The state of the art facility at 7700 E. Spring St. (west of the 605 freeway at the El Dorado Park East entrance) is a national first, partnering L.A.'s SPCA (a non-government entity) with LB's Dept. of Health and Human Services (LB City Hall's Animal Control agency).
The event drew coverage from L.A. media outlets as well as some nat'l press (CNN was apparently present).
LB City Hall provided SPCA-LA with the 6.5 acre site valued at $2.375 million and a $1.5 million start up grant. SPCA-LA raised roughly $5.3 million in cash and pledges to build the first phase of the buildings, opened today.
The facility is officially called the "P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village & Education Center" in honor of benefactor P.D. Pitchford (right) who made a $1 million donation on behalf of his dog Pedee (a 7 lb. Yorkshire Terrier). (Speaking, Mr. Pitchford; also seen at left, 4th Dist. LA County Supervisor LB aide Matt Knabe)
Mr. Pitchford said in part, "People ask why I made the gift. It's basically my love for animals and I wanted to give back..." He said the facility's educational wing "was a major reason I decided to make the gift, because there's proof that if you can educate and teach young children about spaying and neutering and respect for animals, it can carry through with them and their parents which can help society in general."
LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill told the crowd:
"Today is a day that is unparalleled in our country. It is a singular event in the history of our community where everybody wins...the beginning of a public-private partnership that is unp0recedented in our country and we are all part of history today because we are here to see this opening. It brings together these two separate entities, the SPCA-LA and our Health and Human Services Dept., working collaboratively under one roof...and this partnership has never been attempted until now, and wouldn't you know, Long Beach and SPCA-LA did it."
5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell (in whose district the facility remains after a redistricting fight with 4th district Councilman Dennis Carroll) was in attendance and watched from the audience. City Manager Henry Taboada explicitly acknowledged her work in helping bring the project to fruition.
Also attending were 1st district Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, LB Public Works Dir. Ed Shikada, 5th district Council staffers Tom Poe and Tim Patton and 4th district Council staffer John McNaughton, among others.
In her remarks, SPCA-LA President Madeline Bernstein said:
"[I]t's so important how we treat our animals, and this village, when you go inside, and you see the state of the art material, you see the cottages, you see the residence floors, you see the cat colonies, where the cats are in there playing, it's wonderful to watch. You see separate air systems. You see a philosophy that ever animal deserve respect and food and medical care regardless of why they're here in the first place. You will also see that stray animals that are not yet ready for adoption are given the same creature comforts [as] animals that are in the adoption areas. There are no second class citizens at this facility..."
Shaded dog cages outside the shelter buildings face green spaces with pathways for strolling, prospective adopting families.
Inside the buildings, cages face atria with greenery and benches, and feature frosted skylights that fill the room with cool, natural light.
Cat cages are in smaller, but well lit, airy rooms.
Hollywood celebrity and long-time animal advocate Betty White remarked:
"Once in a while it should cross our minds how far we've come, not only to build a facility like his, but how far we've come in appreciating what a part animals play in our stress-filled society..."
The partnering of LB City Hall with SPCA-LA is a new approach in animal control that, supporters say, should result in more animal adoptions and fewer animals killed.
SPCA-LA President Bernstein told LBReport.com her group will receive adoptable animals from LB Animal Control, then offer them for adoption for longer periods than at traditional government facilities.
She said SPCA-LA "has no limit on how long we hold animals for adoption in any of our facilities. The average stay is about 55 days and we make the determination based on how the animal is doing...If it gets to the point where we feel it would be inhumane to hold the animal any longer, then sometimes we have no choice..."
LB Animal Control Manager Roger Hatakeyama told LBReport.com that while his agency euthanized roughly 8,000 animals last year, the new SPCA-LA relationship should result in fewer animals being put to death. Since it is a new program, he declined to speculate on exactly how many animal lives might be saved.
Ms. Bernstein told us it "definitely will be [fewer killed]. How much in the first year, I don't know but the way the program is working already is that after their mandatory legal holding period expires, then we take the ones that are healthy, treatable and rehabilitatable and put them up for adoption. [But] there are always going to be those that can't."
Mr. Hatakeyama said the city will not adopt out (to SPCA-LA) an animal that is considered too injured, sick or vicious.
When asked by LBReport.com if the Council-approved policy of having LB provide (for a fee) animal control services to neighboring cities would strain the capacity of the new facility, Mr. Hatakeyama said it would not because the numbers were already taken into account and the cities being served by LB have a low number of animals.
Trying to preserve the moment was tireless LB animal advocate and longtime friend of the LB Animal Shelter, Ms. Shirley Vaughn.
Veteran LB journalist Elaine Medosch observed the proceedings while Asst. City Manager Gerry Miller made a point in dialogue with 7th district City Councilman Ray Grabinski.
Although there was widespread support for building a new LB animal shelter, City Hall's desired location -- at the eastern city limit adjacent to the El Dorado Park Nature Center -- was controversial when the City Council approved it and, among some park supporters, remains so.
LB park supporter Ann Cantrell told LBReport.com today:
"I love animals, I really felt a new shelter was needed and I am very pleased that LB has a new animal shelter. However, the location is absolutely wrong, too close to the Nature Center."
LB's former Animal Control facility (on Willow east of Temple) is being demolished to make way for a LB government facility.