Last weekend, Long Beach Animal Care Services shelter saw 14 big dogs going home—17 dogs of all sizes leaving in total. The Los Angeles Angels lived up to their name by offering four tickets per big-dog adoption to one of their games.
Even with adoptions continuing through the week, including a couple of lucky dogs scheduled for euthanasia, it’s still not enough home runs to win the shelter-overcrowding game and save animals from leaving the shelter in the worst possible way. And kitten season has started, so the usual seasonal flood of cats is coming.
Adopting pets from shelters and rescues does mitigate overcrowding, but it’s only one aspect of a complicated problem.
Shelters, plural. Overcrowding is not limited to LBACS, and LBACS isn’t the only shelter resorting to euthanasia, which it hasn’t performed in years on a healthy animal with no dangerous behavior issues. Best Friends Animal Society reported shelter data estimates of nearly 60,000 more dogs and 40,000 more cats this year compared to last year are now available for adoption. Are there enough homes and fosters available?
The surges from coronavirus variants resulted in shelter-staffing and volunteer shortages, and in-person adoption events were a rarity. When restrictions lifted and things started opening, people weren’t dashing to shelters and rescues with return slips for their “pandemic pets” as was reported. Instead, animal control was trying to catch up with itself, and people were rushing in with animals they found on the street as soon as shelters opened to the public.
Spirits among shelter volunteers and staff have taken a big dip.
“When one goes out, two more come in,” an LBACS shelter volunteer recently said.
The pandemic also wreaked havoc on humans—death, job loss and having to move or becoming unhoused are among the reasons that people surrender to the shelter. Rescues are suffering, too—most of them are funded by grants, and donations and are foster based. You can only take in so many pets.
And then, there’s the same-as-it-ever-was: pet abandonment and abuse; support for trap/neuter-spay return volunteers; backyard breeding, which also keeps the mama dogs cooped up, overbred and sick; animals from overbred mothers sold online; and people who can’t afford to spay or neuter their pet, or simply won’t. There isn’t enough low-cost or free spay/neuter assistance available.
“We’re seeing so many animals that are 2 years old and under at the shelter,” said Diana Kliche, co-owner of the low-cost Fix Long Beach clinic. “I would think that if the mandatory spay-and-neuter law that so many citizens rallied to get passed many years ago was enforced, we would not be seeing so many unwanted pets in our local shelter.”
Some folks just won’t fix their pets for a number of reasons that make sense to them only, and neighbors and friends may not report them out of unawareness of the law or fear. The entire community, not just the loud, proud, active community, needs to have the furry backs of pets. If greed-breeding continues, if people continue to spend thousands of dollars online for dogs that at best aren’t purebreds and at worst could be sick or have birth defects, if they refuse free or low-cost spay/neuter, shelters will still continue to overflow, and pets may be euthanized despite all efforts.
“We are critically in need of community education,” LBACS volunteer Susan Peszat said. “It’s the only thing that will increase spay/neuter, increase knowledge of responsible pet ownership, lower backyard breeding, promote available resources to help keep pets in homes, promote positive image of shelter adoption, all while helping to drive down the number of pets being surrendered or abandoned as strays.”
Peszat suggested introducing humane education into school curriculum and encouraging students to pass what they learn on to their families. Pulling data analytics to find the ZIP codes where the most strays are found and the most surrenders come from would give a good basis for where to offer community events, and alliances could also be made with houses of worship, restaurants, small businesses and veterinary clinics that could tie in events with microchipping, vaccinating, spay/neuter vouchers, leashes and cardboard cat carriers, and other benefits, she added.
“Ideally, we’d take mobile spay/neuter vans into those areas and sponsor events like Love Your Pitty for a campaign to offer free spay/neuter for pit bulls in those high-risk areas,” Peszat said. “Many shelters have done Chihuahua-focused spay/neuter events, large dogs, whatever our data tells us. I could go on forever on things we should be doing to fulfill the strategic plan goals.”
Obstacles seem impossible to surmount, but as any overworked, emotionally exhausted animal advocate might think: Winners never quit and quitters never win. As they say in baseball.
With shelter over capacity, animal care officials consider euthanasia for some dogs
Adoption isn’t the complete answer to shelter overpopulation and the kittens that bloom in the spring and almost all year, but it sure helps. It also helps the sweet pets left in the shelter. Please continue to look at our most needy first. They’ll be grateful, and within a couple of minutes after making it home, so will you.
Long Beach Animal Care Services is located at 7700 E. Spring St., at the entrance to El Dorado Park, and there’s no parking fee for shelter visitors. To save the lives of these pets or any of them under the loving care of the shelter volunteers and staff, email [email protected] or [email protected] or call (562) 570-4925. Even better, stop by during walk-in hours every Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Addison (ID#A692584) is now past due on his shelter stay, and this could very well be the last video taken of her. She arrived as a stray in January and was quickly adopted after her stray hold. Unfortunately, she was returned two weeks later weeks after adoption because she didn’t get along with two small dogs in the home, and the adopter got a puncture on her right index finger when they went to grab Addison’s collar and their fingers slipped into her mouth. Since Addison was adopted quickly after her original stray hold, she did not have a formal dog temperament test and has shown dog reactivity since returning to the shelter, which she originally did not display prior to adoption. She needs to go home as an only dog with someone who knows how to restrain her. She’s only 2 years old and deserves a long life.
Great furballs of fun!
Kitten Baby Shower: Sunday, April 2, 11 a.m.–1 p.m., Tap24 Bar & Grill, 4750 E. Los Coyotes Diagonal, Long Beach, menu prices apply.
April showers bring more than May flowers. They bring kittens by the hundreds, and honestly, it’s not the rain that causes kitten season. In the time it takes to explain the birds and the bees about kitten overproduction, tons of litters will be birthed, with more to come. The Little Lion Foundation, known for the Little Paws Kitten Nursery, is holding a shower to help provide a lot of these little cats with medical care and food so that they’ll grow up to be healthy cats, ready to go home with you. Enjoy brunch at Tap24, play some games, join in the raffles and knock a few things off tables. Tap24 will donate 15% of the tab to the nursery if you flash the flyer in this blurb. View the wish list here.
A helping paw
Dog Obedience Classes: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays until further notice, noon–1 p.m., Lincoln Park Dog Park, Downtown Long Beach at 101 Pacific Ave., Long Beach, sessions are free
Is Sadie acting shady? Does Belle like to yell? If your dog needs to know good behavior, it’s time to bring them to school. Instructor Charlie DiBono of Body and Mind K9 makes no bones about good dog behavior being more than sitting up and looking cute. The classes are free to attend and are available on a first-come, first served basis. Space is limited, so roll over and get out the door.
Foster for a while—or furever!
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.
German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County
Long Beach Animal Care Services
Long Beach Spay and Neuter Foundation
Pet Food Express Cat Adoption Center
Sparky and the Gang Animal Rescue
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Susan Peszat’s last name.