Sunday, June 24, 2007

Applying The No-Kill Ethic

Too often, when LA Animal Services makes the news the story is about one or another inconsequential controversy spawned by local armchair activists who thrive on seeing their name in the paper, rather than being about 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.

More than a policy and statistical objective, “no-kill” is a principle, an ethic, and once applied the practical consequences begin to fall into place. The principle is that Animal Services should apply the same criteria for deciding an animal’s fate that a loving pet guardian or conscientious veterinarian would apply. That is, healthy and treatable animals are not killed simply because we lack the room or resources to care for them.

Killing animals for lack of space may be the quick, convenient and, at least from afar, the easy thing to do. But I have never, in over 25 years in this field, heard anyone argue that it is the right thing to do. After all, the creatures who fill our shelters can hardly be faulted for bringing trouble upon themselves. People who seek to excuse euthanasia in shelters often say we have to be “realistic.” But ultimately such realism would be better directed at the sources of the problem and, above all, at the element of human responsibility.

There are the heart-breaking cruelty cases that bring so many animals to our doors, and the added wrong of killing animals already victimized by callous or vicious behavior. On top of that, over 30 percent of the 46,000-plus dogs and cats the City takes in each year are actually relinquished – turned in – even after years living with a family, like old furniture donated to charity. And another third of the creatures Animal Services euthanizes each year are orphaned, neonate puppies and kittens. No one bothered to spay or neuter the parents, and so the offspring are born into the world homeless or unwanted. The general attitude is, “Let someone else deal with the problem,” and – thousands of times a year – someone else does with a lethal injection. (In California it’s more than four hundred thousand times a year.)

Along with such failures in personal responsibility is a breakdown in social responsibility in the care of animals. On the budget sheets of government, saving animals can seem to a certain mindset as being a lowly or trivial concern. That’s an easy position to take, just as long as you don’t have to be there when the problem gets “solved” by euthanasia. If the public officials in most locales who brush off animal-welfare as “trivial” had to see the product of their priorities carried out – to witness for themselves how trusting the dogs are even when being led to their death, or how as they drift away they lick the hand or face of the person with the needle – I suspect they would see matters in a very different light, and would enthusiastically vote to support AB 1634, the state mandatory spay/neuter bill currently being fought over in the State Senate.

Here in Los Angeles there are rays of light. Between now and the end of 2007, the City will open several more new animal care centers, a decisive step forward in our commitment to helping lost and homeless animals, and to swearing off euthanasia as a solution to pet overpopulation.

The new Centers will give us four times our current shelter space to accommodate the average of 150 lost, sick, injured, neglected, abused or unwanted animals entrusted to LA Animal Services every day. The Centers will 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 older shelters, where animals can become so agitated or depressed that they seem 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, odds are we can measurably increase adoption rates.

The “no-kill” ethic is a matter of taking responsibility, instead of excusing the problem or hiding its consequences. In LA we are moving steadily in this direction. Over the past six years, our lost and homeless dog euthanasia rate has decreased 67 percent and our cat euthanasia rate has decreased 24 percent. In just the first five months of 2007, we’ve seen another 22 percent decrease in dog and cat euthanasia compared to the same period in 2006. In the past 12 months, 18,108 dogs and cats were euthanized.

That’s the lowest number ever for a one-year period in LA since thorough record-keeping began – and fewer animals than met the same fate in the much smaller city of Bakersfield. But no matter how you do the math, it still comes to over 18,000 creatures who had love and devotion to offer, and never got their chance. And calling the practice euthanasia (as some prefer), instead of killing (as others prefer), doesn’t make it any kinder.

The good news is we are making significant progress, and we have many fine allies in the cause. There are hundreds of groups across greater Los Angeles dedicated to finding homes for needy animals and to helping sterilize those animals who otherwise might contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. These compassionate, idealistic people show us the way forward.

The practice of killing animals for lack of shelter space has never been anyone’s idea of an ideal solution – let alone anyone’s idea of giving “shelter” to creatures in need. And, up close, the willful elimination of healthy animals with good years left is a sight to move the hardest heart. But as LA’s new Animal Care Centers continue to open their doors, Animal Services offers this goal to go with them, and we ask everyone’s help in achieving it: No animal that comes through those doors will be killed out of convenience or a lack of space. For every one of them, there is somewhere a kind and loving person or family, and it is our mission to bring them together.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Healthy Pets Act could save millions of dollars

The article below was written by Lloyd Levine, D-Sherman Oaks who represents the 40th Assembly District in California. It was published by the Long Beach Press Telegram on June 16, 2007:

The California State Assembly has passed Assembly Bill 1634 - the California Healthy Pets Act - by a 41-38 vote. If enacted, this legislation would require most pets in California to be spayed or neutered.

