Sunday, April 29, 2007

Humane Index Released - LA Ranks #6

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has released its Humane Index which is the first-ever attempt to determine the overall humaneness of America’s largest metro areas. The HSUS ranked the 25 largest metropolitan areas according to criteria such as the number of vegetarian restaurants per capita and Congressional leadership on animal issues.

Los Angeles ranked #6 behind San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Washington D.C., and San Diego.

By measuring a wide range of humane and inhumane conduct, HSUS hopes to inspire individuals and entire communities to strive to do better to make the world a more merciful place for animals.

The Humane Index is comprised of a dozen factors selected to provide a basis for comparing the relative humaneness of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. The index includes topics related to pets, farm animals, wildlife, animals in entertainment and advocacy for animals. The Humane Index demonstrates that Americans extend their compassion beyond the millions of pets who share our homes.

West Coast cities generally performed better than other areas of the country. In addition to San Francisco and Seattle, Portland ranked fourth and San Diego fifth. Los Angeles ranked sixth. On the East Coast, Washington, Boston and Baltimore ranked in the top ten metro areas.

The full detailed results are available online at The interactive website allows visitors to view the details on each index item. See how various cities rank, compare two cities, and learn how they can take action to make their city more humane.

The following is a synopsis of LA's ranking in each of HSUS' 12 categories:

LA ranked #2 in the Bird Shooters category. Four California cities top the Index for celebrating wildlife by shooting them with cameras instead of a lethal approach. Californians are seven times more likely than Texans to sport binoculars over shotguns. The ratio in every Humane Index city favors wildlife watching. There are 20.9 wildlife watchers to every one hunter in California. Across the nation, Americans are consistently celebrating the beauty and mystery of wildlife and prefer to mount their photos rather than their heads or hides.

While across the country there is evidence that major newspaper coverage of animal issues is significant, LA sadly ranks 24 of 25 in this category. The LA Times featured 330 stories in 2006 compared to the Index average of 596.

LA ranks number 14 in the Fur Shame category with 45 fur retailers compared to the Index average of 29.

LA is in 5th place for putting the chicken before the egg. LA has at least 91 cage free locations compared to the Index average of 19. Every Humane Index city has at least one place where you can support a company with a stance against cruel confinement of laying hens in barren wire cages.

LA ranks six in the Captive Entertainers category. LA has 19 locations where captive animals are used for entertainment compared to the Index average of 18 locations.

LA is ranked #17 in citizen advocacy but it is unclear from the HSUS website if this category is merely a ranking of HSUS membership in the Index cities. If that is the case this would not be a valid means for determining advocacy. LA is well known throughout the nation for its strong animal advocacy efforts as demonstrated most recently by our Mayor and City Council's support of Assemblyman Levine's AB 1634.

LA ranks number 20 in the Pet Shop Puppy Suffering category. There are too many puppies in pet shops. Across Humane Index cities one in three pet stores sell puppies creating the demand for puppy mills and the misery they breed. Four of the five worst metro areas are warm belt cities like Tampa (#22), Miami (#23), Houston (#24) and Phoenix (#25). San Francisco, New York and Pittsburg take top spots in avoiding the cruelty of puppy mills with only 15% of pet stores selling puppies. 45% of all LA pet stores sell puppies compared to the Index average of 34%. With so many great dogs adoptable from animal shelters we would like to see an end to selling puppies in pet shops in LA.

HSUS uses the term “wildlife whisperers” and it is not clear if they are referring to wildlife rehabilitation organizations or individual licensed rehabilitators. Whatever the criteria used to evaluate this category, LA was ranked 19 with 28 “wildlife whisperers” to the Index average of 21.

If you want to shun the animal cruelty inherent in animal circus acts, California is the place you want to be according to HSUS. Three of the top Humane Index cities in this category – Riverside (#1), San Francisco (#2) and Los Angeles (#5) – are in the Golden State.

If you’re looking for fine vegetarian fare, you can’t lose on the West Coast, home to all of this category’s top five Humane Index cities. Up and down the coast – from Seattle (#2) to San Diego (#5) and in between (San Francisco #1, LA #3, and Portland #4) – you will find an average of 44 vegetarian restaurants in each of these towns (112 in LA).

