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Charlotte Laws
Member of the 
Greater Valley Glen Council

21781 Ventura Blvd., Suite 633
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Tel.  818.346.5280
Fax.  818.985.1690

drlaws@adelphia.net

Photo of Charlotte Laws in March 2005

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS FOR A NO-KILL LOS ANGELES

By: Charlotte Laws


In order to accomplish the no-kill goal, the L.A. Department of Animal Services (LAAS) must build strong relationships with rescue groups, businesses, veterinarians and community members. No-kill collaborations have been highly successful in other parts of the country; they have reduced taxpayer costs and ended the killing of healthy and/or treatable shelter animals. Following are ideas for strengthening and/or forging community alliances and making Los Angeles a leader in animal welfare.

PHILOSOPHY

In order to increase adoptions and obtain greater assistance from the public, the philosophy of Animal Services must be such that compassion is rewarded. The public must view LAAS as a partner in solving the animal overpopulation problem. Employees and volunteers must:

¨      Cooperate with each other

¨      Inspire the community

¨      Be given awards or incentives for saving animal lives

¨      Have a helpful and upbeat attitude 

FORM A NONPROFIT

Los Angeles should establish a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization as a separate entity from the city and allow this nonprofit to retain use of the East Valley Animal Shelter (rather than auction the property as currently planned). The shelter would be leased to the nonprofit for a nominal fee until the no-kill goal is achieved; it would be run by the nonprofit and its volunteers. When the public shelters become full, animals would be transferred to the nonprofit facility, then to foster parents or permanent homes.  A coalition of not-for-profits could also accept animals when city shelters become full.

The nonprofit would have the following advantages or be able to implement the following strategies:

¨      It would be able to receive tax deductible donations from private donors, corporate sponsors and not-for-profit groups, potentially even Maddie's Fund.

¨      It would embark upon creative fundraising ideas (i.e. Santa photos with your pet) and special events and take advantage of deals offered by businesses to assist nonprofits. For example, Border’s Books will give 15% of its profits to a 501 c (3) on a particular weekend. Some manufacturers will donate animal-related products to nonprofits or sell them at reduced rates.

¨      The nonprofit's Board of Directors would be comprised of individuals who care about animals and who have the ability to either a) fundraise, or b) donate something of major value to the shelter (such as no-cost advertising or veterinary assistance). A vet who serves on the board, for example, might give 20 hours per month of free time at the shelter.

¨      The nonprofit should plan fundraising events throughout the year, such as concerts, golf tournaments, wine tasting and telethons. Sponsors should cover all costs for the events.

ADOPTION OUTREACH

There must be a widespread effort to increase adoptions, via greater community outreach, stronger links with rescue groups and an increased number of foster homes.

Foster Parent Network
A sweeping foster parent network expands the capacity of the shelter. For example, students may not be ideal candidates to provide a permanent home, but they can be excellent fosters. Some businesses could be persuaded to foster animals. Fosters can go to off-site adoption events with their adoptees, and they can pay for most animal-related costs (except perhaps extraordinary medical expenses). LAAS should give the least desirable animal to a first-time foster parent because the foster will usually permanently adopt the first animal he or she receives.

Adoption Incentives for the Public
LAAS should partner with businesses for free products/services and discounts, which can then be offered to the public as adoption incentives. Some might include:

¨      Free veterinary care for the first visit

¨      Free dog behavior advice

¨      Free pet food

¨      Discount on supplies and free goodies.

Off-Site Adoptions
Volunteers should help with off-site adoptions. Animals must be taken to where people live, work and shop, such as flea markets, fairs, parks, church bazaars, special events and malls. Large events called "super adoptions" can be held in parks or parking lots. Holiday adoptions should be permitted as long as it is from one family member to another.

THE DIRECTOR OF ANIMAL WELFARE (DAW) PROGRAM

A grassroots community program, which establishes a Director of Animal Welfare (DAW) for every area in Los Angeles, is already underway via the Neighborhood Council system (www.DAWprogram.org), but needs to be expanded and fully embraced by the city of Los Angeles.