I authored this measure because every year, nearly 1 million cats and dogs pass through the doors of animal control agencies throughout California. And every year, more than 50 percent of them - many perfectly healthy and adoptable - are euthanized by overcrowded shelters which are unable to find them good homes.

Perhaps those numbers don't bother you, but this one might: Collectively, our state and local governments are spending 259 million taxpayer dollars to house and care for dogs and cats in animal shelters each year. That figure doesn't include the cost of killing and disposing of about half a million dogs and cats each year. When you include those costs plus the intake and processing costs, the total price tag climbs to well over $300 million each year. In addition, stray dogs roam through many neighborhoods, increasing the danger of dog bites and the transmission of rabies.

Under AB 1634, dog and cat owners who don't comply would be cited if their pet comes in contact with a local animal control officer, but will be given time to spay or neuter their pets before a fine would be assessed. A portion of those fines would be used to expand the availability of free or low-cost spay and neuter programs.

The vast majority of people I've spoken with about this measure are very supportive. We've received over 7,000 letters of support in my office, hundreds of phone calls, and many willing volunteers asking how they can help get AB 1634 signed into law. These people come to us from animal shelters, rescue groups, law enforcement agencies and veterinarian groups - a wide array of backgrounds united by the common goal of reducing the number of pets needlessly killed each year.

But with any high-profile legislation there is always a vocal opposition as well, and in this case, breeders from across the nation have gone on the offensive. They will stop at nothing to defeat this common-sense measure - even if it means calling local Assembly members and threatening them with relocating their AKC National Championship out of Long Beach. These threats were made despite the fact that this bill very specifically and expressly exempts show dogs and animals from out of state.

I commend Long Beach-area Assemblymembers Laura Richardson and Betty Karnette, who would not be bullied or intimidated by these unfortunate and undeserved threats. They read the legislation and noted the exemptions and had the courage to join me in trying to address the severe dog and cat overpopulation problem in a responsible way.

This legislation already contains a number of common-sense exceptions, including for show and sporting dogs, law enforcement dogs, dogs used in search and rescue, cats or dogs who are too old or in poor health, and guide, service and signal animals. But we will continue to try and address everyone's concerns while crafting the strongest possible piece of legislation.

If signed into law, Assembly Bill 1634 will not only establish California as a national leader in the humane care for animals, but it will save our state's taxpayers millions of their hard-earned dollars.

And if you're not convinced, consider this: The bill is modeled after a highly successful mandatory spay and neuter ordinance that has been in place in Santa Cruz County since 1995. Within two years of the county's adoption of the measure, it began to see a noticeable reduction in the number of animals entering its shelters. Within eight years, despite a 15 percent growth in the county's human population, the number of animals entering the county's shelters had been cut 60 percent. This example shows just how effective AB 1634 can be if given the chance.

Lloyd Levine, D-Sherman Oaks, represents the 40th Assembly District in the California Legislature.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

AB 1634 Passes the Assembly! And the May '07 and Year To Date Kill Rates Demonstrate New Strides Toward No-Kill in LA City

At precisely 10:16 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6, 2007 history was made in California. The California State Assembly passed AB1634 The California Healthy Pets Act by a vote of 41 to 38. This seminal event sends a clear message that California continues to be the national animal welfare leader. Constituents of AYE voting representatives should send a letter of appreciation to their Assembly Member today! Given the opposition to this bill their votes truly represent a courageous stand for fiscal responsibility and the value of life.

But the battle is only half won. We must now help our State Senators understand the importance of this life and money saving legislation. Please contact your State Senator today and ask him or her to support this important life saving legislation.

Visit to see why Bob Barker says the Price is Right for AB 1634!

The May 07 statistics are now in. Below is an analysis of the past 12 months, the calendar year to date, and the month of May. Thanks to the help of the public, our partners and most importantly our employees and volunteers we are making remarkable progress towards our No-Kill Goal. (No-Kill means using the same criteria that a compassionate veterinarian or loving pet guardian would use in deciding when an animal should be euthanized. That is, an animal is not killed for lack of space or resources. No-Kill is achieved when only terminally ill or injured animals or dangerously aggressive animals are euthanized and all healthy or treatable animals are adopted or placed with organizations capable of caring for them.)

Last 12 Months (June 1, 2006 through May 31, 2007):
18,108 dogs and cats were euthanized in the past 12 months (June 1, 2006 through May 31, 2007). That represents a 7.2% decrease compared to the previous 12 months in which 19,524 dogs and cats were killed.

