Friday, December 28, 2007

IMPLEMENTING THE NO-KILL EQUATION IN LOS ANGELES - Part VII: Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation

This is the seventh posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of a so-called "No-Kill Equation". The “No-Kill Equation” is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable results.

An animal advocate in our community submitted an analysis comparing the "No-Kill Equation" to LA's programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the seventh recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation.

The Ten "No-Kill Equation" Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program – (Responded December 11th)
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter (Responded December 16th)
3. Rescue Groups (Responded December 18th)
4. Foster Care (Responded December 21st)
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program (Responded December 24th)
6. Pet Retention (Responded December 26th)
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The “No-Kill Equation” is in this blue font.

The analysis is in this black italic font.

My concluding comments are in this font.

VII. Medical and Behavior Rehabilitation
A shelter begins helping treatable animals by closely analyzing statistics. How many animals entering a shelter are treatable? What types of injuries and illnesses are most common? The answers to these questions will determine what types of rehabilitation programs are needed and how to effectively allocate resources. For example, one community may have many underage kittens in its shelters. Another may have substantial numbers of cats with upper respiratory infections, or dogs with kennel cough. Yet another may find that a large portion of treatables are dogs with behavior problems. Each will need a different lifesaving program.

These can include creating a fund dedicated solely to medical and behavioral rehabilitation. Such a fund lets the public direct their donations and allows a shelter to demonstrate what they are doing to help treatables. In addition, the shelter can establish relationships to have local veterinarians come to the shelter to do rotations. These veterinarians can supplement the work of a staff veterinarian and veterinary technicians and help diagnose animals, give vaccinations, and administer medication and treatment.

A relationship with a veterinary college can allow veterinary students to volunteer at the shelter on a regular basis, providing the students with real life on-the-job training, while shelter animals receive high-quality care under the direction of the veterinary college faculty. Finally, it is impossible to overstate the importance of a foster program for underaged kittens and puppies, undersocialized animals, and those recovering from medical treatment.

LA Animal Services has long provided in-house and contract medical services to the animals in its care. Its new facilities feature modern, fully-equipped medical clinics and medical wards and the Department is reinvigorating its in-house veterinary team with compassionate, highly-qualified veterinary professionals. These efforts will substantially expand its ability to provide a full range of medical services, including emergency care, surgeries and disease control programs.

By the end of fiscal year 2008, there will be seven such clinics in the system, staffed by a total of at least seven veterinarians and over two dozen veterinary technicians (most of whom are fully-accredited veterinarians in other countries seeking the same status here while they work for the Department). Additionally, the Department routinely contracts with dozens of outside veterinarians to provide both preventive and remedial care for thousands of animals a year.

The Department has established a relationship with Los Angeles Pierce College to provide internship opportunities for pre-veterinary students and is negotiating with Western University veterinary school to create a formal internship program that will augment care in the shelters and introduce future veterinarians to the practice of shelter medicine.

Since 1987, the Department has maintained the
Animal Welfare Trust Fund to be used to underwrite medical expenses for animals requiring special treatment. The Department has established a network of professional behavioral trainers to work on a voluntary basis with dogs who are nervous or scared and can mistakenly appear aggressive when entering unfamiliar shelters, to ease their stay and enhance their adoptability. Scheduled sessions are held at various animal care centers along with individualized training programs for specific animals on an ad hoc basis.

LA Animal Services is a data-driven department. Data creates the link between assessment, planning, and results. Data-driven animal care and control agencies design targeted programs based on their shelter intake data. For example, in LA, data is used to develop and implement a multi-pronged sterilization program to ensure adopted shelter animals are sterilized prior to release, free or low-cost spay/neutering services are available for the pets of our needy, senior and disabled populations, and that cat specific sterilization programs are accessible.

In the drive to achieve No-Kill there are two commonly recognized hurdles to clear. A community’s progress towards No-Kill will usually stall at the first hurdle which is typically found when its pet euthanasia rate is reduced to between 12 and 10 shelter killings per 1000 human residents annually (12.5 is the current national average). Once a community achieves this rate, further significant reductions are stalled and require the implementation of aggressive spay/neuter programs to achieve further euthanasia reduction goals. With effective, targeted spay/neuter programs, progress to the second hurdle can be fairly quick.

The first hurdle becomes apparent after a community has successfully persuaded all the people who are likely to fix their pets to do so. The challenge then is to persuade the more difficult populations, which include the poor, the elderly on fixed income, individuals with negative attitudes about spay/neuter, people who speak languages other than English, and those who live in relatively remote areas.

To break through this first barrier, LA Animal Services developed free and low-cost spay/neuter programs for our community’s needy pet guardians, and free spay/neuter for the pets of our low income senior citizens and disabled residents, as well as cat specific spay/neuter programs. These programs account for over 45,000 spay/neuter surgeries annually.

Animal People magazine conducted a survey in 1994 that found transportation problems represent 40% of the total reasons why pets are not fixed, equal to monetary considerations. This data suggests that providing spay/neuter transportation is an often overlooked strategy to a community’s breaking through the 10 shelter killings per 1,000 humans barrier. LA Animal Services has used this data to provide over 12,000 mobile spay/neuter surgeries annually throughout the City’s underserved areas by partnering with the Amanda and Sam Simon Foundations.

The second hurdle in the drive to achieve No-Kill has been characterized by Peter Marsh, (founder of Solutions to Overpopulation of Pets - STOP), as “the wall”. Few communities have been able to break through "the wall". A community hits “the wall” when it reduces its pet euthanasia rate to between five and 2.5 shelter killings per 1000 human residents annually (LA City is at 4.3 as of June 07). Hitting “the wall” tells a community that it has come to the point where most of the animals dying in its shelters are irremediably suffering due to sickness or injury, demonstrate dangerously aggressive behavior, or are feral or neonate cats, or pit bulls. Hitting the wall reveals the success of an earlier generation of effectively targeted programs.

To break through “the wall” requires a new generation of programs to address the needs of special populations not met by earlier programs. The paradigm remains the same: comprehensive data collection, assessment, and implementation of programs targeted to meet the special needs of residual populations. Breaking through the wall requires taking the information-based targeting approach to the next level.

As a result, the Department is focusing its efforts on saving these at-risk animal populations. The feral cat/neonate kitten side of the equation is fairly straight forward and can often be handled through volunteer programs. However, to be successful, it does require a significant amount of volunteer time and dedication coupled with meaningful animal care and control support. LA Animal Services is fortunate to have such an army of life saving volunteers and employees staffing robust neonate/foster care programs, as explained in Part IV of this series. We are also working hard to make Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) a mainstream methodology for controlling feral cat populations in LA, as explained in Part I of this series.

The pit bull side of the equation is more difficult. According to Animal People magazine, San Francisco is currently the only major city in the US experiencing a decline in pit bulls. San Francisco credits local pit bull-targeted spay/neuter legislation for this decline, which may largely be the case. However, other factors may also contribute to this decline. For instance, it is much more difficult for dogfighters and backyard breeders to go underground in San Francisco compared to most other cities. It has been said that a dog can't bark in San Francisco without 100 neighbors complaining, while a hundred dogs can bark in parts of Los Angeles and not be heard above the noise of the freeways.

LA Animal Services’ volunteer trainers provide much in the way of good citizenship dog training for pit bulls and other breeds. LA Animal Services adopts out more pit bulls than any other dog breed. In addition to our neonate, feral cat, and pit bull strategies, LA Animal Services is also aggressively working to save as many treatable animals as possible.

The “Animal Welfare Trust Fund” supports the Department’s STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) Program. Many animals come into our care centers healthy and eager to be reunited with their families, or to find new families. Sadly, we also receive many sweet and loving animals that have been injured, abused, neglected, or have an illness that requires extensive treatment. When an animal is not irremediably suffering and will respond to treatment, we undertake all measures we can to make that animal healthy again. The STAR program showcases some of these STAR animals in need on our website. Treatments may take weeks or months, require special medicines, or involve one or more complicated surgeries — all at an expense that exceeds the Department’s usual budget allotment. The public can help these animals with donations to our LA Animal Services' STAR Program, which is used exclusively to pay for special veterinary services on animals with surgery or special treatment needs.

Thanks to our STAR program and a newly assembled, highly competent and compassionate medical team, LA Animal Services for the first time ever has the capacity to treat many animals that historically would have been euthanized or outsourced to private veterinarians. Today our staff veterinarians remove tumors, treat pyometra, repair hernias, perform dentistry, treat animals with intravenous fluids, non-narcotic, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and narcotic pain-relieving drugs, and through the use of our state of the art digital X-ray machines, they are able to successfully mend fractures, and so much more.

