A new vision plan for Long Beach Animal Care Services outlines how the city’s animal shelter will grow over the next few years by improving conditions for both its animals, employees, volunteers and partners that help to safely re-home animals surrendered in the city.

The City Council adopted the plan Tuesday night, almost two years after ACS officials unveiled the “Compassion Saves” model that ensures that healthy and treatable animals are saved.

The vision plan focuses on how to build on the Compassion Saves model to increase the shelter’s already improving save rates for animals. Despite the council approving it Tuesday, city officials stressed that the policies covered in the plan can be changed in the future.

The plan has aspirational goals like decreasing the length of stay for all animals and creating humane education programs for children and adults, a move that officials think could help reduce the number of animals that are surrendered.

Animal Care Services Manager Staycee Dains said providing contemporary services like pet surrender intervention, connecting pet owners to resources like pet-friendly housing and low cost medical care that could prevent pets being abandoned.

The plan also has more concrete goals like better enforcement of the agreement between the city and spcaLA, a nonprofit that shares space with the city shelter.

The conditions of the lease with spcaLA has been the subject of public scrutiny over the past few years. Several members of the public asked again for an audit of the nonprofit.

Councilwoman Stacy Mungo Flanigan said that the lease with spcaLA does not require it to submit to audits and that decision was made as part of a lease that expires in 2053.

“For that you should be angry at councils of the past that allowed that to happen,” Mungo Flanigan said.

But fully implementing the Compassion Saves model and the vision plan will also require more funding, Dains said.

Dains said there are several key positions needed and that a fundraising strategies and securing grants could help to bolster the department’s budget.

The city’s animal care services has an annual budget of about $5 million with another $500,000 coming in the form of donations and grants. Launching new programs to both educate the public and shelter staff how to better care for animals will likely require more investments, Dains said.

The city shelter, like others across the country, saw a spike in adoptions and fostering at the start of stay-at-home-orders last spring. This likely helped with the shelter’s significant drop in admissions last year—it received roughly 1,700 fewer cats and dogs compared to 2019—but so could have a change in consumer behavior.

“No longer are people looking for the most perfect of pets in shelters and rescues,” Dains said. “People actively want to help those animals that are less fortunate and who may need lifelong management. This work would not be possible without LBACS willingness to first save these animals, and without our rescue groups abilities to support them.”

Dains said that the shelter dropped its euthanasia total down to 321 last year, less than one-third (966) of the animals the shelter killed in 2019. In 2010, the shelter reported 5,700 euthanizations. The live release rates for cats and dogs was 98% last year, according to Dains.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.