Earlier this year LA Animal Services broke through the 19,000 barrier for the number of dogs and cats killed in a 12 month period for the first time ever. It is our hope to break through the 18,000 barrier in the very near future and aggressively continue this trend. Five years ago over 35,000 dogs and cats were dying in LA Centers each year.

The 18,108 number represents 4.5 deaths per 1000 LA City residents per year. This means LA has decidedly broken through the somewhat arbitrary "no-kill" threshold of 5.0, a goal established by some in the animal welfare movement many years ago.

New York City established a 2.5 kill rate during my tenure there and San Francisco has been recorded at 2.1. So clearly, the 5.0 "no-kill" threshold needs to be re-evaluated in light of the successes in these and other cities.

Of the total number of dogs and cats killed in the last 12 months, 64% were cats (11,567) and 36% were dogs (6,541).

Of the 6,541 dogs, 39% (2,574) were pit bulls or pit bull mixes.

Of the 11,567 cats that were killed in the last 12 months 43% (5,020) were orphaned neonate kittens. This represents nearly one third (28%) of all dogs and cats killed. 318 neonates were saved through our Baby Bottle Foster Program during this time, mostly in the month of May, and this number highlights the need for AB 1634, more spay/neuter programs and more foster care givers. LA Animal Services has recruited and trained over 60 volunteer foster care givers so far this kitten season.

2007 Year to Date Numbers:
The 2007 Year to Date comparison is also encouraging. From January 1 to May 31, 2007, dog and cat euthanasia decreased 21.5% compared to the same five months in 2006 (5,242 to 4,114).

Dogs killed Year to Date (1,908) decreased 17.6% compared to last year at this time (2,316). 787 or 34% were pit bulls or pit bull mixes despite a 24% decrease in the number of pit bull/mixes killed during this same period last year (1,038).

Cats killed Year to Date (2,206) decreased 24.6% compared to those killed during the same time last year. 22% of the cats killed (728) were orphaned neonate kittens. Year to Date we have seen a 43% reduction in the number of neonates killed compared to last year (1285), thanks to our Bottle Baby Program.

May 07 Numbers:
The May 07 kill rate (1,331) dropped 35% compared to May 06 (2,043). This is the lowest May kill rate since statistics have been recorded. Cats saw a 38% decrease from 1,467 in 06 to 900 in 07. 36% of all cats killed were orphaned neonate kittens. However, our orphaned neonate kitten kill rate for the month of May 07 (328) dropped 59% compared to May 06 (804). This is the lowest number of neonate kittens ever killed in the month of May thanks to our Bottle Baby Program.

Dogs saw a 25% decrease from 576 in May 06 to 431 in May 07. 31% of all dogs (178) killed were pit bull/mixes despite a 24% decrease in the number of pit bull/mixes killed compared to May 06 (251). LA Animal Services will be announcing a bold new program called, Pit Bull Academy later this month. This program is designed to further help reduce the number of pit bulls dying in our Centers.

Adoption, New Hope, Return to Owner and other statistics on dogs, cats, rabbits, and other species, as well as neonate dogs and cats, and pit bulls can be found at under the "About Us" tab. All statistics are updated each month in a twelve month rotating calendar that compares the past 12 months to the same 12 month periods in each of the past six years.

The practice of posting these statistics on our website each month won LA Animal Services national recognition by the Maddie's Foundation for transparency.

LA Animal Services statistics are not obfuscated by subjective categories such as "adoptable" and "unadoptable" as is the custom of some agencies. LA Animal Services reports only on the total number of animals that come in alive, leave alive or are euthanized (or killed). Today's message highlights the actual progress LA made over the past 12 months in reducing LA's kill rate among dogs and cats to an all time low.

Please consider how you can help LA Animal Services continue our shared quest to achieve No Kill! And call your Senator to ask for an AYE vote on AB 1634!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Arm Yourself with the Truth about AB 1634

Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge and understanding of AB 1634. Please refer to these documents so you know what to do and say in defense of AB 1634!

1. How YOU can help:

2. What Law Enforcement says about AB 1634:

3. Summary of AB 1634 Provisions:

4. Rebuttal to claims of failed mandatory efforts in other communities:

5. Rebuttal to AKC claims:

6. Medical TRUTH about early spay/neuter:

7. Frequently asked questions:

8. Nine reasons California NEEDS AB 1634:

9. An overview of AB 1634:

For more helpful information on AB 1634 visit:

The Assembly is likely to vote this week. Maybe today! If you have not talked to your Assembly Representative yet it is not too late. Call and FAX today!