchestrate the implementation of the solutions and recommendations made by these professionals. This assessment will be the basis of a subsequent No-Kill Strategic Plan that will organize the city's resources - both internal and across the community- toward realistic, sustained reductions in the causes and contributors of pet overpopulation.

This is wonderful news, but it doesn't stop here. There is a growing synergy in LA towards achieving No-Kill. Over the past several months an organization of well informed, compassionate LA residents formed a new 501c3 animal welfare charity called SALA (Shelter Animals of Los Angeles). SALA also means “living room” in Spanish and reflects the goal to help find loving homes for all of our companion animals in Los Angeles.

SALA’s purpose is to support, on an exclusive basis, LA Animal Services in a joint mission to save animals' lives and find permanent, loving homes for the thousands of lost, homeless, abandoned, neglected and abused companion animals rescued by LA City Animal Services every year. The ultimate goal of SALA is to assist LA Animal Services achieve “no kill” in all of our city shelters.

SALA believes a functional and efficient city shelter system that receives much needed private funding will ultimately benefit everyone: from pet owners to rescue organizations and, most importantly, the animals themselves.

Through the Big Fix Program, SALA will aggressively invest in spay/neuter with high volume clinics in all of the new Animal Care Centers, funding more mobile spay/neuter vans and offering spay/neuter/vaccine services to low income residents and asking for donations only, rather than charging a low fee that depends on proof of income. We are also partnering with Western University’s Veterinary School on including cutting edge intern and residency programs using LA Animal Care Centers as teaching schools for up and coming veterinarians.

Through the STAR Program (Special Treatment & Recovery), SALA will provide funding to help sick and injured animals rescued by LA Animal Services. Any animal treated in the STAR Program will not be euthanized.

Through Operation FELIX (Feral Education & Love Instead of X-termination) SALA will work with groups and individuals to help maintain feral cat colonies by implementing strong TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) programs and ultimately create a comprehensive database system that will help track all feral colonies in the LA area.

SALA will establish a Safety Net Outreach Program to help all citizens of Los Angeles including our non-English speaking residents by conveying the importance of spay/neuter, as well as promote adoption and foster care. SALA will also provide outreach programs that will guide the public to resources that will help pet guardians better care for their companion animals. This outreach effort can be achieved in a variety of ways. Articles, stories, ads in newspapers and on local TV and radio, billboard messaging, educational workshops at community centers, and networking community resources to help residents responsibly keep and care for their pets are just some of the ways to get the message to the people who need to hear it most.

Volunteers are the backbone of any organization, and shoring up the LA Animal Services Volunteer Program is an important item on SALA’s agenda. Besides the important work of providing care for the animals in the shelters and at mobile adoptions, volunteers can also work as Adoption Counselors to help people find their new best friend. Volunteers can also participate in the previously mentioned outreach programs that can be conducted in community centers, churches, youth centers, etc. to teach people how to be great pet guardians.

Other projects SALA has under development include:

Shelter Dog Training Program: A partnership with trainers who will assist in socializing dogs in the shelter and prepare them for their forever home. Since behavioral issues are at the top of the excuse list for owner surrender, easy access to accredited trainers while the dogs are in the shelter, as well as help in settling them into their new home, will promote pet retention rates.

A House is Not a Home Without a Pet Program: An alliance with all rental homes, apartments, and senior citizen homes, etc., to provide incentives to encourage landlords to welcome residents with pets. SALA will also provide mediation assistance for neighbor and landlord/renter disputes that involve pet issues, etc.

Teach Love and Compassion (TLC): To promote humane education programs in the LA school district that will ultimately become part of the regular curriculum to be taught in all our elementary and middle schools. TLC will also provide learning opportunities for “at risk” kids by teaching love and compassion for “at risk” animals in our Animal Care Centers.

Animal Services and all of LA is deeply indebted to Best Friends Animal Society, SALA, our New Hope Partners, Volunteers, Employees, and donors for their commitment, dedication and compassion for the lost and homeless pets of Los Angeles. When a community rallies together for the animals we truly demonstrate what it means to be a humane society as we commit ourselves to making LA the safest City in the United States for our pets.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

City Council Motion Today!

Since my coming to Los Angeles Animal Services this past January the LA Animal Services Commission has suggested the need for a service delivery/performance audit. Members of the public have also expressed the need for such an audit. In both Maricopa County and New York City there was an audit conducted at both the beginning the end end of my tenures. I actually asked for the audits at the end of my past posts because I'm a strong believer in the role of an audit to serve as a benchmark for determining past performance and serving as the basis for future strategic planning.

