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Democracy -- People Powered Political Advocacy -- Successfully Pressed Mayor Garcia To Seek City Auditor "Efficiency Review" Of LB Animal Care Services

City Auditor indicates review should be ready by roughly late summer 2017...entering 2018 citywide election cycle is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(Jan. 29, 2017, 5:30 p.m.) -- We expected celebration and pride at the annual Open House hosted by Long Beach Animal Care Services on Sat. Jan. 28. On Friday Jan. 6, the city management-run agency released its lowest numbers ever in euthanasias/killings alongside another year of increased live-releases and adoptions. Under Bureau Manager Ted Stevens, the city's animal control agency has built partnerships with grassroots groups that Mr. Stevens openly credits, along with staff's efforts, at helping reduce killings and increase live releases.

But we figured something more was up when we spotted City Auditor Laura Doud in the audience along with the promised attendance of Mayor Robert Garcia.

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In reporting the Jan. 6 figures, other LB news outlets mainly cut and pasted the officially offered figures: fewer cats and dogs euthanized (killed) in 2016 than in 2015 or ever before: 717 fewer dogs and cats killed in 2016 compared to 2015, a reduction of nearly 27% for dogs and 31% for cats, while acknowledging over 1,100 fewer cats and dogs impounded in 2016 than 2015, a 15% reduction. chose to wait for a response from "Stayin' Alive Long Beach," a grassroots group that applies old-school confrontational verbal pressure with digital power to hold LB's elected Mayor and Councilmembers accountable for what does and doesn't happen at LB's city management run animal shelter. In 2014, the group endorsed Mayoral-candidate Robert Garcia, but soon thereafter noticed differences between what they thought he'd do and what he did and didn't do. A few months ago, it handed Mayor Garcia a thumb in the eye: a high visibility report card with a D (in "Lifesaving Programs") and two F's (in Campaign Promises and Transparency).


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Stayin' Alive's response to the city's 2016 animal shelter figures wasn't long in coming. By Sunday Jan. 8, the group had text on its Facebook page stating in part: "Is LBACS doing better? Yes - but only because horrible is slightly better than horrifying...Designed to perpetuate the myth that LBACS is "doing great" and does not need reform, the press release talks about decreases in impounds and euthanasias, but remains tellingly silent about the pitifully small number of adoptions the shelter does, even after Mayor Garcia promised, in front of 200 animal advocates, to increase adoptions..."

The group further noted that because shelter took in fewer dogs/cats in 2016, the double-digit decreases the number of euthanasias actually amounted to only single digit drops in the rate of euthanasias/killings...and it criticized Mayor Garcia for echoing the numerical sleight of hand.

Shortly before dawn on Monday Jan. 9, reported both sides of the story at this link. Confronted with Stayin' Alive's continuing criticism, Mayor Garcia fired off a letter to LB's City Auditor that he immediately disseminated via his own Facebook page. Mayor Garcia's Jan. 9 letter commended Animal Care Services for increasing adoptions and live releases, reducing euthanasias, leveraging private donations, and commended LB animal shelter staff, volunteers, SPCA-LA and seven grassroots animal advocacy community groups, but went on to state:

[Garcia Jan. 9 letter to City Auditor] I want to ensure the City of Long Beach is doing everything possible to continue this progress and to meet the highest standards for live release rates, adoption and foster programs.

With this in mind, I would like to request that your team consider hiring and partnering with an animal care expert to conduct an efficiency review of key ACS practices in Long Beach, including volunteer programs, community adoption fairs, other proven strategies, and provide a comparison to best practices. In particular, I would welcome suggestions for ways to enhance staffing, strengthen medical care, and support for our adoption efforts here.



And of course that was the reason Mayor Garcia and Auditor Doud showed up a little over three weeks later the Animal Care Services open house. To view VIDEO of what they said, click here.

Of course Mayor Garcia realizes that the Auditor's report that he requested will arrive by late summer, just in time for use and citation entering the 2018 election cycle.

Of course the day before the Animal Care Services open house, Stayin' Alive's monthly newsletter continued the onslaught with the headline: "Mayor Garcia's 'Alternative Facts' Continue to Harm Long Beach Shelter Animals." And for good measure, the piece added, "Given his wholesale abandonment of our shelter animals after he took office, Mayor Garcia should not be re-elected unless he means to keep his promises to make real and lasting change at the LBACS shelter."

But the day after the Mayor/Auditor appearance at LB Animal Care Services, Stayin' Alive Long Beach issued the following statement: with a somewhat different tone:

[Jan. 29, 2017 Stayin' Alive Long Beach] We view it as a positive development that Mayor Garcia has requested an audit of Long Beach Animal Care Services. We've been very concerned, not only about the very low numbers of adoptions ACS does, but also about the apparently illegal killing of a dog last July -- a healthy dog named Thor, who had an adopter and a rescue group that wanted to take him. In spite of his having a path out of the shelter, ACS records show that ACS euthanized him in violation of the Hayden Law, which requires a shelter to transfer an animal to a 501(c)3 rescue organization if requested prior to the animal's scheduled euthanasia.

We're hopeful that Auditor Doud will be looking at cases like Thor's, and that she'll also be looking at the many high-performing shelter adoption and foster programs out there, like Austin's, Sacramento's and Washoe County's, to determine best practices for sheltering. There are a number of great city shelters saving 95% or more of animals, and they're the gold standard Long Beach should be emulating



In their Jan. 28 joint appearance, neither Mayor Garcia nor Auditor Doud acknowledged Stayin' Alive Long Beach by name. We hope this official shunning changes. The Mayor and City Auditor both indicated that the Auditor's review would include public input. We'll be watching to see how that pledge plays out in the coming months.

In our view, the progress seen now reflects years of tireless work by LB residents to educate, to volunteer and to rescue, amplified more recently by individuals willing to use the democratic process -- literally, people-power -- to try to save more animal lives, We think that (to borrow a phrase) the arc of history is bending in the right direction.


Full disclosure: Our household includes two shelter-adopted cats (from LBACS) and a shelter-adopted dog (from SEAACA). Each day I see them, I'm mindful that their precious lives could have ended with a needle.

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