Community outreach coordinator is among this year’s gifts to the animals at Long Beach Animal Care Services

“Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” might be an apt adage for an animal-shelter innovation if some of the best mousetraps in the world weren’t already shelter residents (my apologies to micies and ratties and everyone who loves them). Anyhow, one of the new shelter hires has indeed encouraged a good number of visitors through Long Beach Animal Care Services’ doors, stay there for a few hours, have a good time, and possibly decide to adopt or foster a cat, a dog, a bunny or whoever else is there at the time. Some of them even sign up to volunteer themselves and be part of the continuing work to make our shelter a better place for pets.

LBACS’ numbers are at critical level. As long as people continue to bring their cats, dogs, rabbits and everything else into shelters because they cannot or will not care for them, as long as they illegally breed dogs for money, as long as unwanted pets are left on the streets, in parks or in cat colonies, space and ability to care for them will be at a disadvantage. LBACS makes every effort to not subject animals to euthanasia for space. It’s a sound moral decision, but it also presents challenges.

To confront the issue of not further failing animals who have already been failed by humans, LBACS hired a foster coordinator (the shelter now has a foster program!), an adoption coordinator, a dog behaviorist and a community-outreach coordinator. Megan Ignacio, who filled the community-outreach position in March, has been a game changer. Her gift is her grab bag of innovative ideas that showcase in living color what the shelter does and entice people to come in and see the facility for themselves instead of making judgments from hearsay.

Three women, one holding a dog, stand in front of the shelter's adoption wagon, whose windows are filled with stuffed animals.

Megan Ignacio made sure that the shelter’s entry in the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade brought no pets that would be annoyed by the noise and activity. From left: shelter operations supervisor Christine Kucenas, shelter ubervolunteer Kimberly Mangan and her doggie, Etta (who wasn’t bothered at all), and Megan. Photo by Kate Karp.

 

The inaugural biscuit bash came in the form of the Howl-0-Ween Celebration, which was a great success. Nearly everyone, including the shelter director, came in costumes; the grounds and kennel areas were elaborately decorated by staff, volunteers and a troop of Girl Scouts; treats were distributed to cats, dogs and bunnies; raffles and interactive contests and dances entertained everyone; and, as Megan had hoped, guests did sign up to volunteer, foster animals, or adopt them.

“The event produced a tubful of dog treats, new volunteers, and some animals even got adopted,” Megan said. “The celebrations also created a fun opportunity for the volunteers to mingle and meet for the first time.”

one man and three women hold a little white dog, who's standing up, in a display of hay and pumpkins

Little Ben got a home in his trick-or-treat bag at the Howl-O-Ween event. Courtesy photo

LBACS has hosted adoption and pet-health events and donation drives both inside and outside the shelter for years, but there has been nothing on the scale of Howl-O-Ween. The idea for out-of-the-crate shelter events was a combination of a suggestion by a volunteer and Megan’s high-octane imagination.

“One of the lead volunteers approached me about doing a reverse trick-or-treat for the dogs in October, and it got my brain brimming with ideas,” Megan said. “I then quickly conceptualized throwing events at LBACS as a fun, creative opportunity for the community to engage with our pets, donate and raise awareness that our shelter is at urgent capacity.

Megan said that involving the community in the event was paramount to its success.

“We get a lot of requests from several community-based organizations to partner with us, but due to staffing, there was no position to facilitate those requests until I joined the [LBACS] bureau in March,” Megan said. “I got the idea to bridge the gap by having the Girl Scouts and local high school student clubs decorate the kennels. Instead of just making toys for the animals, I wanted to utilize their hard work and donations during the event. The cats and dogs find the decorations visually stimulating.”

The Girl Scouts and other community organizations will deck the walls for bowsers and moggies in preparation for Happy Howlidays at LBACS on Saturday, Dec. 17, part of a series of holiday-related events that LBACS is putting on (see Great furballs of fun! for details).

Megan’s immediate vision is to create and bring forth more grand-scale events as well as humane-education and animal-enrichment programs. The hope is to continually encourage more volunteers, fosters and adoptions and to improve humans’ knowledge of how to best care for pets and keep them in their homes. Understanding of LBACS’s model and the circumstances of the animals living there should also help to limit overcrowding.

“There are over 200 pets in the shelter and over 90 animals in the foster program,” Megan said. “Our city’s commitment to Compassion Saves means that animals in our care can live and thrive. By visiting LBACS during these events, we hope the community will support Compassion Saves by fostering, adopting, volunteering, and donating.”

List of gifts for pets for a Happy Howlidays event

Here are a few suggestions for gifts to bring to the Happy Howlidays at LBACS event! If you can’t come along, you can drop any of these off or have them shipped over.

Virtually pets

Every holiday season, people hit the internet and pay ridiculous sums for pets after the kids pester them for one and then get tired of it after a while or don’t take care of it. Worse yet, someone decides to surprise someone else with an irresistible puppy or kitten and find that the recipient can resist it just fine. Either way, the animal winds up in a shelter, on the streets or just neglected at home.

Pets aren’t presents. You’re supposed to be the present to a homeless animal. Furthermore, buying a “purebred” from any source other than registered AKC breeders that is likely not purely bred at all from an ad on social media or taped to a street sign not only encourages cruelty and overbreeding but also deprives an already failed shelter or rescue pet of a home.

There is a middle ground, though. Present the handy coupon below to a friend or a family member who’s planning on getting a pet. Then, scan the adoption pages of shelters and rescues—there’s a whole list of them at the end of the column. Schedule an in-person meet-and-greet between you and your friend and the pet (since the pandemic, that’s how it works). If all’s well, your friend fills out the paperwork and takes home a new friend. You can offer to buy toys, leashes, litter boxes and treats—up to you. A little more involved than simply plunking down hundreds or thousands of dollars for an animal that’s bred for greed—and this doesn’t count AKC-registered breeders—but you’re not buying something trendy. You’re helping someone make a new friend.

