Smitten for a kitten?

ACS manager suggests public help in adopting, curbing animal euthanization and preventing shelter overcrowding.


Denny Cristales | Signal Tribune

Staycee Dains, the City of Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) manager is feeding her two-week old kitten during a community meet-and-greet Monday, May 13, at the Expo Arts Center.

Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) will be updating its policies over the next several months to adopt the new Compassion Saves model, approved by the Long Beach City Council May 7, in an effort to save more animal lives, according to Staycee Dains, ACS manager, during a community meet-and-greet Monday.

Monday, May 13, at the Expo Arts Center, community members listened to Dains as she spoke about her experiences getting into animal welfare and her mission as ACS manager, a position she earned earlier this month.

“I have been working in animal welfare for almost 20 years,” said Dains, who elaborated on her experience starting as a volunteer at a shelter. “[…] My mind was just blown. I learned things that I just never would have known unless I had physically gone to a shelter. What we know about a shelter versus what the community knows about a shelter– there’s a huge gap of understanding. If you take the most knowledgeable person, whose never really worked in a shelter– but who knows about the shelter– and you take somebody whose worked at the shelter for a month, the difference between what those two folks would know is staggering.”

The main priority of the Compassion Saves model is to update ACS’s strategic plan and promote an increase in adoptions at the facility. Specifically, Dains mentioned that encouraging the community to do their effort in neutering and being responsible as pet owners will work to reduce overcrowding at the shelter.

Anna Wong, director of Long Beach Return-To-Field with the Stray Cat Alliance– who was joined by other animal agencies, such as Friends of Long Beach Animals (FOLBA)– said 3 to 5 percent of Long Beach cats end up at the shelter. Of those cats, 1 and a half to 2 percent are feral, she said.

“These cats are procreating, causing these babies to be born, and everyone’s hustling to save them,” Wong said. “[…] It’s a big deal, you guys. We have the resources– any of us can help– we just need you guys to talk and help. We have empty traps available if anyone wants to do the work. We’ll provide it.”

Dains said that, historically, animal shelters have had a bad reputation, with the pretext being that animals inevitably will be put down. But Dains was adamant in her belief that “things are changing.”

Denny Cristales | Signal Tribune
Staycee Dains, the City of Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) manager is pictured, feeding her two-week old kitten, also pictured, during a community meet-and-greet Monday, May 13, at the Expo Arts Center. Dains became ACS manager earlier this year and opted to foster the cat.

“Animal sheltering is not about capturing and killing,” she said. “It’s about providing for the welfare of animals until they can go back to their home or until they can find a better one. Many animal-control agencies, for years and years, never felt like that was our job. We always felt like our job was to take in a dog or a cat, […] fill it in a cage [and] wait for the owner to come. And if the holding period was over, now it’s a surplus animal, and now it’s killed. When we started getting pushed to do more, it was really difficult, because most of these agencies are government agencies. So, there was a lot of will in the community to do lots of good work, but there was very rarely the political will to do good work.”

Dains described that, over decades, communities nationwide, but specifically in California, have pushed a “no kill” movement for animal shelters. Describing it as a “battle cry,” “no kill” was a way for communities to ask for help in adopting better policies, Dains said.

As years have passed, the need for a “battle cry” is over, she continued, adding that now is the time for work.

“So, for the City of Long Beach, what we think is the next step for us is Compassion Saves,” she said.

“Compassion Saves is a call to action, while ‘no kill’ is a battle cry.”

Meetings with the mayor and the City over the next several months will update ACS’s strategic plan to encourage the community to become more proactive in preventing an overabundance of animals in the area and to promote adoptions from the shelter.

These approaches, Dains said, will help prevent the overcrowding of animals at the shelter and the fear of euthanasia.

“We’re on a spectrum,” she said. “We have people that hate animals to the point where they put them in a bad situation, all the way down to the people who love the animals and put them in a bad situation. It’s really great that many of us have sort of a balanced approach. We’re the folks that speak to both ends of the spectrum so the animals can get really great welfare.”