Shelter director seeks hires for shelter foster-coordination team

Long Beach Animal Care Services’ manager Staycee Dains has on and off been sharing her workspace with pointy-eared, bewhiskered officemates. Unlike the usual kitten helpers, they don’t block the monitor or knock the stapler to the floor. They’re confined to portable kennels—the shelter is bursting with cats, and Dains is doing everything she can to create the best possible outcome for every one of them.

Dains detailed the shelter’s feline flood in a good-humored video the shelter released on July 17.

Staycee's Office Cats

Update: you’re Compassion Saves Lives! Over 60 kittens in foster so far! We still have more kittens that need help. Thanks to everyone who helped us last week with cats; foster homes, Stray Cat Alliance, spcaLA, Friends of Long Beach Animals, Pet Food Express, and more. Will YOU answer the call this week?HELP😹…We received over 30 stray cats today and our shelter is well over capacity 😿. We are in critical need of fosters and adopters. Anything you can do to help will be appreciated. #LBadoptapet #LBkittyoftheday #LBanimalcare #rescuecat #adoptdontshop

Posted by City of Long Beach Animal Care Services on Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The number of cats in a shelter is usually larger than that of dogs thanks to the number of unaltered, free-roaming felines and their nature to breed several times a year, beginning at 4 to 6 months old. At this writing, over 250 cats are under the protection of the shelter, as compared with about 80 dogs. Several of both species are at shelter-sponsored rescues or in a few foster homes. Thanks to a recent effort by shelter staff to handle the kitten tsunami, Long Beach’s residents opened their homes to 60 cats. A few of them didn’t make it home—Woodward and Bernstein have forever weaseled their cute ways into the hearts of two Long Beach Post staff members. That, of course, is the underlying, sneaky aim.

Fostering, Dains says, is what ultimately will combat euthanasia for space and will do the most to save lives.

“Those are 60 cats that would be dead if we didn’t have them in foster care—dead for no good reason,” Dains said. “They’re too young, they’re too old, they have a cold—some absolutely fixable issues. Fostering is the only way that you can not kill animals in shelters—there’s no way that we could take care of all the animals in the shelter right now.”

The shelter is also struggling with an overcrowded ringworm isolation ward. Ringworm is contagious and can spread to the general population, so they’re kept in one space. A lot of the shelter staff’s energies are devoted to curing the condition, which takes five or six weeks to treat.

“It isn’t a big deal,” Dains said. “It’s athlete’s foot, actually, on the kitties’ skin. It’s not a big deal—it just has an ugly name. It’s not a worm—it’s a rash, a fungus. Most shelters put ringworm cats down—we don’t. Cats should die because of dermatitis? That’s dumb—we’re not going to do that.”

Dains’ hands-on character has become a thing at Long Beach Animal Care Services. She has taken home bottle feeders, and recently, when yet another kitten broke with ringworm, it went home with her, too. As is the norm in the Long Beach animal community, at least one other has followed suit.

“Rescues usually can’t take them [into their general population], although a member of one rescue just took one in, saying, ‘Gimme the damn cat so you won’t have to put him down,’” Dains said. “And even then, she had to keep it in her garage.”

Before Dains arrived, Long Beach Animal Care Services did not have a formal foster program, with the exception of the previous two years of Foster the Fourth. Now, with the support of an anonymous donor, Dains is in the process of creating a foster coordination team that will help save the most feline lives possible, both adult and kitten, through fostering. The foster-coordination team will be a contract position under the City of Long Beach and will address part of Dains’ Compassion Saves sheltering model, one of whose principals are well-thought-out fostering programs.

Big-faced brown tabby with sour expression looks at camera.

The foster coordination team will also serve adult cats with medical issues. Special fosters will be needed for adult cats with medical issues. Biggie Smalls is one such cat—a fat-faced fellow with FIV and an abscess with attention. I met him the other day—he wouldn’t stop rubbing against the kennel glass, so I momentarily succumbed. Oh, for a house with infinite space.

“The team exists specifically for kittens this year, but we’re going to request, at some point, a foster-coordinator position that has volunteers to help coordinate the program. That didn’t make it into our budget this year, so we’re going to keep swinging at it.”

Dains said that the team will comprise three individuals who will share a 24/7 work schedule. Qualifications include experience in foster coordinating, working in a shelter, or responsibility in a rescue organization beyond simply caring for kittens. Duties will include evaluation, foster-home recruiting, knowing the basics of kitten health and which of the little residents need medical care. Members will also administer some of the routine care themselves, for instance, deworming and vaccines.

If you’re interested in bidding for a position on the foster-coordination team and possess the qualifications and passion, contact Dains at [email protected]. The City of Long Beach will provide contract information.

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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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