LB Animal Shelter Director Rearranges His Council-Allotted Budget To Add A New Position: "Adoption Rehoming Coordinator"

At Public Meeting, Mayor Garcia Says It's Really Important To Him And Council To Reduce City Shelter's Euthanasia Rate, Thanks Others For Their Current Work But Doesn't Advance Independent Animal Shelter Initiatives Of His Own, Makes No Commitment On "No Kill Equation," Says He'll Visit Sac'to Shelter During Legislative Visits

(Oct. 29, 2014, 1:57 p.m.) -- In a city staff initiated (non-City Council/Mayor budgeted) action, management of the City of Long Beach's animal control facility announced it is creating a new employee position -- "Adoption Rehoming Coordinator."

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The announcement by LB Animal Care Services Manager Ted Stevens drew applause from 200 people attending an Oct. 28 public meeting on the city's animal control policies at the El Dorado Senior Center, organized by Mayor Robert Garcia's office.

Mr. Stevens told the crowd he's adding the new Adoption Rehoming Coordinator position by rearranging parts of the current [Mayor recommended, Council-allocated] budget and acknowledged this will affect some other currently unspecified services.

Mr. Stevens displayed a slide stating "We can do better" in revealing the new employee position: "Adoption Rehoming Coordinator."

Mr. Stevens: I'm not satisfied [with the status quo] and neither is our staff...It's great that things are getting better but I think we can do more. I think we can do better and so I'm going to continue to push my staff...I know it's a lot of work but it's the right thing to do so. My staff is motivated; they're awesome; they're dedicated; they work really hard; they barely come up to breathe sometimes...We don't have a lot of staff. I'm shifting around some resources...We were never intended to do adoptions or redemptions, any of that stuff, and so I'm kind of pulling some resources from other parts of our budget. We're in the process of hiring a full time Adoption Rehoming Coordinator. [applause]

Mr. Stevens said the new employee, now in the hiring process, is expected to begin work by the end of the year. He added that he rejects the notion that current practices should continue simply because 'that's the way we've always done it.' "That's not my mentality and that is not the way I think," he said.

Under Mr. Stevens (and his predecessor John Keisler), LB's City-operated animal control facility (renamed "Animal Care Services" under City Manager Pat West) began adding flexibilities into its practices, allowing rescues from independent groups and enabling some adoptions that prior animal control management had resisted.

LB's animal shelter is located immediately adjacent to an SPCA-LA facility that offers dogs and cats for public adoption, selected from among LB animal control surrendered/impounded animals. The process inevitably leaves dogs and cats not selected by SPCA-LA to the euthanasia needle...unless other options are used.

Mayor Garcia made opening remarks, turned the microphone over to Mr. Stevens who delivered a Power Point presentation on current practices, announced the new Adoption Rehoming Coordinator position [created by his office under the current Mayor recommended / Council adopted budget] and Mayor Garcia then invited audience Q & A.

Mayor Garcia told the audience that it's important to him, to the Council and the community "that we continue to make a really, really strong effort to lower our euthanasia rate...I think we're making progress [notes spay/neuter work, including work done by private group "Fix Long Beach"]...What's goal number one for all of us and for me, is we want to decrease euthanasia at the shelter. That's something, I'm a big believer that that's the kind of thing that doesn't happen overnight, but it is going to happen as we move forward and continue to look at our statistics."

[Mayor Garcia]...One thing that Ted and I discussed, I'm really happy that the shelter is doing, is we're hiring this full time adoptions coordinator for the shelter, which I think is great...This person and their job is going to be first of all to view how do we build a strong adoptions program...We have obviously on the SPCA side is we have the adoption work that they're doing every single day, and we also have some adoption work that's being done currently at the shelter through our volunteers and the great staff we have there. But this person is going to be tasked also in how do we strengthen, grow and develop this adoptions program so we have a really strong adoptions program at the shelter. I'm really excited about that and I hope you guys are all excited about that too because I think it's going to make a difference...

Mayor Garcia said an expanded City internship program he's previously announced could be used in part to provide animal shelter support, commended the shelter's current medical team, and thanked Friends of LB Animals for purchasing a medical facility building for the city shelter...but didn't advance independent animal shelter initiatives of his own and made no commitment on the controversial "No Kill Equation" advanced by "Stayin' Alive Long Beach."

In 2013, an advocacy group surfaced -- "Stayin' Alive Long Beach" -- and charged (using data obtained under the CA Public Records Act) that the euthanasia killing rate at LB's animal control facility is higher than necessary. The group argued that LB's euthanasia killing rate could be lower by applying what it calls the "no kill equation," a package of measures it says would maximize adoptions and minimize killings.

The group's proposed "no kill equation" produced polarized responses from LB's active animal advocacy community. Some enthusiastically embraced and have advocated the measures; others blast the "no kill" verbiage, question the efficacy of the proposed measures, urge more spay/neuter and adoption programs and have vigorously defended the work of LB Animal Care Services staff and management.

LB animal control management has said Stayin' Alive LB's euthanasia numbers were skewed by including wild/feral animals; says LB euthanasias are down from previous years, noted that dog euthanasias have decreased significantly and acknowledged that the euthanasia rate for cats remains high and problematic.

Pressed during audience Q & A about doing more, Mayor Garcia indicated he'll be visiting Sacramento frequently on legislative matters and during those trips will visit that city's animal control facility (praised by others for its practices) to view its operation.

Reaction from Stayin' Alive LB's leader, Patricia Turner. Ph.D, has been requested by and is pending.

In 2013, "Stayin' Alive Long Beach" vowed to make LB animal control's practices a 2014 city election issue, and asked Mayoral candidates to state what they considered an acceptable percentage of live releases. Several candidates provided percentages; candidate Robert Garcia responded but didn't cite a percentage, but sufficiently impressed the group's leadership to earn its recommended vote. Garcia was elected with just over 52% of the June citywide vote.

Also during Q & A, Mayor Garcia disclosed that at least one Councilmember [whom he didn't identify] planned to agendize an item on in November on what he indicated was a "mandatory spay-neuter" item...but offering no details on exactly what will be proposed.

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