Friday, June 30, 2006

LA City Council supports Senate Bill 1806

Today the City Council voted to place the City of Los Angeles officially on record in support of Senator Liz Figueroa's bill, SB 1806, to outlaw the confinement of a companion animal in an unattended, closed vehicle.

The City's lobbyists in Sacramento now can testify or lobby on the bill's behalf. Until today, it was impermissible for City officials to claim to formally represent the City in support or opposition to the bill, though they could represent themselves as individuals.

SB 1806 passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on a 14-1 vote yesterday (Thursday) and will now go to the Assembly floor, where it appears destined for passage.

Thanks to LA Animal Services Commander Diliberto, LA City Attorney Dov Lesel, and LA Animal Services' volunteer Judy Mancuso, for this groundbreaking work made possible by the support of the LA Animal Services Commission.

Together we truly are making LA and California the safest place in the United States for our pets!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

4th of July Warning!

While people all over the country are looking forward to the traditional Fourth of July fireworks show, it's important to remember that what's fun and entertaining to us can be terrifying to our pets.

Frightened by the explosions and bright flashes of light, it's not uncommon for frightened animals to dig under or jump over fences. Even the best-behaved and most well-trained animals run when they're scared. And once they're out of familiar territory, they get lost.

The fifth of July is our busiest day of the year because so many animals get loose the night before. We receive hundreds of calls from the public who have lost their pets during the fireworks celebrations.

The behavior of an otherwise normal animal can change with loud noises. In addition to seeing dozens of lost, scared, sick and injured pets on July 5, we also see many distraught people in search of their lost companions.

Summer is an especially dangerous time for an animal to be lost and on its own. Without water, animals can easily suffer heat exhaustion or dehydration. Roaming streets and sidewalks that have been baking in the California sun often lead to burned paws.

Animal Services has some simple suggestions to help pet owners keep their animals safe this holiday.

First, keep your pets indoors. If you are hosting a party, be sure to watch for open doors and gates. Pets are quick and can slip away before you know it. If you do have to take your animal outside, make sure he/she is securely on a leash.

If you can, confine your pet to a single room where he/she will feel safe. Make sure there is plenty of food and water (but don't overfeed) and lots of toys to play with. You might also consider turning on a radio or television to drown out the noise of the fireworks.

Whatever you do, do not take your animal to an event featuring fireworks. Between the noise of the show and the bustling crowd, chances are good your pet could get away from you.

Finally, make sure your animal has current identification. Make sure to include your name and at least two phone numbers on the tag. If your pet does run away, that will increase the chances of your getting your pet back safely.

If your pet does run away, visit the Los Angeles Animal Care Center closest to you. People who lose pets should also check our website at

Animal Services wishes you and your pets a safe and happy 4th of July! Together we can make LA the safest City in the United States for our pets!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pet Of The Day

LA Animal Services was recently recognized for its "transparency" by the Maddie's Foundation.

Information about this recognition can be found on our website at

In Animal Services' continuing efforts to demonstrate transparency and work with the community to save lives, we are making available a link to our Pet of the Day feature.

If you click on the link below you will find an instruction page with a sample and the script to cut/paste into your own site.

Please feel free to share this information with every animal friendly person and organization in town. The feature shows pictures of our animals along with information on where to go to adopt. Please help Animal Services save lives by making this function available on your website and every possible website in LA.

Thank you!
Ed Boks

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Comparing California Oranges to the Big Apple

In the autumn of 2005 I did what few department directors voluntarily do. I asked for a top to bottom City audit to be conducted on my former agency, Animal Care & Control of New York City.

I hoped the audit would point out to New York City leaders the need for more resources to be invested in the operation. The City had conducted a scathing audit in 2002 that led to my being recruited to NYC to help turn the situation around. After two years and a 130% increase in adoptions, formation of over 150 New Hope partnerships, and a 30% decline in the euthanasia rate, I felt it was time to assess our progress with a full understanding of our shortcomings.

We still needed help, and we simply were not getting it from New York City.

Consider NYC Animal Care & Control has a $7.2 million budget to serve 8.2 million people. NYC has three animal shelters that the City had to condemn and take away from the ASPCA to give to a newly formed under budgeted and understaffed animal control program. NYC AC&C staff wages are 40% below the national average and the City does little to nothing to address this issue each year. Both NYC and LA handle roughly the same number of animals each year.