LA ranked number 6 in the Congressional Compassion category. In general, Humane Index cities can thank themselves for electing humane legislators with Congressional Compassion running higher on average in Index metros than in other areas. But there is a coastal effect – lower Congressional Compassion emanates from inland areas. With average scores on the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s Humane Scorecard for the 109th Congress ranging from 26.6 (Dallas) to 90.8 (Philadelphia). It is worth noting that 18 of the 25 Humane Index cities have scores exceeding 50. LA is at 64.9.

LA ranked #7 in registering disapproval of Canada’s seal hunt. From Portland (#1) to Atlanta (#2), Tampa (#3) and Miami (#4) many Humane Index cities are protesting Canada’s barbaric clubbing of baby seals for fur by boycotting Canadian seafood. With nearly 1,208 participating establishments, there are an average of 50 in each Humane Index city. There are 183 locations in LA.

LA Animal Services is asking HSUS to consider ranking municipal animal shelters as part of its Humane Index in future Indexes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Assembly Bill 1634 - A Bill Whose Time Has Come

I want to thank the City Council for its unanimous support of Assembly Bill 1634 - The California Healthy Pet Bill - legislation designed to end the incalculable suffering of unwanted homeless and lost dogs and cats in the State of California. This April 17 vote places the City of Los Angeles officially on record in support of the legislation and could be a difference-maker in the contentious debate up in Sacramento.

This bill is particularly important to the City of Los Angeles and, in fact, was originally given birth by the staff of LA Animal Services working closely with legal experts, animal control professionals and key activists from all over the state.

Over the past several months, with the extraordinary help of California Healthy Pets Coalition director (and volunteer) Judie Mancuso and many others, this bill has taken shape and garnered the support of the California Veterinary Medical Association, the California Association of Animal Control Directors (representing over 100 animal control agencies across the state of California), the State Humane Association of California, the Humane Society of the United States, In Defense of Animals, The Animal Protection Institute, the SPCA-LA, the Rescue Humane Alliance LA (which represents 65 LA animal welfare organizations), thousands of activists and organizations, and dozens of other animal welfare and control organizations in LA and across California.

AB 1634 is a bill whose time has come. Several years ago, the City of Los Angeles became a national humane leader by committing itself to ending euthanasia as a methodology for controlling pet overpopulation. This commitment was built upon the resounding voter approval of nearly $160 million to construct seven animal shelters to manage the crushing number of lost and homeless animals taken in by LA Animal Services every year (over 50,000 animals in some years). Over the past six years the City Council had to increase Animal Services’ budget by 36%, with a 28% increase in the current fiscal year alone, even in the face of an extremely tight City budget.

In the hardball world of politics, numbers such as these can be important. Other important numbers in the AB 1634 debate include the $240 million a year in taxpayer dollars it cost the state’s public animal control agencies to care for, then kill approximately 430,000 animals last year. Then there’s the $120 million the state government has had to pay local agencies to fund the extra days of animal care required by the “Hayden Bill,” approved in 1997. This reimbursable mandate is growing at a rate of $30 million annually.

Numbers like these remind us that trying to solve the pet overpopulation problem from the back end is expensive. It is like trying to mop up a flooded basement without first turning the water off.

Over the last few years, we’ve made some progress in Los Angeles, using licensing incentives, stepped-up adoption programs and alliances with the rescue community to bring down our kill rate by about 20% since 2000 to around 40%. We’ve also reduced the number of impounds by a similar percentage by employing aggressive voluntary spay/neuter programs. But many jurisdictions around the state aren’t doing nearly as well, with kill rates ranging from 50% to as high as 90%.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. AB 1634 provides us with an elegant, but simple tool for ending the insanity of escalating budgets and body counts. Combined with public awareness education and outreach and even more spay/neuter services, this legislation can help other animal control agencies get a handle on the problem for the very first time, while agencies like Animal Services can use it to strive for the even lower euthanasia rates our animals deserve and our constituents demand.

