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Animal-welfare group criticizes LBACS for increased euthanasia, lower adoptions in first half of 2018

LBACS manager says newer statistics tell a different story

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City records indicate that, in the first half of 2018, Long Beach Animal Care Services (LBACS) euthanized more than 19 percent of animals it took in– up nearly 5 percentage points from the same time last year– while animal adoptions during the same period decreased, and a local animal-advocacy group is not happy about it.

However, Ted Stevens, LBACS manager, said the facility has made major improvements in the last few years and that a true evaluation of the shelter’s statistics is not possible to develop until the end of the year. In fact, he said, the numbers for July 2018 already indicate positive outcomes for animals.

In a press release Monday, Patricia Turner, Ph.D., director of No Kill Long Beach, criticized the City of Long Beach for the drop in adoptions and increase in euthanasia rates, which she attributes to inadequacies identified in City Auditor Laura Doud’s December 2017 review of LBACS. That report indeed cites “very limited standard operating procedures, which have resulted in inconsistent decision-making and conflicting shelter practices, as well as in changes being implemented without proper direction and explanation” as a problem area for the facility, despite also determining that it has “shown improvements in reducing animal impounds and increasing positive outcomes.”

“In spite of the fact that LBACS has taken in fewer animals during the first six months of 2018, LBACS is nevertheless euthanizing animals at a higher rate than they were the same time last year,” Turner said. “From January to June this year, LBACS has euthanized 19 percent of animals, whereas during the same period last year, they euthanized 14 percent. That’s a significant increase. If they’re taking in fewer animals, they should be euthanizing a smaller percentage of animals. Instead, it’s the opposite. This is bad news for the animals, and it’s a clear step backward for the City of Long Beach.”

Turner compared the performance of the Long Beach shelter to that of others like it in the country and blamed the deficiency on a loophole connected to inadequate funding.

“The audit definitely found that LBACS needed to do a better job, but it left a huge loophole for the shelter to get out of doing so by recommending that LBACS euthanize animals if more funding wasn’t secured,” Turner said. “Yet, LBACS is spending more than twice as much per animal than Sacramento and more per animal than Austin, which has a 98-percent live-release rate. This level of inefficiency is something that should concern people in Long Beach.”

Turner said a focus on increased funding is too simplistic of a solution and that the City needs a mandate to have an adoption program and a foster program.

“We’ve been asking for an adoption program over the past five years, yet the City refuses to have one, in spite of repeated calls for one from the animal-welfare community,” Turner said. “The City has said that SpcaLA is the adoption arm of the shelter, but last year, SpcaLA only took in 25 percent of the animals at LBACS, leaving the rest at LBACS, which only adopted out 682 animals in 2017.”

Turner pointed out that Sacramento– a city with similar demographics, population numbers and median income– adopted out more than 5,600 animals during the same year.

Turner added that, from January to June of this year, LBACS adopted out 262 animals– a decrease of 23 animals from the same period last year. Sacramento Animal Care Services, however, has adopted out nearly 2,000 animals since January, according to Turner.

“This is very troubling,” she said. “Mayor Garcia promised the animal-welfare community in 2014 that he would increase adoptions– we’re seeing a decrease in adoptions, in spite of the fact that Mayor Garcia and city council have had plenty of time to address the need for a full adoption program at the city shelter.”

Turner said her group has hope, however, since, just prior to the April 2018 election, Garcia announced that a mayoral task force to address issues at the LBACS shelter would be formed, and he solicited members for the task force on his mayoral and public-figure Facebook pages and through email.

“We’re hopeful that having more people involved in the process of thinking about the shelter will help steer the shelter toward ‘no kill.’ The shelter does not have an effective adoption or foster program, and that means animals are being killed unnecessarily,” Turner said. “This is something we hope the task force will address.”

In an emailed response to the Signal Tribune Wednesday, Stevens defended the shelter by pointing out that LBACS has seen “tremendous positive outcomes” over the past several years, including record-low impounds and euthanasia and record-high live-release rates.

“The report from this group only reflects the first six months of the year and does not take into account all factors that influence the statistics,” Stevens said. “It is expected that, by the time the year is over, the positive trends seen in recent past years will continue in 2018. There have been many recent changes that will help ACS to achieve these goals.”

Stevens said that, as approved in the FY18 budget, LBACS has recently brought on a full-time community-information specialist to help promote adoptable animals and also hired a third full-time registered veterinary technician to help with medical care.

“Through the end of July 2018, fewer animals have been euthanized compared to the same time in 2017,” Stevens said. “Additionally, impounds are down 17 percent compared to the same time in 2017, and, by percentage, more animals are being reunited with their owners than in previous years.”

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Animal-welfare group criticizes LBACS for increased euthanasia, lower adoptions in first half of 2018