NYC's three shelters serve 8.2 million residents. Queens, the fifth largest city in the United States has no shelter at all, neither does the Bronx. Staff are forced to transport animals over vast areas to the three full service, albeit, dilapidated shelters.

Compare this to LA with a $20.2 million budget serving 3.9 million residents with eight new state of the art animal care centers soon to be opened throughout the City. These facilities will rival the finest humane animal shelters anywhere in the country. While NYC's Animal Care & Control's budget never comes up in the NYC budget process, we were able to increase LA's Animal Services budget by 11.6% this coming budget year, with an additional $3.3 million for one time tenant improvement monies, not to even mention the $150 million bond funding for constructing the new facilities and their campuses.

Clearly LA leaders and residents understand the importance of animal welfare in a community.

I requested the audit before I left New York City to highlight the lack of animal compassion in that community and to focus on three significant needs: 1) the need for more and better facilities, 2) the need for more and better trained and paid staff, and 3) the need for an adequate budget to fund humane, non-lethal programs. This audit does all of that and just in time for the current contract negotiations when this information is most needed.

This audit is now available and I believe it did exactly what I'd hoped it would do: It showed we were making progress despite the dearth of funding and support, but that there was much remaining to be done. You can read about the audit in the New York Daily News coverage via the link below, and view the audit itself via the other link.

Three important programs were inexplicably terminated shortly after my departure from NYC, the results of which are reflected in the audit. One was the termination of our PR program which helped keep the needs of the agency in the public eye every day. The second was a nationally recognized Shelter Dog Training Program that trained one hundred volunteers at a time to train shelter dogs making them more adoptable. The third was the elimination of the development department whose mission was to help offset the City's inability to pay for these programs by conducting its own fund raising, a program recommended by the City Comptroller in the 2002 audit.

It is my hope this recent audit will be used by the current administration as it was intended, to make a compelling argument for more resources to save lives!

Soon after my arrival in LA, I met with LA Comptroller Laura Chick to discuss a similar audit of LAAS. We are working out the details and timing for that process. Audits, when used properly, are merely a compass. They tell you how far you've come, where you are, and how far you yet have to go. I'm hoping we can begin this process in LA Animal Services soon.

direct link to audit:

Monday, June 19, 2006

The 17 Camels

Imagine waking up every morning with saving 55,000 animals on your mind. Many of you do, I know. That is the number of animals LA Animal Services rescues every year. That’s an average of 150 lost, homeless, sick or injured animals that depend on the compassion, care and skill of LA Animal Services every day of the year.

These are daunting numbers in light of Animal Services’ goal to achieve No-Kill. No-Kill is a term to describe a goal that will be achieved when Los Angeles is using the same criteria for determining when to euthanize an animal that a loving pet guardian or veterinarian uses. We are not there yet. We still have hundreds of healthy and treatable animals dying just because we don’t have enough room in our Animal Care Centers or because we don’t have the necessary resources to provide the care they need.

Angelinos have been wonderful in their response to this crisis; both adoptions and the number of animals placed by our partners have increased every year for five years in a row causing the euthanasia rate to decline 50% during that same time frame, with nearly another 20% decrease so far this year compared to the same time frame last year! But even with these remarkable improvements, Animal Services still needs help to find homes for hundreds of lovable pets. Clearly, we will never adopt our way out of this crisis.

The best way to achieve No-Kill is through aggressive spay/neuter programs that assist our community’s needy pet owners so fewer unwanted animals are born. Animal Services is working feverishly to open eight new spay/neuter clinics over the course of the next several months. This will help tremendously. We are also partnering with several wonderful organizations that specialize in spay/neuter.

But Los Angeles is a complicated town, with many people and organizations feeling strongly they know how best to solve LA’s pet overpopulation problems. Some feel there is no solution, they feel killing unwanted animals is just a fact of urban life in today’s society.

I am convinced pet overpopulation is a problem we can solve, but it is going to take all of us working together, implementing all our ideas and strategies together. Every one of us has a piece of the solution whether we understand it or not. Let me tell you a story that explains what I mean. This is a story told to me by a very wise person many years ago, it is called, “The 17 Camels”.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a far away land, there lived a poor elderly nomad. He lived a long and happy life, but the time came when he was about to die. The poor, old man had three sons, and he wanted to distribute his belongings to them before he died. Among his possessions were 17 camels.

