Number of pets per household will increase as city opens negotiations with spcaLA

The number of pets Long Beach households can have as well as how they adopt them in the city could be facing changes in the near future as the City Council voted Tuesday to begin crafting new laws and begin negotiations with its pet adoption partner.

Tuesday night’s vote directed the city attorney’s office to write an ordinance that would increase the number of licensed animals at a single home from four to six and also add tweaks to how many animals from outside the city can be adopted in Long Beach.

The change would be to regulate non-profits that bring in animals from outside the city to be adopted in Long Beach. This move is intended to help more Long Beach animals get adopted.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the vote also asked city staff to begin negotiations with the spcaLA, the long-term lease holder that splits a facility with the city’s animal care services department, to craft an operating agreement.

The spcaLA has partnered with the city since 1998 and its current lease expires in 2053. While the city’s side of the shelter has reported dips in euthanasia rates and admissions over the past decade activists have accused the organization of being a poor partner for the city.

Under the lease agreement the city and the spcaLA share a facility with certain parts of it being designated as shared space. However where that shared space is, what can happen inside of it and the city’s animal care services employees having keys to access it are all questions that are currently trying to be addressed.

Acting City Manager Tom Modica said that the lease agreement states that both sides have to agree on the type of signage that is posted in the shared spaces but that doesn’t prohibit the city from installing signs outside of and leading up to the facility to notify visitors which side the city’s operations are on.

“It’s not a well-written lease, that’s part of the reason we’re bringing up an operating agreement because we want to be able to clarify this,” Modica said. “I think when this lease was written 15 years ago, they didn’t really contemplate the situation we have today.”

Long Beach Parks, Recreation & Marine Director Gerardo Mouet, who helps oversee animal care services, said that they have begun to meet with representatives from spcaLA to figure out the issues between the two sides.

Among the items hoping to be resolved are providing with keys to shared portions of the facility, laying the ground rules for what the common areas entail and how best to use the common areas.

Councilwoman Stacy Mungo, who represents the district that the shelter is located in, also requested that if an operating agreement is able to be reached between the two sides that the time allotment be put in writing in that agreement.

“Sharing doesn’t mean that you keep all the toys all the time,” Mungo said, comparing the common areas to her daughter’s toys while requesting that the Long Beach staff have access to 50% of the shared space.

Councilwoman Suzie Price also took a strong approach to the city’s relationship with spcaLA asking that any current violations of the lease that rise to the level of citations, or even voiding the lease, that the city consider its options.

Price requested that an anonymous process be developed for employees and representatives from both the city and spcaLA be created so clarity can be reached on what alleged violations are actually happening at the shelter site.

A report back on the negotiations between the two sides is expected to be brought back before the council within the next 60 days while the ordinance amending the number of animals a household can have could be brought back as soon as the the end of February.

If the two sides cannot come to terms on an operating agreement the lease that’s already in place would serve as the governing document for spcaLA’s tenancy with the city that’s set to last for the next 30-plus years.

City Attorney Charles Parkin said that he doubted any of the alleged violations rose to the level of voiding the lease and under the terms of the lease spcaLA would have 30 days to resolve any issues that were raised.

However, Parkin said that the point of the negotiations was to hopefully reach an amicable solution between the two sides over how to share the shelter space.

“If there is an ongoing issue that staff thinks they can’t work out with our tenants, we can certainly work with them to write out a notice, but before we get to that we want to have negotiations to see if we can work it out with something short of the legal system,” Parkin said.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.