Coupon for a pet adoption, with silhouettes of a dog, a cat and a rabbit, offering to pay adoption fee

Art by Michelle Manion

 

Here are a few LBACS residents, dressed in their holiday best (the dogs, anyway) thanks to Megan and the volunteers. They probably have you on top of their holiday wish list. To adopt any of them, email [email protected] or apply to foster here

little tan dog in Santa hat and jacket pants into camera. HE sits on a pink patterned blankie.

Ren (ID#A685223) is an adorable little senior boy, 10 years old. He was found tied up across the street from the Long Beach Medical Center. Initially, it was reported by medical staff that his owner had to be admitted to the emergency room and intending to redeem Ren once released from the hospital, but as days turned into weeks, that didn’t happen. Ren is partially blind and gets nervous if you attempt to touch him, but if you go slow with him, you can pick him up and will likely allow routine handling when out of the stressful shelter environment. Ren has a few issues going on that will prevent him from leaving unless rescued. He’s missing most of his teeth and has severe tartar on the few teeth still in his mouth. He also has an abnormal heartbeat. But he’s a quiet guy who doesn’t mean anyone harm and is just really confused what he’s doing at a shelter in his senior years and what happened to his owner. You can be sure that someone who can handle his issues is all Ren wants for Christmas.

 

tan pit bull in a red harness and Santa hat stands against a winter backdrop, on white floor.

Hemsworth (ID#A662968) has already spent one Christmas at LBACS, and that’s one too many. Hemsworth is the shelter’s longest-residing dog—he’s been there since August 2021. Why he hasn’t gone home yet is anyone’s guess. He’s medium energy, active and playful yet settles down and rests nicely. He was shy at first and afraid of the leash, but the dedicated volunteers have brought him out of his shell. During a foster furlong, the fosters said that he was friendly and affectionate toward most people he met, although occasionally nervous. Can you make sure that Hemsworth will be home before the holidays?

 

tuxedo cat with white paws and chest sniffs at a green pipe cleaner and sits on a pink blanket.

Miranda (ID#A673873) at the Long Beach Animal Care Center! Miranda was abandoned at the shelter. She’s on a feline digestive diet and may have other health issues that caused her owners to abandon her. At 6 years old, she’s small, super-sweet and lovable. She adores attention and petting! She may not, however, be amenable to being dressed up like a reindeer.

 

orange cat, no ears showing, stares sideways away from camera

I’ll say it again—orange cats are special! And this one could use a break. Cairo’s owners surrendered him because he had a urinary blockage and they could not afford the surgery for a more permanent solution. But the shelter vets did the surgery, so he’s good to go—what a holiday gift! At only 2 years old, he’ll be able to spend lots more holidays in a forever home!

 

A helping paw

Pet License Amnesty extended to Dec. 31

The city of Long Beach has extended the fee and penalty waivers for pet licenses to Dec. 31. Anyone living in the highlighted Community Development Block grant neighborhoods, as shown on the above map, may request a waiver by phone at 562-570-7387, by applying by mail at 7700 E. Spring St., or in person at the shelter. The waiver program is not available online. Visit this link for license requirements. Call 562-570-7387 for additional information.

Great furballs of fun!

Long Beach Animal Care Services’ Inaugural Happy Howlidays Series

 A size 16 stocking full of holiday events is waiting to be opened by you! Pull out your new best friend who’ll share memories beyond holidays, discover ways to keep all your buddies healthy, and join the party at the shelter at Long Beach Animal Care Services for a wrap-up! What a gift! All events have the support of the city of Long Beach and the Parks, Recreation and Marine Department.

Helen Sanders CatPAWS Calendar on sale: $15 at this link

Start 2023 off with heart with this calendar that features 13 months—you’ll start 2024 off right, too—of rescued cats whose humans want nothing more than for them to live the full, cherished lives they deserve. Each cat in the calendar donated funds to CatPAWS to further the rescue’s efforts to give the cats and kittens they pull from the shelter the care they need: bottle feeding, spay/neuter vaccines, lifesaving medical efforts and loving hospice care. Now, each calendar sold will go toward all these good things for cats. As you begin your holiday shopping, please consider adding a CatPAWS 2023 calendars to your gift list, and get one for your own stocking! Purchase by December 13 to ensure we can get them to you by year’s end!

Foster for a while—or furever!

The more than 200 LBACS dogs, cats and bunnies need your help. The city of Long Beach’s commitment to Compassion Saves means that animals in our care can live and thrive. We need our community to show its support of Compassion Saves by fostering, adopting, volunteering, and donating. The graphic shows a map of the shelter’s dog cottages. The darker the blue, the more dogs in the kennel. LBACS has reached urgent capacity with the influx of incoming animals to the shelter during the holidays. There is no more kennel space to take in more dogs at the shelter. To maintain the LBACS Compassion Saves model of helping those in greatest need—the sick, injured and abused—your help is needed to keep the healthy and lost pets out of the shelter. If you are interested in adopting, please email [email protected] or apply to foster here.

Long Beach Animal Care Services has expanded adoption hours as follows: Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests are welcome to browse until closing. To speed up any adoption process, email [email protected]. To foster, email [email protected].

 

If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!

These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list. Keep in mind that the rescues are self-supporting and need donations and volunteer help. Most of them cannot accept found or unwanted pets. Contact Long Beach Animal Care Services for options.

 

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”
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