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 http://www.laanimalservices.com/about_stats.htm

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. http://www.animalpeoplenews.org/07/7/7.07.pdf 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. http://www.laanimalservices.com/PDF/reports/2007%20National%20Stats%20direct%20comparison.pdf

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. http://www.laanimalservices.com/PDF/reports/2007%20National%20Stats%20direct%20comparison.pdf

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.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Keep your eye on the ball...

How often have we heard the expression, “keep your eye on the ball”? This is a phrase we are probably all familiar with, but what does it really mean? According to the Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms, it means “to give your complete attention to what you are doing or want to achieve.” That sounds simple enough, but how easy is it really?

According to the Journal of Recreational Mathematics, when playing baseball, keeping your eye on the ball is next to impossible. The human eye cannot track the path of a pitch thrown in excess of 90 miles per hour. To track a ball moving at 100 miles per hour as it crosses home plate, the body must respond at a rate in excess of 1000 degrees per second. And yet, studies show the human limit is on the order of 90 degrees per second. It turns out that batters lose track of the ball as it nears them and extrapolate the data to actually hit it. Amateur batters lose sight of the ball when it is about 9 feet away from them and professionals when it is about 5.5 feet away.

This seems a poignant metaphor for achieving “no-kill” in LA. The closer we get to achieving the goal, the more likely it is that we will lose sight of the goal. The City of LA is among the top five communities in the United States with the lowest, and fastest declining, euthanasia rate. Can we keep our eye on the ball now as it comes barreling towards us at 100 miles per hour, or will we be distracted by disingenuous criticisms leveled against the department about imaginary crises?

For instance, a particularly pernicious criticism that is re-circulated from time to time by people who should know better is that the department is experiencing a shortage of veterinarians. This is simply not true. Despite the fact that there is a national shortage of veterinarians, a shortage that is most severely felt in the LA area, the department has four outstanding veterinarians on staff, with a fifth veterinarian starting shortly. This is as many veterinarians as the department has ever had, and is a good deal more than most municipal shelter systems have or will ever have.

Although the department has seven vacant veterinary positions in the budget, five of these positions were budgeted with an expectation that our spay/neuter clinics would be operational this year. In fact, they are scheduled to open towards the end of the current fiscal year. Filling these five positions before the clinics are open was never contemplated. We expect to have two more veterinary vacancies filled within the next week to a month or two as interviews are now underway.

This is one of many rumors meant to obfuscate the facts concerning LA Animals Services’ progress towards achieving “no-kill”. This progress is demonstrated by the statistics below. As is always the case, LA Animal Services is willing to respond to any concern or criticism. We have nothing to hide and are the first to admit that we need the help and support of the entire community to keep our eye on the ball.

Other criticisms often re-cycled by local armchair activists can be found debunked at: http://www.laanimalservices.com/PDF/info/rumor/rumor4.pdf

August 07 Stats:
I want to congratulate all LA Animal Services employees, volunteers, and partners who have been able to keep their eye on the ball as evidenced by producing another solid month where adoptions continued to climb and euthanasia rates continued to decline. On behalf of our community’s lost and homeless animals, thank you to everyone who is a part of the solution!

August 07 dog and cat adoptions combined (1,602) are up 8.75% compared to August 06 (1,473). August 07 cat adoptions (653) are up 24% compared to August 06 (525). August 07 dog adoptions are stable at 949 compared to 948 in August 06.

August 07 dog and cat New Hope placements combined (558) are up nearly 11% compared to August 06 (503). August 07 cat New Hope placements (215) is stable compared to August 06 (219). August 07 dog New Hope placements (343) are up nearly 21% compared to August 06 (284).

August 07 dog and cat Euthanasia (2,072) combined is down nearly 29% compared to August 06 (2,912). August 07 cat Euthanasia (1,268) is down nearly 38% compared to August 06 (2,035). August 07 dog Euthanasia (804) is down 8.32% compared to August 06 (877).

Of the 1,268 cats euthanized in August 07, 29.5% (375) were orphaned neonate kittens. However, 375 represents a 61% decrease in orphaned neonate kitten euthanasia compared to August 06 (981). Of the 804 dogs euthanized in August 07, 34.5% (278) were pit bull/mixes. However, 278 represents a 22% decrease in pit bull/mix euthanasia compared to August 06 (356).

07 Calendar Year-to-Date Stats:
YTD 07 Adoptions are up 11.32% (10,509) compared to YTD 06 (9,602). YTD 07 New Hope placements (3,943) are down 2.59% compared to YTD 06 (4,048). YTD Euthanasia (9,659) is down 26.06% compared to YTD 06 (13,064).

All things being equal, 2007 is on track towards achieving one of the most dramatic euthanasia declines since the department started keeping statistics.

To compare all of LA Animal Services statistics for August, Year to Date, the last 12 months, etc. for dogs, cats, rabbits, others, and more visit http://www.laanimalservices.com/about_stats.htm