As is the case in any hospital, attempts at life saving treatments are not always successful and these efforts have predictably resulted in a higher mortality rate than occurred when we did little to nothing to help these animals before euthanizing them. But to focus on the Department’s mortality rate alone is to miss the larger point that not only is our euthanasia rate at an all time low, the overall death rate is also moving downward.

Fewer animals are dying in Los Angeles today than at any other time since statistics were first kept. Thanks to the outpouring of public support for LA Animals Services that resulted in the City’s $160 million investment in new animal care centers equipped with modern clinics and isolation and holding wards, animals in need can now receive care for longer durations as they recover and await adoption or as explained in Part IV of this series, they may be placed in our Foster Program until they recover.

LA Animal Services has veterinarians familiar with clinical behavioral medicine who strive to help find solutions to behaviorally-challenged pets before and after entry into the animal care centers.

LA Animal Services understands that to break through “the wall” will require remedial programs as well as preventive ones, such as training programs for dogs with behavioral issues, foster care for neonatal kittens, veterinary care for injured or sick animals, etc. While preventive programs can get you to “the wall”, they alone can't get you through it. Its going to take all of us working together to break through the wall and make LA the first major metropolitan No-Kill city in the United States.

For an example of a "new generation" program designed to help break through "the wall" read this LA Times article entitled, "LAPD enlists feral cats for rat patrol".

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


This is the sixth posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of the “No-Kill Equation”. The No-Kill Equation is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable results.

An animal advocate in our community submitted an analysis comparing the "No-Kill Equation" to LA's programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the sixth recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Pet Retention.

The Ten "No-Kill Equation" Recommendations are:

1. Feral Cat TNR Program – (Responded December 11th)
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter (Responded December 16th)
3. Rescue Groups (Responded December 18th)
4. Foster Care (Responded December 21st)
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program (Responded December 24th)
6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The “No-Kill Equation” is in this blue font.

The analysis is in this black italic font.

My concluding comments are in this font.

VI. Pet Retention
While some of the reasons animals are surrendered to shelters are unavoidable, others can be prevented—but only if shelters are willing to work with people to help them solve their problems. Saving all healthy and treatable pets requires communities to develop innovative strategies for keeping people and their companion animals together. And the more a community sees its shelter(s) as a place to turn for advice and assistance, the easier this job will be. Animal control agencies can maintain “libraries” of pet care and behavior fact sheets in the shelter and on a website. Articles in local papers, radio and television spots all provide opportunities to feature topics like solving litterbox avoidance and excessive barking. Other pet retention programs include free in-home dog behavior problem-solving by volunteers, low-cost dog training, pet friendly rental programs, dog walker referrals, and pet behavior classes.

LA Animal Services' volunteers regularly provides behavioral training classes in new exercise yards built into the newly opening animal care centers and at the South Los Angeles Animal Care Center Annex. The most sophisticated volunteers augment staff in counseling pet owners and would-be adopters whenever feasible and receive training to enable them to engage in relinquishment counseling. Informational flyers on various pet behavior topics and a variety of animal issues are available in each shelter and on the Department’s informative website, and popular humane community publications featuring information on services and products pet owners can use to enhance their pet guardianship experience are also available free of charge at the centers. When available, donated pet food and pet toys are given to new owners when they’re adopting from LA Animal Services. In addition, LA Animal Services volunteers and staff routinely provide training and grooming services to dogs in the shelters to make relinquished pets more attractive and adoptable.

Roughly 35% of all pets taken in by LA Animal Services are relinquished by their guardians. To meet this reality, the department is developing and slowly implementing a program called "Safety-Net". The program is identifying and bringing together all the resources available in our community that can help pets and people stay together. Often pets are relinquished for reasons that seem out of the control of a pet guardian, such as a death or serious illness in the family, or an eviction or job termination. In many of these cases pet guardians just need time to sort through the difficulty. If given the option and opportunity to keep their pet they will indeed choose to retain their pet. Safety-Net will make these resources available on our website, in our Animal Care Centers, and in our Call Center so that they are made readily available to those in need.

Safety-Net will require a great deal of organizational and community infrastructure to support it, but such programs have been successfully implemented in several communities across the United States. We are confident Safety-Net LA will be a tremendous help to frantic guardians who are really only looking for some compassionate assistance to work through a very difficult time in their lives and the lives of their pets. Safety-Net will be a welcome change from the condemnation that is all too often ignorantly leveled against pet relinquishers simply looking for help.

Monday, December 24, 2007


This is the fifth posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of the "No-Kill Equation". The “No-Kill Equation” is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable success.

An animal advocate in our community submitted an analysis comparing the "No-Kill Equation" to LA's programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the fifth recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Comprehensive Adoption Programs.

The Ten "No-Kill Equation" Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program – (Responded December 11th)
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter (Responded December 16th)
3. Rescue Groups (Responded December 18th)
4. Foster Care (Responded December 21st)
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program
6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The “No-Kill Equation” is in this blue font.

The analysis is in this black italic font.

My concluding comments are in this font.

V. Comprehensive Adoption Programs
Adoptions are vital to an agency’s lifesaving mission. The quantity and quality of shelter adoptions is in shelter management’s hands, making lifesaving a direct function of shelter policies and practice.

As one commentator put it, “if each pet lives 10 years, on average, and the number of homes grows at the same rate that homes are lost through deaths and other attrition, then replacement homes would become available each year for more than twice as many dog and slightly more cats than enter shelters. Since the inventory of pet-owning homes is growing, not just holding even, adoption could in theory replace all population control killing right now–if the animals and potential adopters were better introduced.”

In fact, studies show people get their dogs from shelters only 15% of the time overall, and less than 10% of the time for cats. If shelters better promoted their animals and had adoption programs responsive to the needs of the community, they could increase the number of homes available and replace population control killing with adoptions. In other words, shelter killing is more a function of market share, than “public irresponsibility.” Contrary to conventional wisdom, shelters can adopt their way out of killing.

LA Animal Services' animal care centers have always strived to increase adoptions and have done so every consecutive year for the past six years. As the new and expanded facilities continue to open as targeted during 2008, they will be among the most inviting animal adoption environments in the nation. Even prior to the opening of all of the new or expanded, environmentally-sustainable facilities, the work of dedicated shelter staff and volunteers working in the Department’s existing shelters and at mobile adoption events have made it possible for LA Animal Services to adopt out or release to rescuers more animals than any other municipal shelter system in the U.S in 2007.

LA Animal Services has operated mobile adoption events since the late 1990s and continues to hold five to ten or more such events every month in locations all around Los Angeles, in addition to speaking engagements and information distribution regarding adoption at community events. Department volunteers work with staff to accomplish these activities and also engage in follow-up marketing of the animals that are not adopted from the mobile events. The Department’s goal is to substantially increase the number of these mobile adoptions and outreach efforts in the coming years.

While the "No Kill Equation" asserts a largely unsubstantiated theory (especially in large public shelter systems) that “shelters can adopt their way out of killing,” the reality is that as long as people fail or refuse to spay and neuter their pets, treat their pets as disposable and relinquish them to shelters or abandon them in the streets, favor specific purebred animals over mixed breeds and thus continue to buy animals from breeders and pet stores, there will always tend to be more pets than adoptive homes to care for them.

The "No Kill Equation" chooses to blame shelters and their directors for the fact that animals show up in shelters, are not always adopted, and sometimes are euthanized. This is comparable to excoriating a doctor for the fact that he or she has patients. To be sure, the doctor can and should be held accountable for how he treats those patients once they arrive, but it's not his or her fault that the patient got sick or injured in the first place.

A variety of factors come into play and, yes, one of them is irresponsible pet guardianship. Some guardians simply refuse to have their animals sterilized and let them run loose, where they can breed in an uncontrolled manner. Others willfully breed their animals thinking they can make a few bucks selling puppies and kittens. Shelter directors and the entities that employ them can, and have, used every method available to them to try and persuade people to behave otherwise, but some will never change. To insist otherwise is to be naïve and counterproductive.

That is why the push for No-Kill must include focus on all the factors and influences that contribute to the flow of homeless animals into the shelters, from the need for more spay/neuter, to backyard breeding and puppy mills, to dog fighting and more. If we don't include these as part of our collective focus, we'll find ourselves perpetually frustrated by what seems like an inability to truly get to the root of the problems.

