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City Auditor Report on LB Animal Care Services Offers 173 Improvement Measures, Admits More Resources Needed (But Doesn't Criticize Mayor or Council Budget Actions), Doesn't Propose "No Kill" Options, Recommends Future "Strategic Plan" To Decide What Shelter Should Be

UPDATE: Auditor's report says compared to "many other open intake municipal shelters" that focus on animal control, LBACS "is performing above average when it comes to recognizing the need for programming aimed at saving animal lives" but while Live Release Rates have increased, this has been "accomplished without the addition of resources to fully support new program" which has "strained already limited ACS resources...affecting service effectiveness and efficiency."

  • Stayin' Alive LB says report includes many recommendations it has made over the past four years and shows management flaws
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    (Text added Dec. 22, 2017 incl. reaction; initial report Dec. 19, 2017) -- City Auditor Laura Doud today (Dec. 19) released a 40 page "Phase 1" review of LB Animal Care Services (ACS) shelter operations. It includes 173 recommendations, acknowledges the need for more resources [without criticizing the Mayor or City Council for their budget actions], doesn't propose "no kill" goals or options and recommends a future "strategic plan" to decide what LB's shelter should be.

    In its Executive Summary, the Auditor's review states in pertinent part:

    Based on the consultantís observations, ACS, when compared to many other open intake municipal shelters in the country who focus on animal control, is performing above average when it comes to recognizing the need for programming aimed at saving animal lives. ACS has taken progressive steps to shift existing resources and dedicate staff to working closely with rescue organizations and running various programs surrounding adoptions, animal enrichment, and behavior...

    [However] [w]hile LRRs [Live Release Rates] have increased over the years, this review found that ACS faces a number of challenges that impact its ability and capacity to provide animal care and continue its progress. These LRR and impound improvements have been accomplished without the addition of resources to fully support new programs. These programs have strained already limited ACS resources, spreading thin the shelter staff and other resources and affecting service effectiveness and efficiency. Based on the consultantís observations in Phase One as well as preliminary resource analysis in Phase Two, ACS has been attempting to provide service levels that are beyond what the Bureauís staffing and resources would allow, straining the Bureauís existing resources and impacting overall service effectiveness and efficiency. Generally, this means animals in a shelter could potentially suffer when a shelter tries to provide services beyond its capacity of resources.

    The Auditor's report can be viewed in full at this link.

    Of 173 recommendation (in 14 categories including animal care, veterinary services, adoptions, and volunteer programs), 103 are short-term recommendations that the report says ACS can begin to implement as soon as possible with its current resources and structure.

    [UPDATE] On Dec. 21, the independent animal advocacy group Stayin' Alive Long Beach issued its assessment of the Auditor's report, saying that it "makes many of the recommendations Stayin' Alive Long Beach (SALB) has made over the past four years, including those made in two comprehensive research reports and a model ordinance. In addition, however, the Auditorís report reveals a shelter that is deeply flawed and suffering from mismanagement in the form of 'inconsistent decision-making' and 'conflicting shelter practices,' with changes implemented 'without proper direction and explanation (Review, Phase One; page 3)."

    To view Stayin' Alive's assessment in full, click here.

    As of dawn Dec. 22, comments from others in LB's passionate but less than united animal rescue/advocacy community weren't available. [End UPDATE]

    [Scroll down for further.



    Mayor Garcia recommended the City Auditor's review of the shelter's operations after Stayin' Alive Long Beach (advocating a "no kill" equation), and others, began publicly criticizing him and other LB elected officials and advocated changes in the City's animal shelter practices. Quoted in a City Hall release, Mayor Garcia didn't explicitly acknowledge the criticism or advocate a "no kill" operation, saying: "I asked City Auditor Doud to complete this audit to ensure that we do everything possible to run a great shelter. While there have been some positive improvements in recent years and historically low euthanasia rates, we can do even better. I'm looking forward to working with animal care management to implement the recommendations."

    City Auditor Doud stated in the release: "We expect that this report will serve as a guide as the City and other stakeholders make important decisions to take Animal Care Services to the next chapter. I am pleased the City has taken steps to address some of the recommendations which have the potential to greatly enhance shelter operations."

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    The City Auditor's office hired JVR Shelter Strategies (an animal shelter consulting firm) to review ACS shelter operations, including animal intake, veterinary services, and programs designed for positive animal outcomes.

    In its release, the City Auditor says there is a "need for ACS to have a clear, shared vision with an effective, feasible strategic plan. Currently, there is a misalignment between stakeholder expectations and ACS' capacity of care. JVR concluded that ACS has been attempting to provide service levels that are beyond what staffing and resources would allow, impacting overall service effectiveness and efficiency. As a result, the City is at a critical juncture. Stakeholders -- City elected officials, City management and employees, and the community -- must determine what kind of a shelter it wants ACS to be. Stakeholders must clarify and solidify a vision to develop a strategic plan that will guide policies and practices, outline initiatives and programs, and marshal and prioritize resources. Part of the strategic plan should address the consideration of a formal operating agreement with spcaLA, which shares the shelter facility with ACS and is responsible for most of the adoptions at the shelter. Currently, while the success of ACS and spcaLA are linked to one another, the City's leaseback agreement with spcaLA does not address how they should work together."

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    The City Auditorís Office says it's conducting "additional work to assess ACS staffing and resources, and once Phase Two is completed a second report will be issued with the Officeís results and recommendations" (no date scheduled.)

    On our very quick reading of the report, some portions appear to implicitly acknowledge some criticisms of LB ACS operations, and suggestions over a period of years that had been made by Stayin' Alive Long Beach. The group surfaced in 2013 with a confrontational, unflinching call for implementing a "no kill equation" (a number of actions it said had been used successfully elsewhere and included more aggressive city adoption efforts.) Stayin' Alive's criticized the status quo, urged changes in shelter practices, and at one point avoided using the term "euthanasias" and said "killings" is the more accurate term for taking the lives of healthy animals. The group also broke new ground among animal advocates by urging supporters to use hardball political means to pressure elected officials (including criticism of Mayor Robert Garcia, whom the group praised in the 2014 election cycle but has since said it regrets.)

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    Stayin' Alive's confrontational approach attracted a number of supporters but begat negative reactions from some long-time LB animal advocates who disparaged the "no kill equation" as infeasible, commended shelter management for multiple improvements including reducing the numbers of euthanasias, credited shelter management for working with rescue groups and urged a greater focus on spay and neuter efforts and public education.

    In 2017, a third flank appeared when a number of veteran animal rescue participants formed Long Beach Animal Advocates that used passionate advocacy to support increased shelter funding from management and Council members (with mixed results.)

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