Friday, July 21, 2006

Report to the Mayor: Part III

This is the third and last part of my blog containing excerpts from my six month Report to the Mayor. This blog identifies some of the programs Animal Services is relying on to help ease the overcrowding of our current shelters and reduce our community's euthanasia rate. These programs substantially depend upon our employees, volunteers, partners, donations and community support to succeed:

At the same time Department of Animal Services is opening the new Centers described in yesterday's blog, we have also renewed our commitment to our community’s expectation to end euthanasia as a means to control pet overpopulation. Animal Services is demonstrating this commitment through the implementation of several new programs. The following programs are either fully implemented, partially implemented, or in the planning stage:

The Big Fix is the consolidation of the many and sundry programs to provide low/no cost spay/neutering services for pets in low-income households. A description of these many programs can be found on our website. Animal Services will soon have a Request for Proposals (RFP) on the street for managing and operating our six new Spay/Neuter Clinics. These clinics will provide spay/neuter surgery to Animal Services' adopted animals and the pets of our community’s low-income pet owners and feral cat colony managers. Animal Services is also working with the Amanda Foundation to increase their aggressive mobile spay/neuter services. At the same time, we are working with the Sam Simon Foundation to immediately initiate operation of our South LA spay/neuter clinic until an RFP for these services can be awarded. This arrangement – turning over the mobile clinic operation to the Amanda Foundation and the South LA Clinic to the Sam Simon Foundation - is a win/win for the animals, the City, and our partner organizations. Animal Services experienced a 35% increase in voucher subsidized spay/neuter surgeries in Fiscal Year 06 compared to Fiscal Year 05 and a 50% increase in feral cat surgeries during this same time period. Thanks to the City commitment to Animal Services Big Fix spay/neuter programs dog and cat intakes are down 24% over the past past five years, and down another 7% in the first six months of 06. Expanding Big Fix exponentially remains one of our primary goals.

New Hope is a program designed to partner with the vast network of pet rescue, support and adoption agencies throughout Southern California and beyond in the process of locating homes for the animals that Animal Services rescues. We now have over 70 New Hope Partners and expect to double that within the next six months. This program gives New Hope Partners 24/7 access to the shelters to select animals from the New Hope Alert at no charge. This includes spay/neuter surgery, microchip, and vaccinations. It is Animal Services hope that this program will permit all our partners to maximize their limited resources in our shared mission to save lives. Each Center has one employee designated as the New Hope Coordinator. This employee is available to all New Hope Parnters by cell phone and serves as their "personal shopper". New Hope Partners also get a daily email of all animals at risk of euthanasia that they can have at no charge. Animal Services and HLP have also made a sophisticated animal management software program available to New Hope parnters at no charge. If all partners take advantage of this offer, it would represent nearly a $500,000 gift to the rescue community.

Safety Net helps pets and their families stay together through difficult financial times or relocations by networking the entire animal LA welfare community through Animal Services Call Center. The Call Center will serve as a referal service for all animal welfare issues, including pet friendly apartments, attorneys specializing in pet law and landlord disputes, low cost boarding, behaviorists, etc.

Call Center will provide a “one-stop shop” for any and all animal questions, concerns, and problems. It will serve as the clearing-house to help Angelinos find the solutions they seek to pet, animal and wildlife related issues and problems. The development of a centralized Call Center in one location will also free six field officers who now man six separate dispatch stations, one in each Animal Care Center, to respond to problems in the field. The Call Center will also serve as the Field Operations Dispatch. This program brings much-needed efficiency to the department, allowing shelter staff to focus on the customers and animals in their Centers rather than being pulled away from these important responsibilities to answer the phone. And it frees Field Officers to serve the public and the animals out in the community. It will also dramatically reduce the waiting time the public experiences on the phone.

STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) program provides medical treatment to severely injured, abused, and neglected animals rescued by Animal Services. This program provides treatment for animals that historically may have been euthanized because they were beyond the capacity of Animal Services to treat. This program also includes many partner veterinarians in the community. Soon Animal Services will have an x-ray machine in every Center that will seriously enhance the triage capabilities of the department in helping animals with life threatening injuries.

TLC (Teach Love and Compassion) provides at-risk youth with employment training in animal care. This program, currently in development, is designed to be intergenerational allowing our staff and community’s elderly to work with our youth to teach love and compassion through the care and love of animals. TLC will be an umbrella program dealing with many animal welfare issues, such as hoarding, the link between domestic violence and animal abuse, humane education, and much more.

Anti-Cruelty Task Force is a partnership with LAPD and the City Attorney. Together we investigate animal cruelty and abuse complaints, including dog and cock fighting, as well as cases of physical abuse and neglect. A database for tracking and reporting on these cases is being developed, and these statistics will be in each month’s General Manager Report to the Commission, which is also available to the public on our website. As could be expected with any multi-departmental effort, there are some coordination and growing pains, but we are working diligently with our partners to address them.

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

Orange Dot Program is designed to identify and encourage improved behavioral response from shy dogs in a shelter environment; this program is effectively used in other shelters to help ensure dogs are provided every opportunity to be safely placed in a loving home.

My Castle, My Crate is a program using kennel crates for dogs in isolation or with behavioral problems to provide a stress free “safe house” in the kennel. Benefits include improved recovery time from illness, injury or improved behavioral manifestations caused by stress. The new shelters provide this safe space in all the kennels.

FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-terminations) provides low or no cost spay/neuter service to feral cats managed by trained feral cat colony managers trained by one of Animal Services feral cat partner organizations. Animal Services experienced a 50% increase in voucher subsidized spay/neuter feral cat surgeries to date in Fiscal Year 06 compared to the same time period in Fiscal Year 05. FELIX will play an important role in our pending Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program, currently in development. Animal Services is partnering with almost all the local feral cat organizations, and welcomes any not now participating.

Foster Program trains volunteers to provide temporary homes for special needs animals until they are healthy enough for adoption. There are several facets to this program which includes our Bottle Baby Program to provide care for neonate orphanes. Animal Services provides training to volunteers interested in providing this life saving care. Animal Services has also started an Evidence Animal Foster Program. Historically, animals rescued from abusive or neglectful conditions were left to languish in shelter kennels for months while the legal proceedings were under way. Today, animal victims of cruelty and neglect can be fostered into loving homes until a judge decides in the matter. Overall, the Foster Program provides a safe place for animals that Animal Services historically could not properly care for or had to euthanize. This program will only be as successful as the community wants it to be because it relies on the community to provide this much needed love and care to our neonate, sick, injured, abused, and neglected animals. All the animals would have been killed in prior years. Volunteers developed a 7 minute informational CD for foster parents.

FEV Testing and Vaccination Program has been implemented as a pilot program. Designed to enable new cat owners the opportunity to determine any “at risk” factors that may affect their newly adopted cat and any cats at home upon introduction. Animal Services is also providing free dog vaccinations in all our Centers thanks to a donation received for that purpose. By making vaccinations more readily available to our community's pets we will see less disease in our shelters.

Make-Over Program is in development phase to include outside vendor participation. At this time, Center personnel and volunteers that have grooming experience provide grooming for animals that need such attention. Best Friends volunteers continue to support grooming needs for large-scale adoption events.

Legal Issues: Animal Services is working with the City Attorney’s office and members of the public on no less than 30 legal issues, statutues, ordinances and/or programs, such as a new animal control ordinance dealing with mandatory spay/neuter; the aforementioned TNR program designed to humanely reduce the number of feral cats in LA; a possible rooster ban in LA to curtail cock fighting; allowing evidence animals to be fostered in a loving home rather than languish in our shelters; and neighborhood intervention programs that solves problems with potentially dangerous dogs before anyone is hurt or bitten, and much more.