To achieve No-Kill requires communities to both stem pet overpopulation and build robust pet adoption programs. It is not either/or, it is decidedly both. I have managed the three largest pet adoption agencies in the United States, and I can assure you that the "Equation's" contention that shelters can "adopt their way out of the killing" reveals only a naïveté. To focus only on pet adoption is like running on a treadmill expecting foolishly to reach some distant destination.

Indeed, tactical programs (like Adoption and New Hope) are important, but without strategic programs (like Big Fix, FELIX, Safety Net, and legislation like AB 1634) shelters are doomed to be gathering places for our communities' lost and unwanted pets. We must rise above the simplistic solutions of the so-called "No-Kill Equation" and implement multi-focused strategies to effectively end pet euthanasia as a method of pet overpopulation control.

Friday, December 21, 2007


This is the fourth posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of the "No-Kill Equation". The “No-Kill Equation” is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable success.

An animal advocate in our community submitted an analysis comparing the "No-Kill Equation" to LA's programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the fourth recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Foster Care.

The Ten "No-Kill Equation" Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program – (Responded December 11th Message)
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter (Responded December 16th Message)
3. Rescue Groups (Responded December 18th Message)
4. Foster Care
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program
6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The “No-Kill Equation” is in this blue font.

The analysis is in this black italic font.

My concluding comments are in this font.

IV. Foster Care
Foster care is crucial to No Kill. Without it, saving lives is compromised. It is a low cost, and often no cost, way of increasing a shelter’s capacity, improving public relations, increasing a shelter’s public image, rehabilitating sick and injured or behaviorally challenged animals, and saving lives.

At some point in time, nearly every animal shelter feels the pinch of not having enough space. A volunteer foster program can be an ideal low-cost way to greatly increase the number of lives a shelter can save while at the same time providing an opportunity for community members to volunteer. Not only does a foster program maximize the number of animals rescued, it allows an organization to care for animals who would be difficult to care for in a shelter environment—orphaned or feral kittens, sick or injured animals, or dogs needing one-on-one behavior rehabilitation. For animals who may need a break from the shelter environment, foster care provides a comfortable home setting that keeps animals happy and healthy.

LA Animal Services has long sought the participation of volunteer foster care providers. Since 2006 it has actively recruited new caregivers and now has a network of more than 100 foster caregivers providing care to both adult animals and neonates. Most caregivers are recruited from the community while some are Department employees. Some of these caregivers also provide unique foster care for so-called evidence animals being held while animal abuse allegations are investigated and other legal proceedings are ongoing. The Department actively encourages more volunteers to join in providing these valuable services. As a result, in 2007 LA Animal Services' foster program reduced the euthanasia rate for neonate kittens by sixty-two percent and hundreds of animals benefited from the foster care volunteers provide.

LA Animal Services regularly fosters the following types of animals: orphaned neonates, nursing mothers, ill and injured, unattractive, and under-socialized animals. An example of an “unattractive” animal is a severely matted dog that has been shaved. The animal may not have a healthy, shiny coat that attracts adopters until he’s spent a few weeks in a foster home. This will give the animal a much greater chance of being adopted. “Under-socialized” fosters include animals that may not adjust well to a shelter environment. They may just need the comforts of a home environment, with training or socialization. After some time in foster care, these animals are perfect candidates for off-site adoption events.

Department Foster Care Givers are provided hands on foster care training and support documents, dedicated staff to assist and/or answer questions in person or by phone and email, replacement milk, bottles, nipples, regular veterinary check ups, access to emergency veterinary services, home medication as needed, flea combs, etc.

LA Animal Services’ Evidence Animal Foster Program is an innovation not found in any other community we are aware of. Animal victims of cruelty can sometimes languish in animal shelters for months awaiting adjudication of their case. The Evidence Foster Program allows these animals to recover from their traumatic experience in the warmth of a loving family home.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


This posting is the third in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of the "No-Kill Equation". The No-Kill Equations is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable results.

An animal advocate in our community conducted and submitted an analysis comparing the "No-Kill Equation" to LA's programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the third recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Rescue Groups.

The Ten "No-Kill Equation" Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program – (Responded December 11th)
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter (Responded December 16th)
3. Rescue Groups
4. Foster Care
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program
6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The No-Kill Equation will appear in this blue font.
The analysis of LA Animal Services' efforts will follow in italics.
Following the analysis I will further explain our New Hope program in this font.

III. Rescue Groups
An adoption or transfer to a rescue group frees up scarce cage and kennel space, reduces expenses for feeding, cleaning, killing and carcass disposal, and improves a community’s rate of lifesaving. Getting an animal out of the shelter and into an appropriate placement is important and rescue groups, as a general rule, can screen adopters as well or better than many shelters. In an environment of 5,000,000 dogs and cats killed in shelters annually, there will rarely be a shortage of adoptable animals and if a rescue group is willing to take custody and care of the animal, rare is the circumstance in which they should be denied.

LA Animal Services recognizes and embraces the advantages provided by dedicated rescuers finding good homes for the animals in their care. LA Animal Services welcomes the participation of rescue groups and organizations and constantly strives to improve its policies and procedures to maximize the benefits of these partnerships. In 2005 the Department created the Participant Shelter program to streamline procedures for the approximately fifty rescue organizations taking animals from LA Animal Care Centers. In 2006 this program expanded to become the New Hope program, and now partners with over 125 registered rescue organizations to facilitate the rescue and adoption of thousands of animals from the shelters. Department staff provides comprehensive daily lists of available and at-risk animals, as well as urgent notifications, to these rescuers and groups, helping to facilitate nearly 6,000 live releases a year.

The New Hope Program was implemented to eliminate all obstacles that might prevent the animals most at risk of euthanasia from being redeemed into caring, dedicated, expert hands. These animals are placed on a New Hope Alert that is sent to New Hope partners each day by email. The Alert shows a picture and description of the animals, and the Care Center location where the animal(s) can be found. The list is also available on our website and is updated hourly. In addition, New Hope Coordinators assigned to each Animal Care Center send urgent emails to partners concerning specific animals in critical need. Thanks to a vast network of rescue organizations and concerned residents these pleas can reach thousands of people in a matter of minutes.

Animals on a New Hope Alert are available to New Hope partners at no cost, and the animals are provided free spay/neuter, microchip, and vaccinations. The New Hope Program allows LA Animal Services to help organizations who rely on donations, grants, and dedicated volunteers to maximize their limited resources so they are better able to help us all achieve “No Kill”. New Hope is decidedly win/win/win for the rescue groups, for LA Animal Services, and most importantly, for the animals. New Hope is not designed to save animals from adoption, but to save animals from euthanasia.

The New Hope program has been implemented in Maricopa County, AZ, New York City and several other communities across the United States. While the program may not be perfect, it is designed to continually improve and meet the needs of any community. Thanks to the help of many New Hope partners in LA, I believe the LA New Hope program is the most collaborative and successful shelter/rescue partnership program in the United States.

In addition to the program benefits noted above, other New Hope highlights include:

New Hope Partners receive 24/7 access to all Los Angeles Animal Care Centers.

Each facility has a designated New Hope Coordinator trained to provide the very best customer service to our New Hope Partners.

New Hope Partners are able to contact each facility via special "hot lines" to let the respective New Hope Coordinator know if they can help an animal. The New Hope Coordinator is able to immediately remove the animal(s) from the New Hope Alert and then work with the partner to transfer the animal as quickly as possible to the partner organization.

When a New Hope partner needs additional time to transfer an animal they can coordinate that need with our New Hope Coordinator. When necessary, and as recourses are available, transportation of the animal may be provided by the Department for the New Hope Partners having difficulty making these arrangements themselves.

Every New Hope Partner, upon request, receives a sophisticated, yet simple-to-use software package to help them manage the animals in their care. This software was developed by HLP Chameleon and is being generously donated to our New Hope partners. This software provides the smallest to the largest rescue groups the same level of animal management functionality used by over 350 of the largest animal shelters in the United States! We are deeply grateful for HLP's continued and generous commitment to help shelters achieve no-kill.

There are two types of New Hope Alert; a Green Alert and a Red Alert. A Green Alert identifies animals not imminently at risk of euthanasia. These are animals that, in the view of the Department, are not likely to be adopted any time soon for one reason or another, such as age or medical condition. A Red Alert identifies animals that are at risk of euthanasia. New Hope partners are provided seven days to take possession of Red Alert animals, unless the health of the animal requires a more immediate response. All the benefits of the New Hope program apply to all the animals on both the Green and the Red New Hope Alert.

