"Stayin' Alive Long Beach" Response As LB Animal Shelter Manager Ted Stevens Announces Hiring "Adoption Rehoming Coordinator" & Mayor Garcia/Mgr. Stevens Agree To Visit Sac'to Animal Shelter

(Oct. 31, 2014, 3:15 p.m.) -- "Stayin' Alive Long Beach" has issued the statement below following Long Beach Animal Care Services Dir. Ted Stevens' announcement at an Oct. 28 public meeting (reported first by that he's rearranged his agency's current budget to hire an "Adoption Rehoming Coordinator" (a new position.)

During Q & A, Mayor Robert Garcia and Animal Care Services Manager Ted Stevens both indicated they'll visit Sacramento's animal control facility.

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The adding of an Adoption Rehoming Coordinator by Mr. 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.

Below is "Stayin' Alive Long Beach's" statement in response:

[Stayin' Alive Long Beach statement] Stayin' Alive Long Beach is very pleased at the announcement at Tuesday's Town Hall Meeting [Oct. 28] that we will now have an adoption program at the city shelter. A strong adoption program is a key element -- we'd go so far as to say the most important element -- of the No Kill Equation, and we are elated that the Mayor has publicly committed to such a program.

Adoptions weren't even on LBACS's radar before we started raising awareness about the need for a comprehensive adoption program at the ACS shelter. We did this through our policy report, voter information guide, speeches at city council, newspaper ads and Facebook posts. Now, a year after we published our report, we're having a town hall meeting led by our city's mayor. This is incredible progress and it shows that advocacy and engaging in the democratic process work.

We were also very happy to hear that both the Mayor and the Director of ACS have publicly committed to going to Sacramento's city shelter to meet with their director. Sacramento has cut their euthanasia rate in half over the past two years by proactively pursuing adoptions. They accomplish more than 3000 adoptions a year, and they do it with $1 million less in budget than we do here in Long Beach. Having the Mayor visit Sacramento was a major goal of our public awareness campaign, and we're very happy to see this forward movement.

However, in spite of this, we were disappointed that the Mayor didn't talk about specific goals or benchmarks to get us on the road to saving more animals. As in any organization, ACS needs clear and publicly-stated goals. We'd like to see ACS commit to a goal of saving 90% of its shelter animals over the next two years. We need less than an additional 1% of the population of the city of Long Beach to adopt from our shelter in order to reach a 90% save rate, and other progressive cities, like Austin, TX and Reno, NV, are saving more than 90% of their shelter animals. With the large animal-loving community we have here in Long Beach, saving 90% of our shelter animals is very doable and it should be our goal.

We also would like to know what specific programs and strategies for accomplishing adoptions that the Mayor has in mind. Sacramento consistently thinks outside the box and takes a proactive approach to adoptions - we need that kind of proactive, animal-friendly mindset here at Long Beach ACS, as well. Frequent offsite adoptions, holding adoption hours after 5 p.m. so that working people can adopt, frequent and creative marketing promotions, removing "No Photo" policies that hinder adoptions, and shelter networking of animals from day 1 in the shelter instead of waiting until day 6 are all examples of things LBACS should be doing to proactively get our shelter animals out of the shelter and into good homes.

It was disappointing to see that ACS is still reporting its numbers in a way that is designed to show ACS in the best light rather than to inform the public about what is happening to our shelter animals. Director Ted Stevens' presentation made no clear mention of the fact that ACS has only done 255 adoptions as of August of this year, or of the fact that only 24 animals were placed into foster homes during the same time period, or that ACS has euthanized 1,000 kittens through August of this year. We're all for ACS talking about its accomplishments, but these other facts have been left out of the equation for years, and it has contributed to the public's mistaken belief that our shelter is high-achieving when it comes to saving lives, when the 50% kill rate tells us otherwise. When the public knows that the shelter needs help, they step up. Transparency is key.

We know that Mayor Garcia is committed to transparency and accuracy in government, and we hope to see greater transparency and accuracy in ACS's reports in the future. We have offered to sit down with Patrick West and Ted Stevens to go over the numbers for ACS that we have published, which we received from the City through a public records request, and that offer was declined. We continue to be open to sitting down and talking about numbers and will do it at any time. We're hoping that with this new dedication to an adoption program, we will see greater transparency, as well. Our letter to Mayor Garcia's staff about this issue can be found here.

That said, we anticipate that ACS will have a significantly lower kill rate next year, due in large part to the shelter-neuter-return program that they began implementing this year. This program will save hundreds of community cats that ACS had previously been killing. When we spoke with the director about this program 18 months ago, and he told us he was considering such a program, we urged him to put it in place, as it would immediately bring the kill rate down and save hundreds of healthy animals. We're very pleased to see that they've put the program in place and that it's having exactly the effect we predicted.

The constraints that the City allows spcaLA to put on ACS were brought up by an audience member at the meeting and this was the first time to our knowledge that this has been publicly brought before an elected official in Long Beach. Unfortunately, Mayor Garcia chose to sidestep the question, and not acknowledging the problems with this partnership is a real failing in our opinion. We need to see greater transparency in how spcaLA and ACS interact, in what the agreements are between the two agencies, and we need the City to assert its autonomy in having its own city-run adoption program, foster program and volunteer program, given that spcaLA takes in only 26% of the animals while the rest have been left without a safety net.

We're very happy to see a full adoption program at ACS on the horizon. Other programs we'd like to see are a foster program for cats, greater outreach in the community for people who want to help rescue newborn kittens, who are currently killed upon intake at ACS, a strong volunteer program, and an animal help desk staffed by knowledgeable volunteers (like rescues and veterinary techs) in the community to help people keep their animals in their homes. We know these programs will take time to put in place and we absolutely don't expect that every program can be put in place immediately, but with good management and a clear commitment to lifesaving, programs can be added over time, and this is what we would like to see.

As previously reported by, 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 at Oct. 28 public meeting organized by his office.

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, "Stayin' Alive Long Beach" surfaced in 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.

During Q & A at the Oct. 28 meeting, Mayor Garcia also 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. No details yet on exactly what will be proposed.

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