Imagine waking up every morning with saving 55,000 animals on your mind. Many of you do, I know. That is the number of animals LA Animal Services rescues every year. That’s an average of 150 lost, homeless, sick or injured animals that depend on the compassion, care and skill of LA Animal Services every day of the year.
These are daunting numbers in light of Animal Services’ goal to achieve No-Kill. No-Kill is a term to describe a goal that will be achieved when Los Angeles is using the same criteria for determining when to euthanize an animal that a loving pet guardian or veterinarian uses. We are not there yet. We still have hundreds of healthy and treatable animals dying just because we don’t have enough room in our Animal Care Centers or because we don’t have the necessary resources to provide the care they need.
Angelinos have been wonderful in their response to this crisis; both adoptions and the number of animals placed by our partners have increased every year for five years in a row causing the euthanasia rate to decline 50% during that same time frame, with nearly another 20% decrease so far this year compared to the same time frame last year! But even with these remarkable improvements, Animal Services still needs help to find homes for hundreds of lovable pets. Clearly, we will never adopt our way out of this crisis.
The best way to achieve No-Kill is through aggressive spay/neuter programs that assist our community’s needy pet owners so fewer unwanted animals are born. Animal Services is working feverishly to open eight new spay/neuter clinics over the course of the next several months. This will help tremendously. We are also partnering with several wonderful organizations that specialize in spay/neuter.
But Los Angeles is a complicated town, with many people and organizations feeling strongly they know how best to solve LA’s pet overpopulation problems. Some feel there is no solution, they feel killing unwanted animals is just a fact of urban life in today’s society.
I am convinced pet overpopulation is a problem we can solve, but it is going to take all of us working together, implementing all our ideas and strategies together. Every one of us has a piece of the solution whether we understand it or not. Let me tell you a story that explains what I mean. This is a story told to me by a very wise person many years ago, it is called, “The 17 Camels”.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a far away land, there lived a poor elderly nomad. He lived a long and happy life, but the time came when he was about to die. The poor, old man had three sons, and he wanted to distribute his belongings to them before he died. Among his possessions were 17 camels.
As his death grew close, he gathered his three sons around him to tell them what their inheritance would be.
He told his eldest son he was to get ½ of the camels.
He told his middle son he was to get 1/3 of the camels.
He told his youngest son he was to get 1/9 of the camels.
Then he died. The three sons were saddened and perplexed. They sincerely wanted to honor their father’s wishes, and they all wanted all of their inheritance. But how, they wondered, could they possibly divide 17 camels in accordance with their father’s wishes? How do you divide 17 camels in half, or by one/third, or one/ninth? It was impossible!
Then the youngest son remembered that out in the desert there lived a wise old man in a cave. He suggested they take their problem to him and let him solve it for them.
So, the next day they packed up their 17 camels and went to the cave where the wise old man lived. When they arrived, the old man welcomed them with open arms. That evening they all sat around the camp fire and the three boys told the old man their problem. How, they asked him, could they possibly honor their father’s last wish and divide the 17 camels in accordance with his direction? It was impossible!
The wise old man thought about their problem for a while, and after a long silence concluded that he could not help them. He told them they would have to solve this problem for themselves. However, the old man said he had a camel that he no longer needed and that he would be happy to give his camel to the boys if they wanted him.
The boys were happy to accept the additional camel. As they were preparing to leave the next day the eldest brother realized that now that they had 18 camels they could honor their father’s wishes.
The eldest son could now have ½ of the 18 camels = 9
The middle son could now have 1/3 of the camels = 6
And the youngest son could now have 1/9 of the camels = 2
Imagine their surprise when they divided up their inheritance and discovered that it came to 17 camels. They now had one extra camel. So they gave the wise old man his camel back which he accepted with a twinkle in his eye...
We should remember this story when we think making LA a No-Kill City is an impossible problem. It may be in that moment that you grasp the fact that you have the missing piece, the piece that will solve the problem for everyone! And in the end, you will get back all that you give!
So ask not what Animal Services can do to help the animals, ask what you can do to help Animal Services, because together we will make LA the safest City in the United States for all our pets, and even our camels...