The New Hope program is under review even now in an effort to identify additional enhancements. For more information on our New Hope program, and to see our New Hope Alerts, please visit our website at

Sunday, December 16, 2007


This is the second in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of the No-Kill Equation. The No-Kill is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable results.

An animal advocate in our community conducted and submitted an analysis comparing the "No-Kill Equation" to LA's programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the second recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter.

The Ten "No-Kill Equation" Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program – (Responded to in the December 11th Message)
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
3. Rescue Groups
4. Foster Care
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program
6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The No-Kill Equation will appear in this blue font.
The analysis of LA Animal Services' efforts will follow in italics.

II. High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
Spay/neuter is the cornerstone of a successful lifesaving effort. Low cost, high volume spay/neuter will quickly lead to fewer animals entering the shelter system, allowing more resources to be allocated toward saving lives. In the 1970s, the City of Los Angeles was the first to provide municipally funded spaying and neutering for low-income pet owners in the United States. A city study found that for every dollar it was investing in the program, Los Angeles taxpayers were saving $10 in animal control costs due to reductions in animal intakes and fewer field calls. Indeed, Los Angeles shelters were taking in half the number of animals after just the first decade of the program and killing rates in the city dropped to the lowest third per capita in the United States. This result is consistent with results in San Francisco and elsewhere.

Research shows that investment in programs balancing animal “care” and “control” can provide not only immediate public health and public relations benefits but also long-term financial savings to a jurisdiction. According to the International City/County Management Association, “An effective animal control program not only saves cities and counties on present costs—by protecting citizens from dangerous dogs, for example—but also helps reduce the costs of animal control in the future. A city that impounds and euthanizes 4,000 animals in 2001... but does not promote spaying and neutering will probably still euthanize at least 4,000 animals a year in 2010. A city that... [institutes a subsidized spay/neuter program] will likely euthanize significantly fewer animals in 2010 and save on a host of other animal-related costs as well.

It is fitting and appropriate that the No-Kill Equation cites the City of Los Angeles as a national model and leader for spay/neuter initiatives. After a number of years of reduced spay and neuter activities, the Board of Animal Services Commissioners in 1998 initiated a differential cost dog license ordinance to incentivize dog guardians to spay/neuter their pets. The City Council and Mayor adopted the ordinance into law in 1999 and LA Animal Services immediately committed to substantially expanding its subsidy of spay/neuter via discount vouchers and mobile clinics. Since then, those activities have grown impressively. During the same time period, impounds have declined more than 25% and euthanasia by more than 60%, contrary to recent false assertions that L.A.’s differential licensing law has failed.

Today, via the Department’s “Big Fix” program, approximately 45,000 subsidized spay/neuter surgeries are accomplished annually, including over 12,000 performed in fully-equipped and professionally-staffed mobile clinics operated by the nonprofit Amanda Foundation and the Sam Simon Foundation, primarily in underserved neighborhoods. The City of Los Angeles commits $1.2 million annually to the department's spay/neuter programs. Additionally, long-dormant spay/neuter clinics in two of the City’s shelters re-opened in 2007 and five more high volume City spay/neuter clinics are scheduled to open by summer 2008. LA Animal Services has been responsible for approximately half a million total surgeries so far this decade and over 85,000 surgeries since January 2006 alone. This number does not include surgeries performed independently by private veterinarians for pet guardians in the City.

During 2006-2007, the Department spearheaded the development of statewide legislation mandating the expansion of spay/neuter (AB 1634) and is also helping with the development of similar legislation specifically for the City of Los Angeles. LA Animal Services advocates spay/neuter as the most effective tool available to reduce the flow of homeless animals into public shelters over time and enjoys the full support of all the City’s elected officials in that belief.

While not fully embraced by all, the decision to combine all the City's disparate spay/neuter efforts into one identifiable program called "The Big Fix" in 2006 appears to have helped. Since the launch of "The Big Fix" the City's annual spay/neuter rate, which had experienced only modest increases in previous years, rose over 60%.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It’s a New Day in Our Clinics

On December 10, 2007, I had the pleasure of announcing to the Board of Animal Services Commissioners that the sixth full-time member of LA Animal Services’ veterinary team had just come on board.

To the best of our knowledge, this addition makes our current veterinary staff the largest it has been in the 98-year history of the department. Combined with more than 24 Registered Veterinary Technicians (most of whom are licensed veterinarians in their countries of origin) and a growing network of shelter-based clinics, Animal Services is better equipped to handle the health needs of more animals than ever before.

This tremendous accomplishment is due in large part to the hard work of our interim Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Steven Feldman, who has spent more than a half a year investing his considerable time, energy and effort personally recruiting highly qualified, dedicated veterinary professionals to build this team. It also is the product of a lot of hard work of our Human Resources Director, Russ Core and his team, as well as Assistant General Manager Linda Barth, both of whom did heavy lifting to make these jobs more attractive in an extremely competitive market for veterinarians. (These days good, newly-minted veterinarians often have up to seven job offers to choose from the day they receive their license to practice!)

It’s no secret that through the spring of this year our veterinary team was losing members. The local papers highlighted it and members of the humane community expressed their concern that the department couldn’t provide the care required both by state law and good, humane management practices. Some of our critics tried to turn it into a cause celebre, arguing that the attrition and the delays in recruiting new veterinarians were indications of deeper problems. At first they were right.

When I joined the LA Animal Services team in 2006, the pay scale for our veterinarians was one of the lowest in the Southern California public sector. It was lower than the scale for vets at the LA Zoo and certainly lower than for those working for LA County Public Health (which provides their services to LA County Animal Control). Additionally, one of our now-former veterinarians had taken an extended leave of absence after having her out-of-the-city home repeatedly visited by animal rights protestors. Word had gotten around in the vet field about how this job could “follow you home”. Needless to say, in such an environment recruiting veterinarians wasn’t easy.

AGM Linda Barth and Russ Core worked diligently into 2007 with the Personnel Department, the City Administrative Office, and the City’s labor unions to win approval for a raise in the pay scale for our veterinarians. By spring we had accomplished that and were able to attract Dr. Feldman into the fold. However, observers remained skeptical of our ability to reverse the situation. What they didn’t properly reckon with was our commitment to create a medical team like no other.

One by one – at a rate of about one every month or two – we convinced talented, experienced veterinarians that Animal Services was heading toward a national leadership position in the delivery of shelter medicine. Encouraged by Dr. Feldman and the humane medical environment he is creating, they came on board, bringing us to where we are today. There is one fully licensed veterinarian available for each of our current six shelters, backed up by one of the strongest Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) crews I’ve ever seen or heard of in my nearly 30 years in the animal care and control field. The fact that we are in the midst of opening great new or expanded animal care centers featuring full clinics and state-of-the-art medical equipment may have helped a bit too.

Shelter medicine is one of the most challenging areas of veterinary practice because everything is done in high volumes, from prophylactic and remedial care, to spay/neuter, to euthanasia (though we’re bound and determined to keep that last category on a downward curve). And, apart from the new LA Animal Services facilities, shelter medicine often must be practiced in surroundings that are less than inspiring as far as equipment and atmosphere go. I have always been in awe of the dedication shelter veterinarians exhibit in the face of such adversity, and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to offer them a more positive environment in which to work their magic for L.A.’s animals.

Our medical team is working hard to raise the level of care for the animals in our system. Dr. Feldman and his team are instituting strict new protocols to monitor that care, ensure the proper and safe use of medicine and other pharmaceuticals, and provide a range of services unprecedented for the department.

We also have skilled outside providers currently operating spay/neuter clinics in our South Los Angeles and North Central animal care centers and the in-house staff intends to have the just-completed West Valley spay/neuter clinic up and running as soon as possible. We also are starting a Request for Proposals process to recruit outside providers to run some or all of the new clinics slated to be ready for use by summer 2008.

All of this adds up to a benefit at the bottom line. In recent years, operating with a smaller veterinary team, LA Animal Services has had to contract with outside vets for a substantial amount of the care our animals needed, at considerable expense. I’m looking forward to those expenditures starting to decline in the coming months as we handle more of the animals’ needs in-house. In these difficult budgetary times, that’s a blessing.

When Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa first interviewed me for the position I now hold, he emphasized the need for the next General Manager to focus on every aspect of this department’s infrastructure, staff and performance. I took that challenge seriously and have drawn upon all my years of experience as an animal care and control professional and public sector management trainer to try to do so. The emergence of our strong new veterinary team is, I think, one of the most noteworthy successes in that effort.