Based on discussions I began and Commissioner Atake reinforced during her spring visit to the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, we have forged an agreement with City Controller Laura Chick to underwrite a full performance audit (an audit of the operations as well as the finances) of LA Animal Services.

This is a pioneering agreement, the first time a City audit has ever received outside financial support. This makes it possible to add the audit to the Controller's otherwise full schedule for this year, yet the agreement preserves the Controller's full independence and autonomy over the process. The Controller will be working with outside consultants, including experts in the field of animal care.

Because the Best Friends' donation to cover the cost of the audit requires City Council approval, Councilmember Jack Weiss today introduced a motion to accept the donation.

I want to thank the Mayor's office, the City Council, and the Commission for their support of this effort. I especially want to thank Best Friends Animal Society for helping our community rise above the hyperbole to look for positive and lasting solutions to a very complex community problem.

It is my hope LA City will join us in looking forward to this audit as an important learning experience. I am asking for everyone's support not only for the audit but also for our staff whose work will be under very close scrutiny during this process.

What follows is the Motion Council Member Jack Weiss submitted to the City Council today:

The Los Angeles Department of Animal Services appears to have embarked upon an era of positive change. It is revamping its management structure, opening new, state-of-the-art animal shelter facilities and launching expanded programs to reduce pet overpopulation and greatly reduce euthanasia in its shelter system. Both the Mayor and the Board of Animal Services Commissioners have determined that these efforts would be substantially aided by the conduct of a performance audit and the creation of a multi-year strategic plan for the department. LA Animal Services management has agreed to this approach and the Best Friends Animal Society, a non-profit organization based at 5001 Angel Canyon Road, Kanab, UT 84741-5000, has stepped forward to offer the City the funds necessary to underwrite the conduct of this performance audit.

In accordance with the Los Angeles Administrative Code section 5.200.1, any gift exceeding $25,000.00 in cash or in-kind value must be accepted by the City Council.

NOW, I THEREFORE MOVE that the City Council:

1. Accept the $200,000 donation from the Best Friends Animal Society, a non-profit organization based at 5001 Angel Canyon Road, Kanab, UT 84741-5000, for the audit of the Animal Services Department and deposit said funds to Fund 100, Department 56, General City Purposes, Revenue Source Code 4512, Donations, and appropriate therefrom to a new account entitled, "Animal Services Audit;"

2. Authorize the City Clerk, with the assistance of the Controller, to negotiate, execute and handle payment and final close-out of a contract of up to $200,000, for the above purpose, subject to the approval of the City Attorney as to form;

3. Request the Controller to monitor the contractor for contract compliance and authorize payments;

4. Authorize the City Clerk to make any technical corrections or clarifications to the above instructions in order effectuate the intent of this Motion;

5. Stipulate that the role of Best Friends Animal Society in the conduct of the audit is strictly limited to providing this donation, unless the Controller or its designated audit contractor directly requests further counsel from Best Friends;

6. Instruct the City Clerk to notify Best Friends Animal Society of this action and to thank the organization for its generous commitment to supporting the work of the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services and the animals of the city.

Presented September 12, 2006

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More on Safe Sex For Animals

An organization called the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs (ACC&D) has funded a study for a promising non-surgical sterilant. Work on the product is still in the early phases, and this grant will make it possible to take the next step in determining the potential for its use in female dogs and cats. Read the press release

A non-surgical sterilant is the "Holy Grail" of the animal welfare/no-kill movement. If this is a topic that intersts you consider attending ACC&D's Third International Symposium in November to learn more about progress in the field and about how you can help reach our shared goals.

The greatest obstacle to the development of these tools over the past several decades has been a lack of focus and a lack of funding. ACC&D is the only organization solely dedicated to getting these new tools developed and brought to market where they can start saving lives. But they can’t do it alone! Please consider making a donation to ACC&D today. Your tax- deductible contribution makes it possible to advance development of these life saving tools.

ACC&D Gives First Grant
Excerpt from the article:
...ACC&D hopes the grant will help accelerate development of an affordable, non-surgical form of sterilization. “In the long run, we believe this technology could have a profound impact on controlling dog and cat overpopulation around the world and provide a safe alternative to surgical sterilizations,” says Briggs. “Overpopulation results in the death of more dogs and cats than any other disease. We want to help ‘man’s best friends’ by identifying and supporting studies that can help end this suffering.”...
Read the Article