That could happen to the dog on the right, apparently lost, then found by a LB resident and taken in good faith to the city's animal shelter, assuming it would be put up for adoption. However, instead of being sheltered, the dog could be killed by City Hall's Animal Control Dept. after the close of business Friday Aug. 31 without ever being offered for adoption.
We tell this dog's story, mindful that every animal is different. However, much of what you will read applies to countless other dogs and cats that continue to be killed daily by the City of Long Beach.
The new relationship between City Hall's Animal Control Dept. (which does impounding and killing) and SPCA-LA (which separately does adoptions) may ultimately produce fewer killings. However, a misperception that the new facility is a "no kill" operation (it isn't and has never claimed to be) or has killed fewer animals since opening may paradoxically have increased the number of animals turned in and killed since the heavily publicized new facility opened earlier this month at 7700 Spring St.
We informally sought data on the number of killings without success from City Hall's Dept. of Health and Human Services (the parent agency of the Animal Control Dept.). We have made a state freedom of information request for the data, now pending.
Although the Animal Control Dept. facility is new, its practices aparently are not. Based on what we saw, withholding this story to accumulate months of data could mean many more needless deaths and would not be responsible.
The City Hall-run, LB taxpayer funded Animal Control facility is separate from the non-profit SPCA-LA run adoption operation adjacent to it. The Animal Control Dept. is managed by city staff, answerable to the City Manager, although its operation is ultimately the responsibility of the City Council. Among other things, Councilmembers will decide the Animal Control Dept.'s annual budget in the next few weeks.
Here is how LB's Animal Control Dept. plans to handle the life of the dog pictured above:
Although reuniting lost pets with their owners could mean fewer animal deaths, antiquated procedures used by LB's Animal Control Dept. make that process burdensome and arguably near useless.
Setting in motion the process by which an animal life could tick away, LB Animal Control staff enter the dog in a clumsy computer entry system, lumping all stray animals impounded on a single date together, many with near useless descriptions.
The lost dog pictured above was entered as: "Mix,f,wht/tan,Bellflower/Wardlow 704."
As a practical matter, this description is effectively useless since it applies to countless dogs of countless breeds.
On the evening of the day the animal is taken in, the Animal Control Dept. faxes a daily tally of impounded animals (comprised of similarly nearly unusable descriptions) to the Press-Telegram. Two days later (three days later for Saturday impounds), the PT publishes it in its classified pages. This requires an owner to search the PT's classifieds for stale impounds, 48 or 72 hours old, not knowing when a lost pet will be impounded. LB's Health and Human Services Dept. told LBReport.com this procedure has been used, apparently without charge by the PT, for at least 40 years.
If the owner tries to call LB's Animal Control Dept., they encounter voice mail with human beings only available from Weds-Fri 10a-5:30p, Sat-Sun 10a-4p. If they reach a human being and ask if an animal is at the shelter fitting their pet's description, they're told (as we were, twice) they must come into the shelter. The facility is open only during the dates and times shown above and closed all day Monday, Tuesday and holidays.
With each hurdle and bureaucratic tradition, precious is time lost. Since lost animals travel great distances, pet owners may have to check one several animal shelters outside LB.
If they check the Orange County's Animal Control agency, they find a different world.
Despite past operational criticisms, OC's Animal Control Agency now features an internet web site that puts pictures of lost/impounded and adoptable animals online where they can be viewed by owners and the public virtually anytime, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Pictures of the animals are routinely taken (apparently digitally) when an animal is taken in, then entered in the agency's computer with other identifying information. A software program sends the information to the agency's internet web site where, the web page indicates, it is automatically updated every 30 minutes.
OC Animal Control Public Education Officer Kathy Francis told LBReport.com the OC web site receives roughly 30,000 web site hits per week for both lost and adoptable animals. [Caveat: Depending on their monitoring, web site hits may include all photos as separate hits.] She estimated the cost of implementing the system involved roughly $100,000 for I.T. (information technology) development.
The system reduces phone calls and ambiguous or useless animal descriptions. She said it's impossible to know how many animal lives were saved by the new system but results of the system are evident as people come to the shelter carrying print outs of animals they wish to adopt.
The OC Animal Control Agency's lost and found web page is: http://petadoption.co.orange.ca.us/animals/lostfound/ We've created hyperlinks to the specific dog and cat pages, but they will take you off LBReport.com. To return, click "Back" on your browser. Hyperlinks: OC Shelter dogs. OC Shelter cats
The pages state, "Adopt-A-Pet and Lost & Found animals updated, automatically, every 30 minutes." The pages also include a disclaimer, "Every attempt has been made to list all dogs and cats impounded in a timely manner, however, there may be circumstances that prevent your pet from being listed. Searching through the web page should not be considered a substitute for personally coming to the Care Center and looking for your lost pet." Nearly every animal description is accompanied by a photo, although a few are not.
We invite LB residents to compare the service OC's Animal Shelter provides compared with the antiquated procedures still employed by LB's City Hall run Animal Shelter, notwithstanding its gleaming new facilities.
We remind readers that the actions described in this article relate to LB City Hall's practices, not those of SPCA-LA.
There are further aspects to this story that we're working on. And we intend to follow the fate of the dog in LB Animal Shelter cage 704, tag 149.