But it’s not the only one. We’ve brought new talent, skills and energy to our administrative, financial, human resources and information technology staffs. We’ve worked to provide enhanced leadership and training to our shelter and field staffs even as we’ve had to undergo a continual recruiting and hiring process to meet the expanded needs posed by the new and expanded facilities. And we’re actively looking for new public relations and volunteer management people, along with an Assistant General Manager for Operations.

I know that not everyone believes LA Animal Services has yet turned the corner in its effort to move beyond the concerns and controversies of the past or even the present. Fair enough. But we’re working hard and making progress. I am confident this department is reinventing itself every day, acknowledging and addressing issues, moving toward “no kill” and helping to make Los Angeles the most animal-friendly big city in the United States. It’s not only a new day in our veterinary clinics; it’s a new day for every aspect of the department.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


LA Animal Services has long been committed to making Los Angeles a “no kill” community for animals. Over the past several years the Department has implemented numerous programs and policies to achieve this goal with some remarkable success.

Recently there has been a little buzz in the animal welfare community about a relatively new “No Kill Equation” for local government animal care and control agencies. This prescription claims to be a revolutionary formula for achieving "no-kill." In fact, the "No-Kill Equation" is neither new nor revolutionary but is actually comprised of ten common sense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable results.

An animal advocate in our community recently sent me an analysis comparing the "No-Kill Equation" to LA's programs and practices. Over the coming couple of weeks I will share one No-Kill Equation recommendation followed by an outside perspective on how LA Animal Services has been addressing the same issue for, in some cases, many years. As appropriate, I will conclude each section with my own comments. I will begin this series with the first of the No-Kill Equation recommendations which is Feral Cat TNR Program.

The Ten "No-Kill Equation" Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
3. Rescue Groups
4. Foster Care
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program
6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The No-Kill Equation will appear in blue font.

The analysis of LA Animal Services' efforts will follow in italics.

The analysis is then followed by my statement of support for TNR in this font.

I. Feral Cat TNR Program
Many animal control agencies in communities throughout the United States are embracing Trap, Neuter, Return programs (TNR) to improve animal welfare, reduce death rates, and meet obligations to public welfare and neighborhood tranquility demanded by governments. In San Francisco, for example, the program was very successful, resulting in less impounds, less killing and reduced public complaints. In Tompkins County, an agreement with county officials and the rabies control division of the health department provided for TNR as an acceptable complaint, nuisance and rabies abatement procedure. In specific cases, the health department paid the Tompkins County SPCA to perform TNR.

The Los Angeles Board of Animal Services Commissioners in 2005 embraced trap-neuter-return (TNR) as a preferred policy and the Department informally aids feral cat rescuers on a non-programmatic basis.

The Department has no formal TNR program yet because a proposal to change City law to officially permit such a program has been delayed by threats from environmental and wildlife organizations insisting that TNR is unacceptable. They insist that the City of Los Angeles must complete a full environmental review to show that such a program will not harm bird species and habitat despite numerous reports from respected environmental organizations stating the real threats to bird species and habitats are urban development, habitat destruction and the effects of global warming.

Research and data does not support a dispositive conclusion that feral cats are responsible for species decline and the National Audubon Society supported prior state legislation, Assembly Bill 302, the “Feline Fix Bill,” requiring among other things that cats permitted outdoors be spayed or neutered.

Nonetheless, LA Animal Services is working with the Bureau of Engineering’s environmental unit to prepare appropriate documentation to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. There may be no other locale in the United States where environmentalists have actively attempted to block TNR without either considering a compromise or offering to help design a viable program that addresses their concerns.

The Department prefers to form a partnership with environmental groups as done in the state of New Jersey where the Audubon Society and The Burlington County Feral Cat Initiative are working together to craft humane and environmentally friendly solutions to reduce the feral cat population. It is LA Animal Services' desire and duty to care for all of the City’s animals in need and the Department is currently looking to resolve these issues as expeditiously as possible via the environmental clearance process.

In the meantime, LA Animal Services' North Central Spay/Neuter Clinic is currently devoted to cat sterilization. Since 2006 the Department spays or neuters over 8,000 feral cats annually independent of and in addition to any formal spay/neuter or TNR programs. There is no record of any municipality funding more feral cat surgeries annually than LA City.

I think it might be helpful to explain my commitment to TNR.

Without question, one of the biggest challenges to achieving no-kill in Los Angeles is implementing a program to effectively reduce the number of feral cats in our neighborhoods. Estimates on the feral cat population in LA are difficult to make, but they range from the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.

Feral cats are cats that have reverted to a wild state. They are born from tame unaltered cats that owners abandon or allow to run loose. These cats mate with other free roaming cats, and their offspring, raised without human compassion, are wild, or feral. These cats then grow up and breed with other feral and free roaming pet cats and the cat population increases exponentially.

Communities employ one of three methodologies to deal with feral cats: 1) Do nothing, 2) Eradication, or 3) Trap/Neuter/Return.

While it is easy to understand why doing nothing has little effect on the problem, it is not as easy to understand why eradication does not work.

Although many communities employ eradication or “catch-and-kill” as a remedy to this vexing problem, 30 years of catch and kill in communities across the United States has irrefutably demonstrated that this methodology does not work.

There are very real biological reasons why catch and kill fails. Wild animals tend to be “survivors.” Feral cats, which are wild animals, typically live in colonies of 6 to 20 cats. You often never see all the cats in a colony and it is easy to underestimate the size of a feral cat problem in a neighborhood. When individuals or authorities try to catch cats for extermination it heightens the biological stress of a colony.

This stress triggers two survival mechanisms causing the cats to 1) over-breed, and 2) over-produce. That is, rather than having one litter per year of two or three kittens, a stressed female could have two or three litters a year of 6 to 9 kittens each.

Even if a person was successful in catching and removing all the feral cats from a neighborhood, that creates a phenomenon called, “the vacuum effect.”

When some or all the cats in a colony are removed, cats in surrounding neighborhoods recognize an opened ecological niche (especially a place with food sources). The removed colony actually kept surrounding colonies at bay. When a colony is removed, all deterrents evaporate and the surrounding cats enter the new territory to over-breed and over-produce, with all the associated annoying behaviors.

The end result of the catch-and-kill methodology is always the same: the vacated neighborhood quickly finds itself again overrun with feral cats fighting for mates, over-breeding, caterwauling, and spraying for territory.

Thirty years of catch-and-kill have taught us that this methodology only exacerbates the problem. It is not a solution at all.

Albert Einstein defined “insanity” as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. That is why so many communities are trying the newest alternative, trap/ neuter/return, or TNR.

TNR is being practiced in more and more communities across the United States and around the world with amazing results.

When TNR is employed, all the feral cats in a neighborhood are trapped, sterilized, and returned to the area where they originated. They are returned under the care of a Colony Manager. The Colony Manager is a trained volunteer in the neighborhood willing to feed, water, and care for the colony and keep an eye out for any new cats. Once the colony cats are all neutered, new cats tend to be recently abandoned domestics that can be placed for adoption.

There are many benefits to TNR. 1) TNR prevents the vacuum effect from developing. 2) Altered cats display none of the troubling behaviors of intact cats: fighting and caterwauling for mates, and spraying for territory. 3) The cats continue to provide rat abatement, a service many neighborhoods rely on, and 4) because feral cats tend to live significantly shorter life spans than domestic indoor cats the problem literally solves itself through attrition, provided TNR is implemented community wide.

TNR also addresses the concern that feral cats tend to create a public nuisance on campuses and in parks. There is an old adage that says “you can’t herd cats.” In fact, you can herd neutered cats because they tend to hang around the food bowl. Because they no longer have the urge to breed and prey they tend to follow the food bowl wherever the feral cat manager takes it. Feral cats can be trained to congregate in campus or park areas out of the way of the public.

Clearly, TNR is the only viable, non-lethal, humane and cost effective solution to our communities’ feral cat problems. I look forward to the day in the not-too-distant future when Los Angeles can complete the thorough California Environmental Quality Act review required for the legalization of a formal TNR program here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Century in Review and Looking Ahead...

In 2009 LA Animal Services will celebrate its centennial, one hundred years of providing service to the pets and people of Los Angeles.

Animal care and control is perhaps the most misunderstood animal welfare organization in many communities. To better understand LA Animal Services, and animal control in general, it may be helpful to look through the lens of history at how these programs evolved over the past century.