As his death grew close, he gathered his three sons around him to tell them what their inheritance would be.

He told his eldest son he was to get ½ of the camels.
He told his middle son he was to get 1/3 of the camels.
He told his youngest son he was to get 1/9 of the camels.

Then he died. The three sons were saddened and perplexed. They sincerely wanted to honor their father’s wishes, and they all wanted all of their inheritance. But how, they wondered, could they possibly divide 17 camels in accordance with their father’s wishes? How do you divide 17 camels in half, or by one/third, or one/ninth? It was impossible!

Then the youngest son remembered that out in the desert there lived a wise old man in a cave. He suggested they take their problem to him and let him solve it for them.

So, the next day they packed up their 17 camels and went to the cave where the wise old man lived. When they arrived, the old man welcomed them with open arms. That evening they all sat around the camp fire and the three boys told the old man their problem. How, they asked him, could they possibly honor their father’s last wish and divide the 17 camels in accordance with his direction? It was impossible!

The wise old man thought about their problem for a while, and after a long silence concluded that he could not help them. He told them they would have to solve this problem for themselves. However, the old man said he had a camel that he no longer needed and that he would be happy to give his camel to the boys if they wanted him.

The boys were happy to accept the additional camel. As they were preparing to leave the next day the eldest brother realized that now that they had 18 camels they could honor their father’s wishes.

The eldest son could now have ½ of the 18 camels = 9
The middle son could now have 1/3 of the camels = 6
And the youngest son could now have 1/9 of the camels = 2

Imagine their surprise when they divided up their inheritance and discovered that it came to 17 camels. They now had one extra camel. So they gave the wise old man his camel back which he accepted with a twinkle in his eye...

We should remember this story when we think making LA a No-Kill City is an impossible problem. It may be in that moment that you grasp the fact that you have the missing piece, the piece that will solve the problem for everyone! And in the end, you will get back all that you give!

So ask not what Animal Services can do to help the animals, ask what you can do to help Animal Services, because together we will make LA the safest City in the United States for all our pets, and even our camels...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Honoring Dr. W. Marvin Mackie, D.V.M.

This past Friday morning, June 9th, the Los Angeles City Council honored a true animal welfare hero, Dr. W. Marvin Mackie, DVM. What follows are the comments I made at this prestigious event:

“Mr. President, members of the Council,
I have been involved in animal welfare for nearly 25 years, and for as long as I can remember, every time the name “Dr. Mackie” was ever mentioned, no matter the setting or the audience, it always evoked a sense of reverence and respect.

Every meaningful movement in history has been led by transformational leaders, leaders like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Caesar Chavez. Inspirational leaders have always challenged us to not only change the way we view ourselves as a society but to change how we behave as a civilized community.

We in the animal welfare arena have such transformational leaders too; they are our own heroes, people like Henry Bergh, Albert Schweitzer, and Gretchen Wyler. Today we are honoring another such hero: Dr. W. Marvin Mackie. Dr. Mackie was, and continues to be, an instrumental force in transforming not just our local LA community, but the entire nation and other parts of the world from out dated catch-and-kill animal control methodologies to humane, non-lethal, no-kill animal care strategies and programs.

While a few self-described “revolutionaries” and so-called “activists” do little more than rattle off hate-filled emails from the comfort of their living rooms and occasionally get off the couch to harass and terrorize public servants under cover of night and ski masks, this giant, Dr. Mackie has openly and courageously transformed an entire generation by being the change he wanted to see in the world. Dr. Mackie is responsible for surgically altering hundreds of thousands of animals in the LA area; he has taught hundreds of veterinarians how to perform high volume and prepubescent surgery safely and humanely in communities around the world, and he taught many hardheaded animal control directors like my self that there is a better way.

We in Los Angeles have perhaps benefited most from the fact that Dr. Mackie is an Angelino, hailing from San Pedro. As a result of his inspirational leadership, over the course of his career, the number of animals needing to be rescued annually from the streets of LA by Animal Services has declined by 40,000. More significantly the number of animals killed in our local shelters has fallen from 60,000 per year to 19,000 and continues to decline significantly every year.