A Director of Animal Welfare (DAW) is appointed by the Neighborhood Council for that area and recruits volunteers to assist with projects and outreach. The DAW position is volunteer; this person acts as the eyes and ears for the animals in the area, potentially receiving funds from the local council and utilizing the council website, newsletter and meetings for community outreach. A DAW, for example, can do the following:

¨      Arrange Animal Care Fairs, community events with spay/neuter services, dog training, humane education and adoptions.

¨      Locate foster and permanent homes for animals

¨      Publicize the merits of spay/neuter

¨      Alert the Los Angeles Cruelty Task Force about animal cruelty in the neighborhood. 

ASSISTANCE AT THE SHELTERS

Rescue organizations and individuals should be recruited continually to volunteer at the shelters. Volunteers can perform many tasks, such as:

¨      Medicating sick cats

¨      Training dogs with behavior problems

¨      Walking and playing with the animals. Volunteers should walk dogs several times per day, which makes the animals happier, thus quieter and more adoptable. Dozens of barking dogs is an adoption deterrent. The cats should have play time with the volunteers

¨      Grooming dogs

¨      Doing routine office work

¨      Helping with adoptions.

LAAS should be flexible with the volunteers, who should be permitted to work on their lunch hour or act as a foster parents, even for a limited period of time.

LAAS should make a list of all community partnerships, including rescue groups, and be sure all employees and volunteers know how to access the list.

ALLIANCES AND COMMUNITY SERVICES

LAAS should establish a free behavior hotline, free or low cost dog training, free pet friendly rental referrals and other services which can be obtained at no cost via partnerships with businesses in the community.

Alliances should be created with vet schools (for free or low cost veterinary assistance), local businesses and pet food companies. Science Diet will provide free food to shelters as long as the shelter pays shipping. Bayer will provide flea-related products at no cost. Pet-friendly businesses can be promoted at the shelter in return for products or services. Deals should be worked out with groomers. LAAS should never pay retail.

LAAS should negotiate with vets to come to the shelter for free or a small fee. They can be given PR in return for their services; for example, when an animal is adopted, the adopter can be told that this particular vet has the animal’s records and medical history.

ADVERTISING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS

LAAS must be innovative with advertising and public relations. They could do the following:

¨      Display satellite images of shelter animals on big screens at local malls.

¨      Show animals on as many websites as possible, on TV news programs and in the newspaper as the “pet of the week.” When writing copy, the aim should be to get people to cry, to impact them emotionally.

¨      Exhibit animals on rescue kiosks. These are ATM-like machines that allow prospective pet owners to search for pets throughout the shelter system.

¨      Record 30 and 60 second radio public service announcements for public access television.

______________________________

The no-kill movement is growing. The number of no-kill shelters has increased nationwide from 50 in the 1980's to about 250 today.[i]

Yet, studies show that people adopt dogs from public shelters only 12% of the time, and cats 11% of the time.[ii] These numbers will drastically improve when we alter the public perception of our shelters and when will build alliances with the people and businesses in our community.

 * Please see footnote regarding cost issues.[iii]


[i] See Liz Szabo, "Kinder, gentler animal shelters," USA Today (July 25, 2004).

[ii] See HLP, Inc. 2005, "National Animal Care Statistics." www.petharbor.com/NationalStats.Asp on September 17, 2005. In 2002, the American Humane organization estimated the adoption rates a little higher with 25% of the dogs and 24% of the cats that enter shelters as adopted. See www.americanhumane.org website.

[iii] No additional funds are required to implement the policies in this section of the No-Kill Council's proposal; in fact, costs could decrease as businesses and individuals donate money to the nonprofit and as products and services are obtained at discounts. There is one exception: the city of Los Angeles would have to be willing to defer profits which would normally be received from auctioning the East Valley Animal Shelter until a later date (until the no-kill goal is realized).