During the first quarter of the 20th Century, most communities were rural and sparsely populated. Dogs and cats were valued for what they contributed to this rural lifestyle. Dogs, for the most part, were working animals earning their keep on a local farm or ranch, or they were used for hunting to help put dinner on the table. Cats, and some small dogs, were used as mousers to help keep small rodents and rats out of home, barn and business. Cats and dogs were permitted to run free.

By the third decade of the 20th Century, free roaming dogs resulted in a dog overpopulation problem, and with it came an increase in rabies.

The seriousness of rabies in the early 20th Century was brilliantly depicted in the American literary masterpiece, “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Atticus Finch, a Southern small town lawyer was called upon to shoot a rabid dog in the middle of a neighborhood street as residents watched trembling behind locked doors and windows. The context suggests Atticus had been called upon to dispatch rabid dogs before, which may have earned him the respectful moniker “one shot Atticus”.

This all too common scenario occurring across America motivated state legislators to establish rabies and animal control programs to ensure dogs were vaccinated against rabies and licensed. Cats were not included because they were not a significant vector for rabies in most parts of the country. Over time dog vaccination and licensing programs effectively reduced the incidence of rabies in dogs to the level that naturally occurs in cats, that is, rabies became equally rare in dogs.

So successful were these programs that it is easy to forget the terror the word “rabies” evoked in the heart’s of communities. The fact that scenes like the one depicted in “To Kill A Mockingbird” are a thing of the past is a tribute to animal control professionals. And today they do it without firing a shot! They do it by maintaining and enforcing successful rabies vaccination and licensing programs.

Most communities never enacted laws to control cats. In fact, a silly and erroneous notion was promoted that claimed cats are “free roaming animals” that don’t need to be regulated. An exploding feral cat population is the consequence of this short sightedness and today feral cats are a significant public concern.

While animal control programs focused narrowly on controlling rabies a striking societal change was occurring in the human/animal relationship.

Advancing to the 60’s we find many Americans starting to reject the conventional wisdom that pets are meant to be kept outdoors. I recall discussing this societal shift with my father. I was around ten years old. I had bought my first dog with money I saved from cutting lawns all summer.

My father was raised in a rural Michigan community. He explained that he also had a dog when he was a boy. His dog lived in a doghouse in the backyard. The idea of a dog in the home was as incomprehensible to him as keeping a dog outside was to me. “Dogs don’t belong in the house,” he told me. However, I persisted, and the dog was eventually permitted in the house, albeit, in the basement, where I spent many a night comforting him through the anxiety caused by his separation from mother and siblings. As the months and years passed, he eventually took his place under the kitchen table during meal times and at the foot of my bed at night.

All across the United States similar scenes were taking place. As communities continued to urbanize, dogs and cats found their way out of the barnyard workforce into our hearts, our homes, and for some of us, into our beds. Pets were no longer staff; they had become part of the family.

Unfortunately, many animal control programs did not keep pace with this societal change and continued to view themselves solely as rabies control organizations implementing catch and kill methodologies.

An urban dog population explosion in the 70’s caused cities and towns to refocus their animal control efforts to simply getting dogs off the street. Unfortunately, little thought was given to any long-range strategic solutions or to even what to do with all these animals after they were rescued from the streets.

One merely needs to tour the municipal dog pounds built across the United States during the last century to understand the catch and kill thinking of most community planners. These facilities were clearly designed to warehouse dogs until they were “disposed of”. As free roaming and feral cats became a problem, these “dog pounds” were enlisted to warehouse terrified cats as well.

Los Angeles is the first major city in the United States to officially, and financially, respond to its community’s desire for a humane animal control program. LA did this with a $160 million commitment to build state of the art animal care community centers to replace its dog pounds.

The new Centers increase shelter space by more than four hundred percent to help better accommodate the average of 150 lost, sick, injured, neglected, abused, lost or unwanted animals entrusted to LA Animal Services every day.

The new Centers have wide aisles, solar and radiant heating, cooling misters, veterinary and spay/neuter clinics, park benches for visitors, fountains and lush landscaping – a world away from the grim conditions of the old shelters, where animals could become so agitated or depressed that they seemed ill-tempered and, thus, “unadoptable” by old school animal control reckoning. By transforming our animal shelters into places of hope and life, instead of despair and doom, we are already experiencing a measurable increase in our adoption rates and consequently one of the most significant declines in LA’s long history of declining euthanasia rates.

In the nearly ten years since the City of Los Angeles officially embraced the “No-Kill” ethic, the kill rate has plummeted from over 60,000 to around 15,000. Still too many, to be sure, but there is no denying progress is being made.

What is the future of animal care and control in the United States? There must be as much an emphasis on humane, non-lethal animal care programs today as there was on rabies control programs in the past.

The reason so many animal welfare organizations sprang up across the United States during the 20th Century is because most municipal animal control programs misunderstood or were unable to implement animal care programs to compliment their animal control programs. Animal welfare organizations filled the gap because inadequate funding and the threat of rabies forced most animal control programs into advancing expedient catch and kill methodologies rather than long term humane, non-lethal solutions.

Dogs and cats running loose is a symptom of a dysfunctional community. The cause is irresponsible pet guardians. However, many municipalities contribute to this dysfunction by developing the most costly and ineffective response to the problem. That is, they ask their animal control programs to chase, impound, warehouse, kill and dispose of pets. To be responsive in today’s communities, animal care and control organizations must take the lead in implementing cost effective non-lethal (no-kill) strategies.

Strategies like LA’s Big Fix that provides $1.2 million worth of free or low cost spay/neuter for 45,000 pets belonging to residents on public assistance annually. Strategies like TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) a feral cat program that is having a dramatic impact on solving neighborhood feral cat problems all across the United States. And of course, humane, inviting shelters that serve as pet adoption and community centers.

The 21st Century animal care and control must represent the most proactive, innovative programs. Programs designed to humanely solve the problems of irresponsible pet guardianship, not exacerbate them, which is what “catch and kill” methodologies do.

LA is already experiencing the long-term payoff of such programs. By continuing to work together we will soon see the day when euthanizing a healthy, adoptable animal is as rare as shooting a rabid dog in downtown Los Angeles.

Click here to view several reports documenting LA Animal Services progress toward achieving No-Kill.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Update on California Ballot Measure to Ban Abusive Factory Farming Practices

The Humane Society of the United States is attempting to put a measure on the 2008 ballot that would outlaw the cruel confinement of veal calves, egg-laying hens, and breeding pigs. This measure will phase out the use of the gestation crate for pigs, the battery cage for egg-laying hens and prevent the use of the “veal crate” for male calves.

A grassroots effort to collect 650,000 signatures to qualify this initiative for the November 2008 ballot is now underway! If you are interested in finding out more about this campaign you might want to attend one of these kick off events in your area.

**Special Guests**
Wayne Pacelle, CEO/President, The Humane Society of the U.S.
Gene Baur, Founder/President, Farm Sanctuary
Michael Markarian, Executive Vice-President, The Humane Society of the U.S.

10800 West Pico Blvd. #312
Los Angeles, CA 90064
6:00pm – 9:00pm

555 East Main Street
Ventura, CA 93001
6:00pm – 9:00pm

7:30pm – 10:00pm

309 E. Second Street
Pomona, CA 91766
11:00am – 2:00pm

25801 Obrero Drive
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
9:30am and 11:30am Services

For more information, please contact

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Go See Sharkwater

Having garnered 21 awards at film festivals around the world, filmmaker Rob Stewart’s epic journey Sharkwater puts him on the front lines to save the planet.

Part biologist, part investigative reporter, Stewart follows the trail of the multi-billion dollar shark fin trade and sets off a chain of events that has to be seen to be believed. His adventure becomes a dangerous mission involving espionage, corrupt governments, mafia rings, his arrest and a glimpse at his own mortality.

In an effort to protect sharks, Stewart teams up with renegade conservationist Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. A confrontation between the Sea Shepherd and shark poachers in Guatemala results in a dramatic confrontation with a pirate Guatemalan fishing boat. But that’s just the beginning. As they become involved in a gunboat chase, face corrupt court systems and attempted murder charges, they are forced to flee for their lives.

Filmed in 15 countries in visually stunning, high definition video, Sharkwater takes you to the most shark-rich waters of the world, exposing the exploitation and corruption surrounding the world’s shark populations. What one comes away with is a story about the beauty of life on earth and our role in protecting its amazing balance.

Los Angeles will get to see what the buzz is about beginning November 2nd at the Mann's Beverly Center. This release follows a successful run in Canada, where Sharkwater broke opening weekend box office records, out-grossing the opening weekends of Bowling for Columbine, March of the Penguins and An Inconvenient Truth.

