For the voiceless we can make strides, together

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by 2nd District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.

“You have not lived today, until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – John Bunyan.  

The powerless need us to focus not on words, but on acts of compassion. It’s only when we focus with a vision of equality for every life that we can unquestionably impact the lives of those who will never have the means to repay us. For today, these are the precious lives of the hundreds of animals that come into our Long Beach Animal Care Services that we must protect.

It’s no secret my childhood—like many others—was not easy. While my mother struggled to find compassion and love in humans, what some might not know is she found love in her calling within the greater animal kingdom. From the time she was a child, my mother rescued any creature she could save including snakes, ducks, birds and of course, cats and dogs. Watching her care for animals framed my values and has led to my years of community work. The lessons learned while caring for those who have no voice is absolutely priceless.

The time spent rescuing and caring for animals gave way to me fighting for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants and so many others. It is what has brought me down the path that I am currently on. So it is with true empathy and appreciation that I say thank you to all who have worked hard to save our Long Beach animals.

On the Long Beach City Council agenda for Tuesday, May 7, I have drafted an item, alongside councilwomen Lena Gonzalez, Suzie Price and Stacy Mungo (1st, 3rd and 5th Districts, respectively) that directs staff on what a “Compassion Saves” policy could include. This will be the first time outside of a budget discussion that this council has given direction to change the model for our animal shelter.

This step is not meant to circumvent the hard work of our Animal Care Visioning Task Force, but rather to stand in solidarity and reassure that their efforts will not fall on deaf ears. Indeed, we hear the varied concerns, ideas and priorities of all those involved. As a city council we stand with you in your efforts to safeguard that our shelter is a model for the region and the state. As an advocate for the voiceless, I also understand the challenges of building trust and working toward progress. I simply want to say, we hear you, and you are not alone in the journey to save lives.

I know the hundreds who care for our animals all have different priorities. Like any change worth making, this too is difficult and will take time. With a little bit of faith and goodwill we will build a model that saves lives.

First and foremost, it’s critical to follow recommendations from the audit. We must clarify and honor the financial and resource relationship between Animal Care Services and spcaLA. This should include signage so the public knows which services each entity offers.

Additionally, we must accept every animal that comes through our doors for shelter and care. This could mean removing barriers to entry such as the high cost for relinquishing pets. Long Beach needs its own adoption program that includes staffing and volunteers who work closely with all community partners. Such coordination with our local non-profits and advocates will help as we strive to end the pet homelessness crisis by spending resources to provide a robust low-cost spay-and-neuter program.

I believe what we need is to create a pathway to saving lives. We are at a historic moment in Long Beach. My hope is this action gives the consultant team and the task force support while they create an attainable strategic plan, focused on saving every life possible.

I expect this to utilize all methods of placement including rescue, foster programs and post-adoption support. We can do this, but only if we work togetherwhich is what this column is about.

I have never worked with a more passionate group of people. While I know not everyone has always agreed, I also recognize that we all have one goal in mind: to protect all of our animals. After Tuesday, I trust that the staff and the task force will be in full motion putting together the details for a plan that will set not only strategic and measurable goals, but also goals that are realistic and timely.

I look forward to working alongside you all, as we see the hard work and dedication come together during the next several months. A sincere appreciation for the staff, the mayor, and the councilwomen who have been thoughtful about how to make lasting policy change. Join us as we do this, not for repayment, but because it is the right thing to do for our community, which includes our furry friends.

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