Consider this, 40% of the animals euthanized this past month were orphaned neonate puppies and kittens. What fact better demonstrates the tremendous need that we as a community must continue Dr. Mackie’s legacy until there are no more unwanted pets being born only to die?

The no-kill initiative that has taken hold in LA is beginning to take root in communities all across the United States thanks to Dr. Mackie and others. Imagine how far we have come in Los Angeles in the three decades since Dr. Mackie began to live his dream. Today his dream is embraced by the Mayor of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles City Council, the Los Angeles Animal Services Commission and the Los Angeles General Manager and staff. Los Angeles has risen up together to accept the fact that Dr. Mackie’s no-kill vision is an achievable goal! No small accomplishment for one man.

When you consider what this one man has accomplished imagine what we could do if we all worked together! Thank you Dr. Mackie for being such an inspiration to all of us!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Case For Mandatory Spay/Neuter

The month of May 2006 came in like a lamb but went out like hundreds of sick and dying neonate kittens. I doubt any stronger case can be made for mandatory spay/neuter than what you are about to read.

North Central Animal Care Center experienced an unprecedented number of neonate euthanasias during the last week of May. This was due to an unusually high number of orphaned neonates presenting clinical symptoms suggestive of infectious diseases such as Notedris cati, chylmydia, panleukopenia, and corona virus etc. Diagnostics were performed through blood work and complete dermatology exams for infectious skin diseases confirming these diseases.

254 orphaned neonates were euthanized in the month of May in North Central with well over 100 in the last week. South LA Animal Care Center euthanized 247 neonates in the month of May, and the entire LAAS organization euthanized a total of 823 orphaned neonates of the 2,035 dogs and cats euthanized.

That represents 40% of the May euthanasia rate!

This situation points out three critical needs:

1) the need for more foster homes to care for neonates in our Bottle Baby Program,

2) the need for broader implementation of our Safety Net Program to help support people relinquishing neonates with the resources they need to bring them through the weaning process, and

3) more aggressive Big Fix Spay Neuter Programs throughout the City especially during the winter months. LAAS is working on approaches to address all three of these needs and will report on our progress in future reports.

As a result of this unfortunate and tragic anomaly in the North Central Animal Care Center, the overall organizational month of May euthanasia rate increased 12% compared to May ‘05, but decreased 10% compared to May 04.

East Valley showed a 17% decrease in euthanasia.
Harbor showed a 29% decrease.
South LA had a 1% increase.
West LA had a 2.5% decrease.
West Valley had a .05% increase.

North Central was on track to show a decrease in euthanasia in May until the Center was literally inundated with sick and dying neonates during the last week of May. Rescue efforts were complicated by that being a Holiday weekend and by a shortage of qualified Bottle Baby Foster Care Givers.

The month of May Cat Euthanasia rate is up 19% compared to May 05 but down 6% compared to May 04.

The month of May Dog Euthanasia rate is down 2% compared to May 05 and down 13.5% compared to May 04.

If there is a silver lining to any of this news, it is that the Calendar 06 Year To Date Euthanasia rate for dogs and cats is down nearly 17% compared to the same time period in 05 and down 29.5% compared to the same time period in 04.

Calendar Year 06 Cat Euthanasia is down 7.6% compared to the same time frame in 05, and down 24% compared to the same time frame in 04.

Calendar Year 06 Dog Euthanasia is down 26% compared to the same time frame in 05, and down 35% compared to the same time frame in 04.

Of the 2,020 dogs rescued by LAAS in the month of May, 68 were either dead on arrival or died of natural causes. Four dogs were stolen for a remainder of 1,948. 731 were adopted, 333 were New Hoped, 299 were returned to their owners, 16 are in foster for a total of 1,379 live releases. That is an extraordinary 70% live release rate for dogs! Only 20 neonate dogs were euthanized.

Of the 2,646 cats rescued by LAAS in the month of May, 81 were either dead on arrival or died of natural causes. Six cats escaped and nine were stolen for a remainder of 2,560. 508 were adopted, 355 were New Hoped, 21 were returned to their owners, 55 are in foster for a total of 939 live releases. That is a dismal 37% live release rate for cats. 803 neonate cats were euthanized. Neonate cats represent 55% of the cat euthanasia rate. Clearly we can see where we as a community must focus our efforts to end the killing! We must turn the faucet off on the sheer number of unwanted cats being born in our community.

