All photos courtesy of Friends of Long Beach Animals
The California Spay/Neuter License Plate was made available in 2013. Approximately $40 from each purchased plate will go towards spay & neuter programs throughout the state.
[Disclosure: The author volunteers with Fix Long Beach, Friends of Long Beach Animals and Long Beach Animal Care Services, and has three spayed rescue cats who, at this writing, are curled up on the clean laundry.]
The pet-friendly-city banner will again be waved at tonight’s City Council meeting. A representative from Friends of Long Beach Animals, Long Beach’s most venerable animal-welfare organization, will speak before the Council around 4:30PM to request the adoption of a resolution that will proclaim the last Tuesday in February as World Spay Day. Then, on Sunday, February 26 at 7:00AM, FOLBA will team up with District 7 and ACS for its World Spay Day project: a mobile spay/neuter clinic for the pets of District 7 residents.
World Spay Day is observed by animal organizations and pet lovers on the last Tuesday in February. The occasion started out in 1995 as Spay Day USA, a project created by the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL) to spotlight the number of cats and dogs that are put to sleep in shelters and the need for affordable spay/neuter procedures to notably mitigate euthanasia procedures and assure that pets are taken care of. In conjunction with the United States Humane Society (HSUS), the organization’s efforts became global, and the designated day was renamed World Spay Day. HSUS estimates that over a million animals have been spayed and neutered because of the efforts for this day.
On October 1, 2015, a mandatory Spay/Neuter Ordinance was added to the Long Beach Municipal Code with a Council vote of 7–1. The ordinance was part of a dual pet-welfare law that included the Pet Shop Ordinance, which makes the commercial sale of any dog, cat or rabbit illegal. Since October 1, animals in pet shops must come from a rescue or a shelter and be offered for adoption, not sale (Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell has crafted a bill to prevent profiting from pet sales across the state; see Assemblymember O’Donnell Introduces Legislation to Curtail Puppy and Kitten Mills).
The ordinance was developed to mitigate the number of unwanted animals and their litters brought in to the shelter and left to fend for themselves or die in the streets. During the public discussion section of the ordinance, a concern was brought up regarding the financial burden that spay/neuter procedures would put on people who couldn’t afford them. The council members who had presented the ordinance—Suja Lowenthal, Suzie Price and Stacy Mungo—had indeed made the bill conditional on the availability of free or low-cost procedures. In Long Beach, this wasn’t much of a problem—even before the ordinance’s acceptance, there were free mobile clinics offered by Fix Long Beach and vouchers for free procedures provided by FOLBA and discounted vouchers from ACS at participating veterinary hospitals.
ACS reports have shown results going continually in the right direction. Still, not every animal in Long Beach has been fixed. FOLBA board member Donna Cottrell believes that there’s more than one way to spay a cat—or to get a cat or any pet fixed—and she and her organization have planned a spay-day project along with Council District 7 and ACS. The idea came out of a frustration with the way FOLBA’s also venerable SNIP free vouchers were being used—or not being used.
FOLBA regularly has had its SNIP table with information about spay/neuter and free fixes for residents of the city.
“We’d give them out, and people would hoard them—once, for five years,” she said. “So, we’re not doing vouchers for a while. We decided to look into other ways to do it. We wanted to do clinics at the shelter [in the new medical facility], but it’s not in a good location for a lot of people, particularly if they don’t have transportation. People who are underserved—it’s a long way to come.”
In the late 1980s, when Cottrell was getting her master’s degree in anthropology at CSULB, she worked on an AIDS research project funded by the Center for Disease Control. The project used a mobile clinic to reach the subjects because, as Cottrell said, they weren’t going to come to the university so the university came to them. She thus felt that a lot of the people with pets that need fixing might be able to take small animals in carriers on public transportation, but large dogs are prohibited. Furthermore, Cottrell said, some residents are wary of going to a shelter or any government agency.
“Some people don’t even know about the shelter and where it is, and that isn’t comfortable, either,” Cottrell said. “If you want to make a relationship with people, you need to change their beliefs. And I’ve always liked Fix Long Beach’s model of using a mobile clinic and going into parks and neighborhoods.”
While researching spay/neuter ideas online, Cottrell came across an HSUS link to World Spay Day.
“This year, it happens to be February 28, and the whole month of February is Spay/Neuter Month,” she said. “So I thought, wow, we should try to do something in honor of the day.” One idea was to get Long Beach’s government involved.
“We have a mayor who loves animals!” she said. Mayor Robert Garcia is rumored to have a catcam trained on his shelter rescue, Tommy, so he can keep an eye on him.
After considering target areas, Cottrell decided to focus on Long Beach’s West Side.
“This is an island,” she said. “They have no veterinarians. They have no pet-supply stores. They’re underserved. I thought it was a great place to do a clinic.”
Cottrell contacted Councilmember Roberto Uranga’s office and requested a meeting, and they quickly responded. A dog clinic available to District 7 residents only will take place on February 26 starting at 7AM. Besides the spay/neuter procedures, the clinic will offer full vaccinations, free microchips, nail trimming and teaching from humane educator Deborah Turner. Humane education both fulfills another condition of both the spay/neuter ordinance and offers a vital aspect of pet ownership: public education about animal care, with a focus on spay/neuter.
“They’re being wonderful,” Cottrell said of the 7th District staff. “They’re sending out publicity—they’re even scheduling appointments and screening for residency! They’re also helping with incentives for the humane education classes. They are appreciative and awesome to work with.”
The District 7 staff is also sending postcards to over 1,000 District residents who have unaltered dog licenses.. ACS manager Ted Stevens said that some of that number may have moved, and the pets of others may have died; nonetheless, even at second glance, it’s a formidable number.
“We have our work cut out for us!” Cottrell said.
To support the proclamation, attend the City Hall Council meeting at 4:30PM. City Hall is located at 333 Ocean Boulevard. Parking is free in the structure for city council meetings.
“For every dollar spent on spaying and neutering now, $17 is saved and can be used for other community projects. We work with the animals and the people who love them.”
~ Doris Day
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