You'll never look at sharks in the same way again.

Visit for more information on this exciting and important film.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Match Maker, Match Maker, Find Me a Match...

Many adopters are discovering a powerful new tool to help them find their perfect pet. Of course, we're talking about LA Animal Services' Match Maker program. It is truly wonderful that more and more guardians are finding their perfect pet using Match Maker. However, it is startling how many people still express surprise when they first learn about this amazing program. So we are asking you to help us get the word out to anyone looking for a pet.

Match Maker is simple to use and can be accessed from the comfort of your home or office. Just click on this Match Maker link and you will be able to place a personalized request for your perfect pet. You simply tell Match Maker the breed, age, sex, and color of the pet you are looking to adopt. Then Match Maker will automatically contact you by e-mail with a picture and description of any pet matching your request, along with information on when and where you can find your new pet.

Currently, the program is designed to help you find a dog, but we hope soon you will be able to find your new pet cat and rabbit using Match Maker. Try it out, and tell all your family, friends, and neighbors about Match Maker.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Renewing Fido’s License Just Got Easier

Renewing your dog’s license just got a whole lot easier and more convenient. All you have to do is go to LA Animal Services’ website located at and click on the online licensing icon.

Then you just enter the license and person id number from the renewal notice you received in mail, verify your information is correct, the rabies vaccination has not expired, and the license type is correct. You can pay for your renewal with your credit card from the comfort of your home or office.

You will receive your new license certificate in the mail in a few weeks. Until then your receipt is your proof that your dog's license is current.

Remember, 100% of the dogs that come into our Animal Care Centers with a current license, go home! Unfortunately, most pets that come into our Centers have no identification and consequently never go home again. If you love your pet, license your pet!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Historic California Ballot Measure Launched to Ban Abusive Factory Farming Practices

An historic ballot initiative signature-gathering effort is now fully underway in California to place on the statewide ballot a measure to outlaw the cruel and intensive confinement of pregnant pigs, veal calves and egg-laying hens on industrialized factory farms. Californians for Humane Farms, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and other animal protection groups, family farmers, veterinarians and public health professionals, are working all over the state to gather a goal of 650,000 signatures by February 22, 2008, to place a measure on the 2008 November ballot.

For decades, California’s family and small farmers raised animals in a humane manner, allowing them access to the outdoors and the ability to engage in their natural behaviors. Today, many family farmers have been displaced by corporate farming interests, and it’s not unusual for the corporate farmers to set aside animal husbandry standards and instead raise some animals in intensive confinement. It’s a confinement so severe that the animals cannot even turn around in their cages or crates. The extreme, overcrowded conditions cause suffering for the animals while contributing to air pollution, contaminating groundwater and threatening human health. This ballot initiative is intended to revive California’s tradition of humane farming and protect animals, the environment and human health.

Veal Crates
The veal crate is widely known as one of the most cruel and deplorable animal husbandry techniques being used today. Young calves are kept in tiny stalls, confined so restrictively that they are not even able to turn around or extend their limbs. Research has shown that, as a result of these conditions, these calves exhibit abnormal coping behaviors associated with stress and fear. These behaviors include head tossing, head shaking, kicking, scratching and stereotypical chewing. After 16-20 weeks, these weakened animals are sent to slaughter for veal.

Battery Cages
California has approximately 19 million egg-laying hens. The vast majority of them are confined in cages – known as “battery cages” - so small that they can barely move. In fact, each caged hen has less space than a sheet of letter-sized paper on which to live for more than a year before she’s slaughtered.

These birds are crammed in filthy, barren spaces where they can’t even spread their wings. With no opportunity to nest, dust bathe, perch, and walk, these birds endure lives filled with suffering. Poultry scientist Dr. Ian Duncan states unequivocally: “Battery cages for laying hens have been shown (by me and others) to cause extreme frustration particularly when the hen wants to lay an egg. Battery cages are being phased out in Europe and other more humane husbandry systems are being developed.”

Gestation Crates
Arguably cruel and inhumane is one description of the way female breeding pigs are treated on factory farms. Breeding sows are confined in barren metal cages for almost their entire lives. During their pregnancies, the sows are severely restricted in individual “gestation crates” measuring just two feet wide. Like the veal calves, they are unable to exercise, turn around or even extend their limbs. After giving birth to an average of five or six litters of piglets in four years, the sows are sent to slaughter as well.

Both veal and gestation crates have been outlawed in several countries. In the U.S. the gestation crate was outlawed in 2002 by passage of a precedent-setting citizen initiative in Florida, and both veal and gestation crates were banned by initiatives in Arizona in 2006. Californians could have an opportunity to weigh in here on the veal and gestation crate and the battery cage issues if this measure qualifies for the 2008 general election.

For more information on these issues, on Californians for Humane Farms, or on how to get involved, you can contact them at:

Californians for Humane Farms
6311 Van Nuys Blvd; PMB 438
Van Nuys, CA 91401

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fact vs. Fiction

For many years, and to an extent unmatched in the City, performance expectations for LA Animal Services have been driven by outside forces making narrow and extreme demands. Although small in number, these people use intimidation, false accusations, and violence to forcibly divert attention from the broad causes of the pet overpopulation crisis in the City, rather than acknowledge the challenges we face, the progress we’re making in modernizing the department and saving animals, and making Los Angeles the first major metropolitan “no-kill” city in the United States. This environment has stifled recruitment of talented individuals, wasted time and energy of staff, law enforcement, and elected officials, and overshadowed the real work of understanding pet guardianship issues in Los Angeles.

Yet another spurious, anonymous article (found below in italics) is circulating the internet. The article is filled with unproven allegations against LA Animal Services. LA Animal Services response to these charges follows in bold and each number quoted in bold can be found on LA Animal Services’ website

Update: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa supports animal cruelty
by Animals of Los Angeles Monday Sep 10th, 2007 4:26 PM

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa supports criminal animal cruelty and neglect. He hired and still supports Ed Boks the General Manager of LA Animal Services. Ed Boks has allowed an extra 3,000 animals to die from illness and injury in their shelter cages in the past almost two years. This has got to stop!

There is no justification whatsoever for saying the Mayor supports cruelty and neglect, and there wasn’t even before he hired Boks. Mayor Villaraigosa, the City Council, the City Attorney and the Controller have few peers among the nation’s municipal elected officials when it comes to the time, energy and funding invested in the welfare of animals. Animal Services is proud to have their support and to partner with them in this worthy effort.

The actual number of animals dying in LA Animal Services is at a historic low; over the past 12 months (ending August 07) 16,851 dogs and cats died by euthanasia or for medical reasons (which would, by definition, include the animals referred to by our anonymous critic). This is a 17.67% decrease in deaths from the preceding 12 months (ending August 06) in which 20,470 animals died. In the 12 months ending August 05, 21,655 animals died. In the 12 months ending August 04, 25,467 animals died. In the 12 months ending August 03, 29,473 animals died. In the 12 months ending August 02, 33,703 animals died.

Ed Boks the General Manager of LA Animal Services just loves to say he's the "biggest" or the "best" even though it's never true. Finally, Boks has indeed set a record. In August 2007 more animals died in the shelter from illness and injury than during any other month in the history of Animal Services. During the previous August 130 animals died in their cage but this year a whopping 812 died in their cage. Six times as many animals died from illness and injury under the "care" of Ed Boks.

Ed Boks has never claimed to be the biggest or the best, but he does like to boast about the employees, volunteers and rescue partners of LA Animal Services. In fact, in August 06, 56 animals died in our care. In August 07, 138 animals died.

In 2005 before Boks arrived the number dying was only 1,150.

In fact, in 2005, 751 dogs and cats died from illness and injury.

During Boks' first year 2006 the number dying doubled to 2,075.

In fact, in 2006, 682 dogs and cats died from illness and injury. This is a 9.18% decrease from 2005.

In the last 12 months 3,059 animals died in their cage.

In the past 12 months, ending August 07, 1,101 animals died for medical reasons.

The number of animals dying in their cage has now tripled under his mismanagement.

The increase is actually 51% from 727 to 1,101, and they didn’t all “die in their cage,” some died in the care of a private veterinarian or in a foster home.

The number dying had been going down for years as intake was going down.

Intake has remained relatively stable over the past three years, but the overall dying has continued to decrease. Our statistics has a category called “Died – Not Euthanasia”. This is the number the article’s author refers to when she says “died in their cages.” In fact, many of the animals that died for medical reasons over the past year died while in the care of one of the nearly 30 veterinarians that LA Animal Services partners with or one of the over 100 foster care givers who is attempting to care for neonates until they are old enough to adopt.

