I learned about the LA County Animal Shelters through Facebook 2 years ago, but the first push to write this was either a chicken or her egg. Or her good friend, the duck. *
They were found together, wandering near the road (of course – the chicken wanted to cross it), and picked up by Baldwin Park Animal Shelter. Not too far, just east of Pasadena near the 605. The volunteer who took these pix and posted them on Facebook, Elaine Seamans, said they appeared to be bonded. They do look very friendly, as you can see in the video. The chicken has just laid a brown egg (the expensive kind), and is cackling, probably partly in distress, because she knows an egg rolling around on the cement floor of the shelter is bad news. :(
Elaine Seamans discovered the birds, and took the pictures. Thank you so much, Elaine! Here’s the youtube showing the chicken, the duck, and her egg. Jenny Burman, in Chicken Corner at LA Observed has the video up, too!
Please find it in your heart to adopt them, because if they are not claimed by the end of the day on Monday, they will be killed on Tuesday. And they have become so important to me. You can adopt each separately, of course…
Baldwin Park Shelter
4275 N. Elton Ave.
Baldwin Park, CA 91706
(626) 962-3577 code 3, 4
(626) 430 2378
Here are the ID#s: Duck: #4319821 and Chicken: #4319817. UPDATE: The duck and the chicken are now SAFE, ADOPTED!!! More at bottom of post.
Now, on with the show.
A good third of my Facebook friends are volunteers and rescue groups all around the country, and I’ve noticed for some time that the worst horror stories (and the worst photos) were from the LA County Shelters. They are always labeled High Kill shelters, and there are terrible stories of dogs supposedly adopted, but PTS (put to sleep), dogs freezing to death in the kennels, 75 killed in one day (last Monday), animals killed before the due date, etc.
But these are just hearsay, and here is what I have investigated and discovered:
- Even though this is a government agency, there are no public statistics on the LA County Shelters website of how many animals they actually take in, how many are adopted out, how many killed, how many die of natural causes, how many owners prosecuted for animal cruelty.
- The shelter website is so outdated and damaged that it cannot be revived – it needs a complete overhaul. The platform hasn’t been updated in at least 6 years, and it looks even earlier. The photos are so terrible that I started a collection of Worst Shelter Pix, some of which are in this post.
- What other government city, county or state agency is dependent on volunteers to operate? Only this one.
- Poor communication with the public, and the remedies for the exploding pet population are after the fact; they don’t do anything on the prevention front.
Statistics for LA County Animal Shelters
There are none. According to Jennifer Ieyza, the Records person for all 6 shelters, they don’t publish or release their records of animals. In fact, she said, they need a court order or a letter from a lawyer to release any numbers. LA City Animal Services is far from no-kill or perfect, but they are accountable. Shouldn’t every government agency, staffed with almost 350 people, getting good health benefits and pensions and vacations on our dime, have to do some work for it? And be accountable for their life and death activity?
Marcia Mayeda has been the Director since 2001. What up, Ms. Mayeda? In a broader sense, how can any business, not just the gov’t, be a business, without records?
Animal shelters are always a matter of life and death. And to the hundreds of thousands of small animals killed in county shelters each year, their lives were very important, at least to them. No animal is put down without a heartbreaking struggle to stay alive. There should be a record of these lives. And every reputable shelter strives to improve, adopting more and killing less every year. How can you improve when you don’t have goals or a past to examine and improve?
Since Ms. Mayeda or the County wants to hide the actual activities of these shelters, I think we have to take the word of the volunteers who actually go into the shelters day after day. They see and hear the facts. The county shelters are High-Kill, and “enlightened” California isn’t very enlightened here.
Antiquated and useless website
This is the cheapest and easiest and fastest fix to reach out to the public and potential adopters, and should be implemented immediately.
Their current LA County Animal Shelter website is useless. County workers had to walk me through it twice – this is because the coding and navigation is terrible. For some reason, animals are put in 2 separate categories, Lost and Found and Adoptions. Once in Adoptions, you go down to Adoptable Animals. This means that anyone browsing has to look through 2 different sections, without know the other one exists.
And the search box doesn’t work. So even if someone has an animal ID, or wants to look for a breed, or lost their Brown Dog, there’s no way to find them.
The photographs are so bad that I started making copies of them, and put them in my collection of Worst Shelter Pictures Ever. Some look like experimental art, and others like the animal is being tortured. I’ve asked several shelters if they need new cameras. No, they have several. Each animal is photographed on intake (or should be) by the intake officer who picked them up, so the blame (or praise?) is on them. Shouldn’t the worst photographers be disciplined or trained or put on another job?
But let’s be honest here – EVERYONE has a camera with them at all times, in their cell phone if nothing else. No one needs itraining on how take photographs anymore. And no one would take pictures this bad of their friends or family. It’s unfathomable. So what is their excuse for photos this terrible? This is the point at which we should seriously examine their motives: are these bad pictures a way to keep animals from being adopted…job security for the shelter workers, in other words?
In addition, the dog breeds are frequently wrong, as my examples here show. Not only that, it’s county policy not to have the word “Mix” in the label, and they always pick the most aggressive breed (pit bulls, rottweiler) if there is a doubt as to the breed. In other words, they pick the breeds that get adopted least, and for breed-specific rescues, it leaves out another breed that might lead to that animal being rescued.
