As we closed out our first year for the South LA Shelter Intervention Program, I want to share our year-end stats with everyone, hoping that this will inspire other cities and counties to think in terms of expanding existing resources for families in need with pets. Most of the 2041 pets that we assisted were dogs – 1789, 241 cats and 11 rabbits. At the South LA shelter, we just see more people with dogs asking for help. We realize that when kitten season starts up again, in early spring, we will be better equipped to help more cats. With that being said, I want to thank Stray Cat Alliance for covering many of the spay/neuter surgeries.
Spay/neuter was very important and while the numbers were huge – 986 pets (almost 50% of all reasons why a family was considering surrendering their pet), we have to consider that in many cases, spay/neuter might have been the first reason, but the situation was often multi-layered. For example, a family might not qualify for a voucher due to lack of ID or other reasons. We paid for the surgery but they also needed pet food, a dog house, maybe a gate or fence repair and often other medical needs, such as a cherry eye surgery or an ear infection; all very treatable issues.
Without the support of the ASPCA spay/neuter grant, we could not have said “YES” to many families with pets who needed our help and their pets were spayed/neutered only because of this grant. To get the spay/neuter surgeries done most efficiently, we used two mobile clinics, Spay4LA and Amanda Foundation and two local hospitals, ARC Animal Hospital and North Figueroa Animal Hospital. I want to personally thank Katie Larkin, president of Angel City Pit Bulls and her team, who sponsored many of the surgeries for our intervention dogs in the month of December. They also volunteered at the intervention desk every Wednesday on Amanda’s day off so that we could cover the days the shelter was open.
We offered 151 pets a more humane end of life. This number represents how many senior and terminally ill pets were humanely euthanized with their family present at Ber Mar Animal hospital in Inglewood, instead of being surrendered to the shelter South LA shelter. All but one person, who was offered this service, gratefully accepted this alternative option.
Lots of dogs were right on the edge of being surrendered because of barking, pulling on the leash, aggression and more. Thanks to Larry Hill, lead trainer at Puppy Imprinters, who worked tirelessly with countless dog owners, inspiring them to not give up, try one more day, stay committed to your dog! Trainer Laura London volunteered her time to teach socialization, basic obedience, and address common problems like barking, potty training, growling at other dogs or new people – all seemingly simple yet complex behavioral challenges that often land dogs into the shelter. We are also fortunate to have Dog Man teaching a class every Sunday at the Coliseum at 9:00AM because in his words, “There are no bad dogs!”
For 82 pets, rehoming or rescue was the only solution to prevent a pet from entering the shelter. Amanda asked each family to hold on to their pet while we worked together to find a foster, an adopter or rescue to take on their pet. Dogs of all ages, from puppy to senior, were prevented from entering the shelter. Many LA rescue groups came to the rescue: Dawg Squad, Labs and Friends, Amanda Foundation, Cage Free Canine, Angel City Pit Bulls, Go Dog LA, Forte Animal Rescue, Karma Rescue and A Purposeful Rescue. DDR also took many dogs, using the NKLA Adoption Center as a way to help many dogs find their forever homes while we continued to build our new kennel, opening soon!
The program started on April 6, 2013 with Amanda working full time. The level of dedication and positive attitude she has is amazing. Together, our team has continued to learn just how challenging keeping a pet, while living in poverty can be. Poverty is and continues to be the #1 reason why the majority of our families felt the need to surrender their pet, despite the fact that there was no way to record this on our daily log.
I think back to December of 2012, a week before Christmas, when Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Found Animals Foundation, offered to help us get this program started. The help was more than just a little help…without Found Animals Foundation, this program would not exist. Found Animals has been instrumental in funding not only Amanda’s salary but covering a great portion of expenses that we have each month. The bills that come in for this program can be staggering as I write out checks each week to pay animal hospitals, pet deposits, handyman services, the list is endless. This program could not run as it does with only volunteers. We have some amazing volunteers but most, like me, have demanding full time careers. Aimee understood that to run a quality program, we needed someone at the shelter, at least 5 days a week. Found Animals Foundation has generously agreed to fund a large portion of the program for 2014 and recently allowed us to expand the program, taking it away from the shelter, and into targeted zip codes.
Starting as early as next month, we will have a part time team member, walking door to door in zip code 90011 (which ironically is geographically in South LA but is serviced by the North Central shelter) offering free spay/neuter services and identifying pet owners who need our help. Help will include dog houses, dog training at the nearby park, collars, leashes and dog food. I’m confident that this will make an immediate impact, since we have seen so many people come to the shelter to surrender a pet, but would have gladly taken help earlier if it had been offered in the community.
Grants, dedicated service providers, volunteers with the hearts of teachers, and patience are all extremely important but without the support of LA Animal Services staff members and dedicated LAAS volunteers, we could not turn so many situations around, keeping pets out of the shelter and sending them back home. Often, it’s only because an Animal Care Technician or officer gets involved and identifies a situation to Amanda. The kennel supervisors also play a role in preventing pets from entering the shelter, counseling the pet owner about the fact that there is an alternative to surrendering a cat or dog. Working together as a team, supporting each other in good and bad times; the program works because we work together as a team!
You can get involved too, by helping us collect dog houses, dog and cat food, leashes and collars, as well as donating your time by fostering a pet in need or transporting a pet to a medical appointment or to an adoption center or rescue. Contact Downtown Dog Rescue to learn how you or your school or volunteer group can help us help more families in need with pets in South LA. To all of you who continue to donate on a monthly basis to support the program, we thank you! If you would like to become a monthly donor, click here. As always, your support is greatly appreciated.
Downtown Dog Rescue