We’re just two months into our South LA shelter intervention project and we’ve already hit our year end goal of preventing over 400 pets from entering the shelter. Yes, you read it right, 400 pets prevented from entering the shelter in just 2 months! While I knew the program would be successful, I never imagined it would be this successful. The program runs every day the shelter is open for a total of 6 days a week. We track the data every day and found that 91% of the people who accepted our services kept their pets and only 9% had to be rescued. The great need was free spay/neuter services, not low cost, free! This accounted for 33% of the service that we provide. Some qualify for a free City voucher but many do not. Why? Some pet owners are undocumented, some are homeless and have no ID, some just can’t qualify because they either live in the “wrong zip code” or because they can’t show that they are poor because they are paid under the table/in cash. Downtown Dog Rescue, has always believed in making spay/neuter services free and easy to use. We want to thank Spay4LA, Sam Simon Foundation, the Amanda Foundation for providing additional free spay/neuter services. We also want to thank ARC Animal Hospital and North Figueroa Animal Hospital for offering very good pricing to us for spay/neuter surgeries so that we can say YES to every pet owner who wants to spay/neuter their pets.
HOUSING & RESOURCES
Opening up conversation has been one of the secrets to our program’s success. We found that 29% of pet owners we helped had housing problems, however the term “housing problems” is a bit more complicated than it sounds. As rescuers we often hear(and say), “if I couldn’t move with my dog or cat I would sleep in my car.” That’s exactly what some of the people who come to the shelter have done, in hopes that friends and family will help. We’ve experienced people begging us, crying for help, so desperate that we can’t say no, it’s not an option as long as we have the resources. We’ve gone as far as convincing landlords to agree to allowing the dog in the home on the condition that the owner completes a training course with our community trainer Larry Hill, We’ve paid pet deposits, donated food, fixed fences, created dog runs, licensed, vaccinated and of course spay/neutered. We’ve even uncovered and treated medical issues. Last resort is coordinating with our rescue or another rescue to rehome the dog. Thankfully, only 9% of the animals needed to go to a rescue group.
A really big problem is the ability to find pet friendly section 8 housing. The lack of secure housing that families experience directly affects the pet. If someone is living in section 8 housing, they might have two rental options, both of which do not accept pets. If they move in with the pet, they risk being evicted and becoming homeless. A lack of choices, lack of options and being unaware of available resources is what leads to owner surrender. Not wanting the pet is rarely a reality.
Behavioral seems to be an underrated category. 10% of the pets that went to rescues had some behavioral or medical challenge. Many of our spay/neuter clients also need training and/or one-on-one counseling on house training, jumping on children, digging, just to mention a few common issues. We’ve brought in trainer Larry Hill founder of Puppy Imprinters, to do classes every Saturday at our community dog training field at the corner of 60th and Western, just a few feet from the South LA Shelter. In July, our training program will be expand into a more community engaged program, in order to build a more pet friendly community beyond the shelter.
The greatest honor that I personally have is to offer humane euthanasia for senior pets. Too often, I’ve watched people struggle with carrying their sick, old, terminally ill dog or cat into the shelter. They’re not “dumping” their pet, they’re doing what they know to be the only affordable option to end their pet’s suffering, surrendering the pet so that the shelter staff can humanely euthanize the pet. We’re offering pet owners the option of taking their pet to Ber Mar Animal Hospital in Inglewood. There, they’ll be able to stay with their beloved family member, hold him/her in their arms while they say their final good bye. This service accounts for 8% of the pets intercepted from entering the shelter, and has been mostly large breed dogs ranging ages 12 to 18 years old. All of them unable to function, and in debilitating pain. A dignified option to say good-bye to a family pet while in the company of caring staff is often a first for many families.
Our program’s success is because of the dedicated volunteers who provide transportation, network pets who need to be re-homed, photograph pets, raise donations for specific medical situations, just to name a few. If this program is going to be sustainable, we have to empower the people in the community. We must move our work out into the community and away from the shelter so that one day, the community has the resources to know where and how to prevent their pets from entering the shelter. Until then, we are grateful for the support that Found Animals gives us each month by paying for a portion of the medical and behavioral services, and for paying our only payed staff member Amanda’s salary. Without their support, we would never have been able to launch this program as it runs now.
We’ve been provided services, training, and a variety of assistance to the South LA community for over a dev=cade, but the huge difference is having Amanda at the shelter, full time, five days a week. Amanda is amazing and I am so proud of what she has accomplished. Special thanks to Angel City Pit Bulls who also stepped in every Wednesday so that Amanda is able to have a day off. We also couldn’t have accomplish our goal so quickly without the support of the South LA Shelter staff. They’re an amazing team of caring, dedicated people who truly believe in this program. Thank you for allowing us to be in front of your shelter everyday.
Lastly, the support of our animal loving community. Whether you’ve helped by volunteering, donation, support through social media, labor, transportation, etc….we thank you whole heartedly and appreciate your continued support. I think we’re on to something, and we’re all doing it together.
Please consider donating to Downtown Dog Rescue. All donations go straight to the program. If you haven’t already, please follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter. You can also help by continuing to spread the word. Downtown Dog Rescue is a non-profit 501C3 (#46-1958507) tax deductible charity.
WE’VE MADE ALL THE DATA AVAILABLE FOR YOU TO DOWNLOAD BY CLICKING HERE: Shelter_Intervention_Program.ppt