Also, very important: there should be a category on the site called Unlisted, as a way for concerned citizens, volunteers, and anxious owners who have lost their dog to find out what happened to the animal after their 4 days or 7 days is up. Was it adopted? Put to sleep? No one knows, and this causes a lot of confusion and wasted energy and tears when there is no resolution about the animal. Again, this is a lack of professionalism and respect towards both the animals and the community. Having the power of life and death is one thing, but hiding the outcome is despicable.
Last, at least one category is completely missing on the site: Birds. Yes, the chicken and the duck are nowhere to be found as adoptable animals, and neither are the other birds the shelters have. The county worker I talked to Saturday (after being on hold for 45 minutes) said there is a category called Fowl. NO, there’s not. Perhaps it’s internal only. And this means that as long as they’ve had a site up, they’ve never placed a bird from any of their shelters online. SoCal has more bird owners and breeders than any other section of the country, so this carelessness toward an entire genus is inexcusable towards the public they are supposed to serve.
And if birds are missing from the online list, who knows how many dogs, cats, or other animals are also gone missing, with no opportunity to ever be adopted?
Dependent on Volunteers for the Animal Shelters to Function
This isn’t necessarily bad; from what the volunteers report, and these are people who actually go in the shelters regularly, the shelters are grateful for their help, and they have mutual respect for each other. (Still many reports surface from these insider volunteers, and this is how wrongdoing in the shelters is exposed.)
It’s not obvious from the outside how truly impressive this underground rescue system is. It includes:
- the awesome volunteers on the ground at the shelter who do their best to take better, sometimes very good photos of as many animals as they can. Then they have to upload them onto their site, or Facebook page, along with the ID number (which, again, is not searchable on the LA County website, so they also have to link to the EXACT entry) and add any notes they took on how sociable the animal is.
- Crossposters send these pix and links to 501 c3 rescues and potential adopters.
- Pullers go to the shelter, pay the fees, and make sure the animal is safely out
- Often fosters are needed to hold the animals before rescues can get them.
- Rescues have their own system of evaluating the animal and getting any medical or training done to make the animal adoptable.
- Often it’s transport by truckers or planes, vet work (and sometimes chip-ins, a way to contribute through Paypal), and more!
This is an amazing underground system. And it’s apparent that with the help of volunteers almost any animal is adoptable in time, with this support system. In addition, all of these volunteers have the courage to continue their work when they have failed, and an animal that touched them, even if it was just a few moments of grace as they passed them in the cage or talked to them, is killed.
The essential work by volunteers does a great deal to point out where the shelters themselves fail, and desperately need to improve.
The Shelters Need to Step Up and Work on Prevention – a Spay-Neuter Program!
The shelters are not actually hurting for money; Lt. Rodriguez at Lancaster told me last week that they have some brand new buildings, kennels, and more coming. This is good, because all 6 shelters have the challenge of covering a very large area.
And certainly not all of their procedures are a fail. They vaccinate all animals immediately on intake. (Supposedly this is when the photos are taken, too, but about 10% of the animals have no photos at all. Half of the horses have no photo.) And at least some animals do find new homes.
A vet looks at each animal for any symptoms of contagious disease, and they treat any animal that is suffering, unless it needs surgery, in which case they don’t.
They also microchip every animal before it’s adopted. And they will even microchip anyone’s pet, free of charge, due to a donation from the Found Animal Foundation.
They also spay or neuter any adopted animal. But this brings up the biggest failing of the County Animal Shelters: a Spay-Neuter program is the best defense against unwanted animals, but they don’t have any program like this in place! Spaying or neutering once the animal is adopted is great, but it is also closing the barn door after the horse ran away. It does nothing to stop the next wave of abandoned or abused animals.
They are short-staffed, and much of the time the phones are busy or don’t have a response at all. This, along with a useless website, makes communication with the public very difficult.
There is also a statement on the website that should cause some concern: Only shelter veterinarians and certified personnel have the authority to euthanize an animal. Certified personnel? How many county workers does this cover? This is another example which points to job security being more important at these shelters than the safety and adoption of the animals.
The LA County Shelters must get a new website immediately, with a failsafe system to get every animal on it. They need one qualified and dedicated photographer who will stand or fall on his or her accurate photos. Breeds of dogs should be listed by a vet or a QUALIFIED breeder or experienced person. And last, but not least , statistics should be available for the public.
The goal for every shelter should be to be a No-Kill – this would be the most satisfying to the Shelters, the Shelter employees, the County, and the public. Until that happens, urge the Board of Supervisors to get rid of the old ways at the shelters, adopt an animal, don’t buy from breeders, and please please please give a home to the chicken and the duck.
Downey Shelter 11258 S. Garfield Ave. Downey, CA 90242
Carson Shelter 216 W. Victoria Ave. Carson, CA 90248They
Baldwin Park Shelter
4275 N. Elton Ave.
Baldwin Park, CA 91706
(626) 962-3577 code 3, 4
(626) 430 2378
Lancaster Shelter 5210 W. Ave I, Lancaster CA 93536
Castaic Shelter 31044 N. Charlie Cyn Rd., Castaic, CA 91384
(661) 257-3191 or (818) 367-8065
Agoura Shelter 29525 Agoura Rd., Agoura, CA 91301
Last photo by Kim Morse Way on Facebook.
*Elaine Seamans informed me today that the duck and chicken HAVE BEEN RESCUED, and are in foster care right this minute!!! See how this is supposed to work?
The foster is Sharon Tydell on Facebook who gave them to the happy adopter in Glendale. More news to come!