On behalf of the nearly 400 employees of Animal Services and the hundreds of volunteers and partners we have throughout Los Angeles who feel the brunt of pet overpopulation everyday I want to thank everyone who made this vote possible.

Mahatma Gandhi told us that the best way to evaluate the morality of a community is to look at how we treat our animals. Our City Council has risen to the occasion again by accepting our collective responsibility for a tenacious problem while at the same time helping to save the lives and end the suffering of countless generations of unwanted animals. They did that by supporting AB 1634, the fiscally prudent and humane solution to LA’s, and California’s, pet overpopulation problems. It is my hope that all our representatives on both sides of the aisle in Sacramento will be just as fiscally prudent and humane as the bill continues its journey toward passage and Governor Schwarzenegger’s signature. This one’s for the animals!

For more information on this life saving public health and safety initiative visit

Sunday, April 08, 2007

March 2007 - A No-Kill Month!

March 2007 is the lowest monthly euthanasia rate since LA Animal Services began collecting this data! Not only were no healthy dogs or cats killed in the month of March, but also only nine treatable animals were euthanized and only after three regimens of treatment failed to produce any improvement in the health of the animals.

March 2007 Dog and Cat Numbers:

March 2007 Euthanasia Rate is down 29% compared to March 2006 (540 to 782 respectively) and down 54% compared to March 2005 (1166). The March Euthanasia Rate has decreased each of the past six years and is down 69% since March 2002 (1727).

267 dogs and 273 cats were euthanized in March 2007. 25% of the cats were orphaned neonate kittens (68). Thanks to LA Animal Services' Baby Bottle Foster Parents and many New Hope Partners 204 neonates were safely placed in loving homes in March 2007 and were spared euthanasia. (Orphaned neonates are kittens too young to survive on their own and require round the clock foster care until they are weaned at eight weeks of age.)

39% of the 267 dogs euthanized were pit bull/pit bull mixes (104). This was despite a 22% increase in pit bull adoptions (129 to 157), a 32% increase in pit bull New Hope placements (40 to 53), and a 41% decrease in the pit bull euthanasia rate (176 to 104) in March 07 compared to March 06.

March 2007 Adoptions are steady compared to March 2006 (1141 to 1139 respectively) and are up 15.5% compared to March 2005 (988) and up 24% compared to 2004 (921).

March 2007 New Hope Placements are up 9% compared to 2006 (577 to 529 respectively). New Hope Placements don’t show a consistent trend but over the past six years have averaged 540 placements in the month of March. March 2007 New Hope placements are 7% higher than this average.

March 2007 Intakes are up 2.5% compared to 2006 (3075 to 2986 respectively), but are down 10% compared to 2005 (3420) and down 23% compared to 2002 (3817).

2007 1st Quarter Dog and Cat Numbers:

2007 1st Q Euthanasia Rate is down 8.4% compared to 1st Q 2006 (1922 to 2099 respectively) and down 35% compared to 1st Q 2005 (2967) and down 63% compared to 1st Q 2002.

2007 1st Q Adoptions are up 8% compared to 1st Q 2006 (3396 to 3147 respectively) and up 16% compared to 1st Q 2005 (2925).

2007 1st Q New Hopes are relatively stable at just under 1300 in 2007 and 2006. Similar to the month of March, there is no consistent trend in New Hope placements during calendar year 1st Q’s. However, the 1st Q average over the past six years is 1318 placements. 1st Q 2007 is 2.4% lower.

2007 1st Q Intakes tracked the same as the month of March numbers with a 2.5% increase in 1st Q 2007 compared to 2006 (8338 to 8137 respectively) and a 10% decrease compared to 1st Q 2005 (9258) and a 23% decrease compared to 1st Q 2002 (10851).

All of these numbers and much more can be found in easy to read six year rolling calendar reports that show the City of Los Angeles' multi-year trend to No-Kill. Just visit LA Animal Services website at and click on “About Us - Statistics”.

These results clearly demonstrate the City of Los Angeles is on the road to No-Kill. But these results are not good enough for LA Animal Services' amazing employees, volunteers, and partners who are committed to saving lives and further restricting euthanasia to its rightful place as a last result for ending irremediable suffering.