Intake is down yet animals dying has increased three fold?

Intake is down less than 2% from 46,403 to 45,403. The actual number of animals dying during this same time frame is down 17.67% from 20,470 to 16, 851; although the number of animals that died for medical reasons is up 51% from 727 to 1,101.

If you or I let our pets die in a cage from illness or injury that would be considered animal cruelty and neglect. We'd be arrested and in jail. Even football player Mike Vick will probably go to jail for fighting and killing dogs. Boks here is being paid and commended by the City to commit the same exact crime!

These animals did not die from neglect. They died for medical reasons beyond our ability to treat. As our new facilities come on line, featuring new, more sophisticated medical clinics and equipment, the ability to treat more animals will increase.

Why are more animals dying? One reason is overcrowding. Boks is putting more animals in each cage so he doesn't have to euthanize them. He puts three pitbulls in one kennel then only has to euthanize one because the one pitbull killed the other two. The Animal Cruelty Task Force busts people for dog fighting. Maybe they just take a look in the shelters. There are more dog fights in the shelter that in the rest of the entire City.

This is nonsense, and an unwarranted insult to shelter workers who strive daily to properly manage the seasonal ebb and flow of homeless animals coming into the system.

This overcrowding doesn't just cause dog fights. It also spreads disease which kills animals. Dogs get parvo, kennel cough, distemper and other diseases. Cats get upper respiratory infections, feline infectious peritonitis and other diseases. Boks isn't doing anything about the dog fights or spread of disease because he doesn't care about the animals' welfare. A dead animal doesn't end up in his "euthanized" column. That's the only thing that matters to him, the numbers.

LA Animal Services is putting together an extraordinary, compassionate medical team. This allegation is an attack on the professionalism of this team. The idea that our professionals, or any member of our staff, would purposefully allow dog fights and the deliberate spread of disease just to lower the euthanasia number is ludicrous. Even if it were true, and it is not, the overall number of animals dying in LA Animal Care Centers is decreasing in double digits every year for the past six years!

Euthanasia in the shelter in 2006 did not go down.

It most certainly did. In FY 06/07, Los Angeles euthanized (or killed) 17,314 dogs and cats. This represents the fewest number of dogs and cats euthanized in LA ever in a one year period. This is an 11.25% decrease from the previous Fiscal Year in which 19,508 dogs and cats were euthanized. LA Animal Services has consistently reduced euthanasia over the past five years in the double digits. 15% in 02/03. 12% in 03/04. 16% in 04/05. 10% in 05/06. 11.25% in 06/07. This represents a 50% decrease over the past five years from 34,329 to 17,314. In this calendar year we are on track to reduce euthanasia another 20% or more!

Very recently it has gone down a little. Some of this is attributed to the increase in animals dying but not all.


Boks is also refusing to take in the animals most likely to be euthanized, i.e. feral cats and kittens.

This is not true. LA Animal Services NEVER refuses ANY animal.

Unweaned kittens/puppies intake for August was 1,248 in 2006. In 2007 it's 634 or 614 fewer. Kittens/puppies euthanized in August 2006 was 999. In 2007 it's 391, a decrease of 608. All of the decrease is neonate euthanasia is due to refusing to take them into the shelter. Nothing improved. And where do these turned away kittens and feral cats end up? On the street unspayed, unneutered, ready to make a ton more babies next year. The cat populations will now go up, not down but Boks won't be around next year so he doesn't care.

The decrease in the number of neonates coming into LA Animal Services is an anomaly. It may partially be due to the many years of our increasingly aggressive spay/neuter efforts. It may be partially due to many people willing to wean these animals and bring them back to us when they are adoptable. There are some who pointed out that L.A.’s erratic weather this year may have had an effect on the estrus cycle of cats resulting in fewer offspring. Whatever the reason for the decrease, it was not because any animal was refused at the front counter. Spend any amount of time in any of the Animal Care Centers and that will become depressingly clear.

Let's take a look at the live release numbers. In August 2007 2,804 animals left the shelter alive through adoption, New Hope, returned to owner or released to foster.

Actually, 2,475 animals were adopted, released through New Hope, or redeemed by a guardian in August 2007.

In 2006 2,791 left alive.

Actually, the correct number is 2,309.

There was no increase in the number of animals leaving alive.

Actually, there was a 7% increase, 2,475 from 2,309.

Let's take a look at the dead release numbers. In 2007 3,188 died or were euthanized.

The author seems to be referring to August 2007. The actual number of dogs and cats euthanized or that died was 2,210. This is a 25% decrease compared to August 06.

In 2006 3,285 died or were euthanized. There was no decrease in the number of animals leaving the shelter dead. Fewer leaving alive, just about the same number leaving dead. This is the first time ever there has been no improvement yet Boks is telling the world he's the "biggest" and the "best" shelter in the Nation?

Actually, the number was 2,968 in August 06.

Boks keeps claiming that Animal People ranked LA City number five in the nation in euthanasia per 1,000 citizens.

Boks did not say Animal People ranked LA City number five in the nation in euthanasia per 1,000 residents. Boks said LA City actually places fifth in the nation in euthanasia per 1,000 residents. LA City’s ranking was inserted in red in an edited version of Animal People’s listing with their permission, and even included a quote from Merritt Clifton, the author and publisher of Animal People. Mr. Clifton said, “The basic question LA City critics keep asking is, ‘Why can't Los Angeles be like San Francisco?’ The answer is that Los Angeles is exactly like San Francisco, if you compare like-to-like demographic units. For example, …if you compare San Francisco and San Mateo County to Los Angeles County, the combined S.F./San Mateo number and the current Los Angeles County number per 1,000 humans would be just about identical.”

He keeps saying in his blog "The City of LA is among the top five communities in the United States with the lowest, and fastest declining, euthanasia rate." He repeated this false claim at the press conference with the Mayor last month. This is completely untrue. LA City was not even included in the list! Here is the actual list and article. It's a large pdf file, article is on page 18 and 19. Only LA County was included in the list. Note, there is no ranking in the list and there is no mention of any shelter being the "fastest declining euthanasia rate." The list does not even include all shelters in the nation. Boks completely fabricated his own version of the report here.

LA City does rank fifth in the nation when you do the numbers. There is no denying that. Animal People includes LA City in LA County in their comprehensive study. The edited version, done with permission from Animal People, demonstrates where LA City is within the County and the nation.

Why is the City allowing Ed Boks to fabricate numbers, "rankings" and articles?

The reality is that the only fabrication being done is by a small number of department critics. The numbers alleged in the article lack any explanation as to their source and are so at variance with the statistics the department forthrightly publishes every month on our website that we simply can’t figure out how the author might have derived them, try as we may. The department’s numbers come directly from diligently kept computerized records on each and every animal that comes into our possession. The author should be as forthcoming with where his/her numbers come from.

Why is the City allowing Ed Boks to torture animals to death with illness and injury? Why is the Mayor allowing Ed Boks to commit intentional criminal animal cruelty and neglect? The Mayor is going to look like a total fool when everyone realizes that he hasn't improved things at all. Boks' only claim to fame here in LA is being known as the "number one animal killer in Los Angeles" and perhaps the "biggest liar." Single handedly with his overcrowding "program" he has killed an extra 2,000 animals in the past 12 months alone. In the almost two years that he's been here he's killed an extra 3,000 animals through illness and injury. What type of "NoKill" shelter manager manages to kill MORE animals? This killing has got to stop!

This vitriolic hyperbole does not change the facts. 17.67% fewer deaths occurred in the past 12 months than the preceding months. And we are on track to further reduce euthanasia another 20% this calendar year.

It’s easy for someone inexperienced in the nuts-and-bolts of operating shelters and struggling to grapple with pet overpopulation to say, “this killing has got to stop!” when they have no clue how to make it happen. Were Animal Services to abruptly stop all euthanasia of animals tomorrow, the nightmare scenarios these critics concoct for purposes of tossing grenades at the department would be exactly what would come to pass. The kennel populations would explode beyond capacity within a week, and workers and veterinarians wouldn’t be able to cope with the massive impact on animal health for very long at all.

It’s hard to believe that our detractors truly wish such horror on the animals in our Animal Care Centers as their incessant posturing suggests. But their portrayal is certainly not what’s going on right now. We invite any member of the public to come see for themselves. Center hours can be found on our website. When you get there you’ll see that some days are better than others, but every day is real. That can’t be said for the fantasies in this internet article.