Rabbit Brigade: rabbits have become the number 3 preferred pet in Los Angeles. Animal Services rescues hundreds of rabbits annually. All rabbits are now spayed or neutered prior to release. Animal Services partners with a number of rabbit rescue organizations and volunteers under the leadership of the nationally respected House Rabbit Society. – nothing demonstrates the transformation of Animal Services more than our new website. Designed to make information easily accessible with a look that is easy on the eyes and is intuitive in function. Much more detail can be found on our website including a Blog from the General Manager, a 20 plus page monthly report from the GM, and details on all of Animal Services many programs and initiatives. Animal Services’ and the City’s websites both feature a Pet of the Day function to help improve adoptions. It is our hope other City departments will put this feature on their website. Instructions for doing so are available at

Pet of the Month program initiated by Council member Herb Wesson highlights the City Council’s support of Animal Services’ efforts to increase adoptions and reduce euthanasia. Every animal featured at a City Council meeting since the practice of showcasing them at Council meetings on alternate Fridays was instituted early this year is now in a loving home! Check out our website to find instructions on how to put this feature on your website.

Lost and Found Bulleting Board: Animal Services is working with partner organizations to develop a lost and found bulletin board that will allow good Samaritan citizens to reunite lost pets with their owners without the animals ever having to suffer the trauma of a shelter experience. Keep your eyes open for that!

Match Maker: Animal Services has initiated its own Match Maker program. By going to our on-line Match Maker program found on our website, you can describe the type of pet you are looking for. Every time a pet matching your description becomes available, you will be notified by e-mail with a picture and description of the animal and its location.

Home Shopping Petwork is a high quality, 30 minute television program on Channel 35 that highlights the programs, events, employees, volunteers, and most importantly the animals of Animal Services. The program can be viewed several times per month. For a listing of the show schedule, visit

SALA – (Shelter Animals of Los Angeles) is a 501c3 Animal Services fund raising organization comprised of influential volunteers, residents and business owners wanting to help Animal Services raise funding for the life saving programs described above which are designed to facilitate achieving LA’s no-kill goal. The SALA Board is currently in formation.

Dog Licensing Program: Another reason for our declining euthanasia rate is that Animal Services has one of the highest success rates in the country for returning lost pets to their grateful owners, a rate four times higher than other large cities. Animal Services returns over 4,500 lost dogs and cats to their owners each year. 100% of the animals that Animal Services rescues with a current license go home, unfortunately, 90% of the animals we rescue come in with no identification and never go home again.

License Canvassing program: Animal Services is asking the Mayor’s Office and the City Council to reconsider funding the License Canvassing program that was deleted in this year’s budget. Conservatively, there are an estimated 700,000 pet dogs in the City of Los Angeles. Only 120,000 dogs are licensed and this number decreases each year. The program consisted of 15 Department personnel who go door-to-door and collect canine license fees.

This program was not functioning properly until February 06. Since then we immediately began to show positive results. Beginning in March 06 additional staff was recruited for the program and the number of licenses and revenue began to increase from 790 new and renewal dog licenses representing $24,373 in revenue in March to 2,498 new and renewal dog licenses representing $84,093 in revenue in June. Animal Services projects with a full contingency of fifteen canvassers we could conservatively generate $750,000 in license revenue in the first year. Because licenses must be renewed annually this revenue will continue to increase and compound per annum. This revenue would greatly supplement Animal Services budget and allow us to better provide the level of care LA residents expect.

Animal Services is deeply committed to achieving the Mayor, City Council and our community's ultimate goal of ending institutional euthanasia as a method for controlling pet overpopulation! The above-mentioned programs combined with established initiatives and programs under the Mayor, City Council, and Commission's leadership are already producing significant demonstrable results.

Together we are making LA the safest city in the US for our pets! Thanks to everyone playing a constructive role in this exciting challenge!