May 06 Dog and Cat Adoptions combined were up 7.25% compared to May 05 and up 6.25% compared to May 04.

May 06 Cat Adoptions were down 2.5% compared to May 05 but up 10% compared to May 04.

May 06 Dog Adoptions were up 15.5% compared to May 05 and up 3.5% compared to May 04.

The Calendar 06 Year to Date Dog and Cat Adoptions are up nearly 8% compared to the same time period last year and up 9.6% compared to the same time period in 04.

May 06 Dog and Cat New Hope Placements were down 10% compared to May 05 but up 22.5% compared to May 04.

May 06 Cat New Hope Placements are down 26% compared to May 05 but up 10.25% compared to May 04.

May 06 Dog New Hope Placements are up 18.5% compared to May 05 and up 39% compared to May 04. This is a welcome increase in the New Hope trend for dogs this year and coincides with the final stages of implementing the New Hope program.

The Calendar 06 Year to Date Dog and Cat New Hope Placements are down 16% compared to the same time period in 05 and down 7.5% compared to the same time period in 04.

(For all of these statistical categories, raw numbers are available in the statistical reports posted on the LAAS website

It is our sincere hope and expectation that with the community's continued help the Bottle Baby, Foster, Safety Net, and New Hope Programs will help right this temporary reversal in our continued progress towards lowering the kill rate. Other efforts are underway with the help of various community partners to help get the word out to help LAAS in its lifesaving mission. Clearly, we will never adopt our way out of this crisis. It is time for all Angelinos to get serious about spaying and neutering their animals.

Rescue organizations too must be held accountable. No rescue organization should adopt an animal out that is not spayed or neutered. If such an adoption does occur the rescue organization must follow up until the sterilization has been confirmed. This holds true for LAAS as well. We will be monitoring every intact animal released to any rescue group or individual for medical reasons to ensure the animal is altered as soon as it is healthy enough.

In order for LA City to achieve its No-Kill goal we must add a No-Birth initiative to our strategic plan as exemplified by LA County's recent spay/neuter law, even if it is for a limited number of years, long enough to get a handle on this problem. At some point we have to turn the faucet off. There are simply too many unwanted kittens being born.

We must also bolster our Operation FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-termination) Trap/Neuter/Return Program and our Big Fix spay/neuter efforts for cats. It is my hope that all Angelinos will support any responsible initiative that will help us as a community to end the killing.

I understand very well that this is a controversial issue for some, but I hope we can all agree that the misguided accidental and deliberate backyard and puppy/kitten mill breeding must be stopped if we ever expect to end the killing.

(The May LAAS GM Report is now available on-line.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Best Friends United

Best Friends Animal Society, a primary partner of LAAS, hosted its annual Pet Adoption Festival on Sunday, June 4 in Manchester Park. There were celebrity guests, dog agility competitions, pet psychics, children's activities, cool pet products, food and refreshment, and Radio Disney for additional entertainment.

But best of all there were over 60 wonderful rescue organizations coming together for a day of fellowship doing what we do best, saving the lives of lost and homeless dogs, cats, rabbits and other critters. Dozens of organizations brought hundreds of animals most of which found homes during this five hour event.

LAAS adopted or placed 113 animals (50 dogs, 56 cats, 6 rabbits, and one guinea pig). At the end of the event LAAS made all the animals that were not adopted available to our New Hope Partners at no charge. And as if that was not good enough, an amazing partner and benefactor of LAAS, who prefers to remain annonymous, offered $100 to every rescue group who took a dog and $200 for every rescue group that took a dog that had any pit bull or rottweiller in him or her!

96 LAAS volunteers attended this fantastic event. That is more LAAS volunteers than have ever attended any single event in LAAS history. I want to thank all our wonderful volunteers, employees both at the event and working in the Centers, and all our partners for playing an instrumental role in helping to make this year's Pet Adoption Festival such a great success, especially for all the lives that were saved!

Events like this prove that by working together we can make Los Angeles the safest City in the United States for our pets!