Heddy, Rock, Ginger and Harpo were rescued by the Seal Beach Animal Care Center in 2020. Courtesy photo

For nearly 20 years, Long Beach Animal Care Services has managed animal control for neighboring Seal Beach—but that changed two months ago.

On July 1, Seal Beach reinstated the city’s municipal animal control as a service of the Seal Beach Police Department. The department itself now oversees enforcement and licensing, and Westminster Animal Group Services, called WAGS, manages sheltering and adoption. WAGS is a nonprofit shelter that holds municipal contracts with Westminster, Stanton and now Seal Beach. The facility is high-save, meaning that euthanasia may be performed in major medical cases but never for space or length of time in the shelter.

SBPD will handle issues such as strays and bites and will register pet licenses online, according to SBPD Capt. Nick Nicholas. This will be helpful in keeping track of local pets and their humans’ adherence to ordinances. Licensing fees, like most municipal shelter programs, will be a revenue stream for the program.

Seal Beach Capt. Nick Nicholas with Yosa, a police facility dog who goes on welfare checks and comforts crime victims. Courtesy photo

The department will incorporate education and outreach into compliance with animal regulations. If enforcement is critical, Nicholas said, animal control officers will issue warnings and citations.

The city’s animal control officers completed a two-week hands-on training program in animal law, handling and behavior; public safety, investigation and enforcement; and emergency response and ethical consideration about whether to take them to an emergency clinic or a shelter after evaluating the injury or illness.

Those officers also have access to two state-of-the-art trucks equipped with microchip readers, body cams, muzzles, gloves and everything they need to protect animals and humans. Between animal-control duties, they’ll write parking tickets. Yup, Mayberry by the sea.

Meanwhile, the change doesn’t appear as if it will have much of an effect on Long Beach. LBACS acting director Melanie Wagner said that Seal Beach averaged only one call per 12-hour shift.

And for anyone concerned about the fate of the Seal Beach Animal Care Center, fear not: SBACC’s president and board member, Cathy Winans, said there will be no organizational changes and certainly no lack of animals.

For strays in particular, “what changes for us is that instead of having to reserve a spot for them, we’re directed to call animal control officers,” she said. “The contract with the city now reads that all strays found in Seal Beach will go to WAGS.”

SBACC couldn’t contract as the city’s shelter because there’s no emergency vet on staff, and the shelter isn’t equipped to care for rabbits, pocket pets or reptiles.

Cherry the cat sits in one of WAGS’ cage-free adoption rooms. Courtesy photo

“Even though you don’t get a large number [of exotics], you still need great expertise,” Winans said. “WAGS is set up to take dogs and cats as well as exotics.”

WAGS also has an emergency veterinarian on staff. Although the shelter is open 24 hours a day, the emergency vet isn’t always available. Nicholas said that Seal Beach has identified an emergency hospital in Irvine that is open to entering a professional agreement with the city.

As for WAGS, the team is looking forward to serving its newest city.

“We would love to grow our volunteer program,” WAGS executive director Cortney Dorney said. “Maybe the citizens of Seal Beach would like to take a look at their new shelter and help out!”

For any questions about Seal Beach Animal Control and availability of services, contact the Seal Beach Police Department at (562) 594-7232.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Cathy Winans’ last name, to correct the relationship between Westminster Animal Group Services and the Seal Beach Animal Care Center and to clarify why Seal Beach Animal Care Center couldn’t contract as the city’s shelter.